Angry right gets mad when you accuse it of race-baiting!

Critics didn't like my column saying the shutdown stemmed from 50 years of racism. I should have written even more

Published October 2, 2013 9:40PM (EDT)

Rand Paul                                        (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Rand Paul (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Reason’s Matt Welch is occasionally smart. Unfortunately, he’s still mad at me for calling him out on a really dumb column he wrote three years ago. Oops: “Calling him out”; I shouldn’t have said that. Because according to Welch, that’s gangsta rap talk. But maybe that’s only if Obama says it. Maybe it’s OK because I’m a white woman?

No, seriously. Here’s what happened. When the president warned “special interests” in a 2009 speech that if they continued to  “misrepresent” what was in his healthcare plan, “we will call you out," Welch called it a “SnoopDoggesque display,” and he linked to a video of Snoop’s song “Shut U Down” to make his point. “Shut U Down,” “call you out,” same difference, to Welch anyway.

I really didn’t see anything in Obama’s speech that evoked Snoop Dogg (now, of course, Snoop Lion), so I called him out on it, and then he called me out for not having a sense of humor, and now he’s calling me out on my Tuesday piece, “The Real Story of the Shutdown: 50 Years of GOP Race-Baiting.”

I got a lot of criticism for that piece, much of it from racist nut jobs, but I wanted to take a moment to respond to Welch’s, because he makes a couple of good points. First, he notes that interracial marriage is on the rise, and libertarians like him support interracial marriage, and that’s great news. Of course, in my piece, I said only a minority of Republicans were actual believers in white supremacy and black inferiority and desired to prevent the mixing of the races. But maybe I wasn’t explicit enough.

Also, Welch takes me to task because the art in the piece includes Tea Party Sen. Rand Paul, and the article didn’t explicitly mention Paul. That’s totally fair. I could fault my editor for using a photo of Rand Paul to illustrate the story, but I really have to fault myself. How did I write a piece about the modern GOP’s use of race and racism without talking about Rand (and Ron) Paul? What is the matter with me?

I have covered Paul’s many disappointing moments on racial issues over the years, from telling Rachel Maddow he couldn’t support the Civil Rights Act provisions that applied to private businesses back in 2010, and to his dishonest weaseling over his white neo-Confederate staffer Jack Hunter, aka Southern Avenger, to his own slurs against Abraham Lincoln drawn straight from the canon of neo-Confederacy. I can’t believe I left Rand Paul out of the piece. I apologize for the omission. While I'm at it, I have to apologize for not writing about the history of GOP voter suppression, especially in the age of Barack Obama. I've written about that plenty of times. I'm sorry for the omission.

I also apologize for not being able to reply to the hundreds of critics who came at me on Twitter. I only have time for a few. Well, maybe one. Crazy Nick Searcy, an “actor” who specializes in Twitter brawls, went kind of crazier than usual. Like a lot of right-wing racist nut jobs, he says he has an adopted black son. Honestly: I hear that a lot. I’m going to trust Searcy on that one, but really: If every right-wing racist nut job who claimed to have an adopted black child, or a black in-law – his son’s wife, or sister’s husband, whatever – then every single black person in America would have a right-wing racist nut job for a parent or an in-law. I can’t speak for black people, but I don’t think that’s actually true.

I also got a lot of criticism for not mentioning there have been other government shutdowns, and of course I know about other government shutdowns, and I have written about them. This one is special, though, and everyone knows it, because never before have Republicans used a shutdown to try to get rid of a law, not merely excess spending. And it’s now folding into the debt ceiling apocalypse, which will make veterans being turned away from war memorials, and even kids being turned away from cancer trials (as truly evil as that is), look kind of trivial compared to the damage a default will inflict on everyone.

Oh, also? I know about the GOP’s implacable hatred of Bill Clinton, who is white (even though they dishonestly pretend today they love him as a moderate where Obama’s a dangerous radical. Such liars). I’ve written quite a bit about that too. But a lot of the hatred Clinton engendered came from his early clashes with Arkansas’ worst segregationists. He drew the ire of Arkansas Justice Jim Johnson, who viciously opposed school integration and chaired George Wallace’s state campaign when he ran for president in 1968. Johnson worked with right-wing operatives locally and nationally to surface every ugly Clinton story, rumor and lie to try to destroy him. Under so many rocks the GOP has thrown at Democratic presidents, you’ll find the moldy residue of racism. It’s a fact.

Finally, I was clear in the story that not all Republicans are racist, not even most. The problem is that too many are sadly addicted to the politics of racial resentment that’s powered the party since the '60s. They can’t quit it. They don’t have the spine to tell the truth to the racist fringe. They’re too busy cashing their checks, and deferring to them at town hall meetings lest one of the wingnuts primaries them. House Speaker John Boehner has let roughly 30 wingnut Tea Partyers from overwhelmingly white districts shut down the government. He’s complicit in their racially driven obstructionism, even if he isn’t racist himself. He ought to shut them down. But maybe he’s afraid of being compared to a Snoop Dogg, or Snoop Lion, or something.

By Joan Walsh