Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 8, 2010

ANOTHER SETBACK FOR THE GOP'S MINORITY OUTREACH.... In Canton, Ohio, last night, Republican congressional candidate Jim Renacci hosted a town-hall forum, and fielded a question on civil rights. The exchange is worth considering in full.

The local voter, Robert Thompson, noted that he lives in the inner-city, and asked about Renacci's approach to civil rights, diversity, and investments in struggling African-American communities. The Republican replied by emphasizing local control.

"A lot of the problems you're talking about are local issues," Renacci said. "And I'm also a firm believer that the federal government and our Constitution was based on freedom, and was based on the freedoms that our number one goal of our military is freedom. We need to get our federal government out of the way and we need to allow our local governments to become more involved in many of the issues you're talking about."

In fairness, Renacci was vague about what, exactly, constituted "local issues." The question, at least in part, touched on drug-related crime and inner-city investment, for example, so if one is willing to give the GOP candidate the benefit of the doubt, it's possible that's what Renacci was referring to.

At least, that was the interpretation I was willing to consider until the follow-up.

Thompson: But for the federal government, we wouldn't have had civil rights. Local governments were the ones holding us back. So you said you want to go back to that system of local government controlling? ... It took the federal government to come in and say, "You can't discriminate with housing, you can't discriminate with jobs, you can't discriminate in education." It took the federal government to step and do that. Where's the local government been in that fight?

Renacci: What you're doing is talking about the past, and I agree with you. I'm talking about today.... In 2010, we have issues that need to come back to the local.

Wrong answer.

Renacci could have very easily made the distinction between what he considers local issues and those requiring federal intervention, but instead, he made it sound as if the entire civil rights agenda is no longer relevant. It was nearly as ridiculous as hearing Kentucky's Rand Paul criticize the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

I'm reminded of a comment RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who conceded that his party relied on a racially-divisive "Southern Strategy" for at least four decades, made when asked why African-American voters should support Republican candidates. "You really don't have a reason to, to be honest," Steele said.

Where the Republican Party finds these guys, I'll never know.

Steve Benen 1:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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Comments

Here we have another Republican who is a sloganeer, has no analytical thought capacity, and is tone deaf.

Posted by: Mudge on September 8, 2010 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, where the heck has Steele been hiding these days?

Posted by: Alli on September 8, 2010 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

An honest conservative (unlike, e.g., Haley Barbour) understands that Southern opposition to civil rights in the 50's and 60's was a political and moral disaster. So, consigning "all that" to the past is a plausible political strategy. A lie, but a plausible political strategy.

Posted by: MattF on September 8, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

His speech betrays no indication that he even understands what he was saying. It is like they wound him up - gave him some platitudes and sent him out there.

Posted by: jomo on September 8, 2010 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

This is exactly what Ron Paul and other Republicans have been arguing for years. They want to go back to the good old days.

Posted by: ecthompson md on September 8, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Here we have another Republican who is a sloganeer, has no analytical thought capacity, and is tone deaf.

Posted by: Mudge on September 8, 2010 at 1:46 PM

That fairly well describes all the Repubs running for office right now; Brewer, Paul, etc. Talking points-spouting drones incapable of either serious critical thought or any kind of self reflection. (Only Sharron Angle stands out; she is just profoundly disturbed, and in need of either a padded cell or an exorcism.)

Posted by: electrolite on September 8, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

What these folks want is local solutions to local "problems." Mob, er, sorry, Majority rule. So, if our neighborhood, our town, hell, our state, is 60% white, God fearing Christians, then we can pass local laws banning gays, blacks, muslims, short people.

-And, because this a free country, you can do the same in YOUR neighborhoods. Like North Philly, Watts, Harlem. . .

Posted by: DAY on September 8, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

I don't agree with it, of course, but compared to showing Obama with a bone in his nose, this seems rather subtle.

Posted by: Barbara on September 8, 2010 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

It's worth noting that there's wholesale and complete denial on the right when it comes to the Southern Strategy, or the Rovian Playbook, or the campaign utility of wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage. As far as Republicans are concerned, both parties are equivalent when it comes to this sort of thing.

Which brings us to the MSM and their offer of plausible deniability to the right. Nearly everyone who's politically literate knows the existence of the Southern Strategy. But whether it's through convenient amnesia or - more likely intimidation from right-wingers - discussion of this toxicity has been deemed offensive.

Because the right is not held accountable for its bad-faith argumentation, it's emboldened to further tear at this country's fragile social fabric. The only rule appears to be whether it helps Republicans or not. Discussing the Southern Strategy does not help, so it's been simply banned from most mainstream discourse.

Posted by: walt on September 8, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

I almost feel sorry for the guy - he's been listening to the dog whistle of the GOP's southern strategy for so long that he's completely forgotten how the Civil Right's Act got passed and enforced in the first place.

Note also that Republicans either want to change their history or insist that it's time "we look forward and not back", lest we remember their hideous deeds.

Good on Thompson for pressing the point and proving how completely ignorant Renacci's response was.

Posted by: Kiweagle on September 8, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, where the heck has Steele been hiding these days?

Guam. Seriously. He's in Guam.

Posted by: Realist on September 8, 2010 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

"Renacci could have very easily made the distinction between what he considers local issues and those requiring federal intervention, but instead, he made it sound as if the entire civil rights agenda is no longer relevant."

Uh, no, not to my mind he didn't. Is there something missing from this quote

Posted by: weichi on September 8, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

I consider myself fairly sophisticated politically but I have no idea what he was talking about. I'm not sure it'll cause much of a stir.

Posted by: phoebes-in-santa fe on September 8, 2010 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

"Wrong answer."

To you yes because in your world every day is 1964, just as in neoconland every day is 1938.

But here's the funny thing about time, it doesn't stop. It's too bad too many people who wish to discuss policy have their attitudes frozen in the past. In your mind, there are no black or Latino elected officials in local governments across the country and the KKK is under every rock.

No is one talking about going back outside of a . How about talk of going forward? Hmmm?

Actually what you should have attacked this fellow for is his neocon notion the number on goal of our military is freedom. Are you kidding me?

Posted by: Sean Scallon on September 8, 2010 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Wrong answer."

To you yes because in your world every day is 1964, just as in neoconland every day is 1938.

But here's the funny thing about time, it doesn't stop. It's too bad too many people who wish to discuss policy have their attitudes frozen in the past. In your mind, there are no black or Latino elected officials in local governments across the country and the KKK is under every rock.

No is one talking about going back. How about talk of going forward? Hmmm?

Actually what you should have attacked this fellow for is his neocon notion the number on goal of our military is freedom. Are you kidding me?

Posted by: Sean Scallon on September 8, 2010 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Scallon, aside from your comic over-simplification of Mr. Benen's point, you are also making the very common "mistake" of claiming that because there are successful minorities and minority politicians, that means racism is no longer relevant. To make that claim is to prove that you know nothing.

Ironic, then, that you claim nobody is talking about going back, because that is exactly what *you* are saying. *You* want us to go back to when these issues were ignored or otherwise treated as unimportant. Never mind that there are still large and obvious disparities in this country between white people and minorities. Indeed, the exchange Mr. Benen wrote this post around is an excellent illustration of that fact; it was a black man from the inner city getting an ignorant and tone-deaf response to his question from a white Republican.

If you really want so badly to move forward, then you need to actually look past the end of your nose and see reality for what it is. Whether you like it or not, it isn't 1964 anymore and yet racism is still a major part of our society. The Civil Rights Act has helped a great deal, but the problem persists.

Posted by: Shade Tail on September 8, 2010 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

I know where the Republicans find these guys - under a rock.

Posted by: mishanti on September 8, 2010 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Wow..nice hit piece..why not tell the whole story? If you go to the actual video, Renacci clarifies that when he's referencing "local issues", he's referring to our educational system..."schools". Considering that the educational disparity that exists in our country between low-income areas and more affluent areas has been labeled by many as the premier civil rights issue of our time (I believe former DC Mayor Anthony Williams said that when advocating for school vouchers)...it seems reasonable that this is what Renacci was referring to. Also, following his remarks, this is what his Democratic opponent, John Boccieri said about Renacci....

"I stand shoulder-to-shoulder here Mr. Renacci in telling you that a strong civil rights movement is important for our country."

Here's Boccieri's statement:

http://www.youtube.com/stuffmyrepsays#p/a/u/0/qW1WHDjezNw

Posted by: yanks33 on September 8, 2010 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

yanks33: So the fact that (you claim) he has a specific issue in mind (education) somehow negates the fact that he doesn't understand the plight of minorities in the inner cities, or that "local control" has historically been bad for minorities?

Yeah, nice rationalization on your part.

Posted by: Shade Tail on September 8, 2010 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

"And I'm also a firm believer that the federal government and our Constitution was based on freedom, and was based on the freedoms that our number one goal of our military is freedom.

I got lost around this point, WTF is this nutbrain talking about?

Posted by: CParis on September 8, 2010 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

"Never mind that there are still large and obvious disparities in this country between white people and minorities."

That's true. Minorities in places like Prince George's County, Maryland are far better off than whites in say, Magoffin County, Kentucky.

Perhaps a better strategy would be finding common ground rather than continuely finding things that divide all of us.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on September 9, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

["That's true. Minorities in places like Prince George's County, Maryland are far better off than whites in say, Magoffin County, Kentucky."]

Spurious apples-and-oranges comparisons like this merely serve to prove your ignorance. Find out how the minorities in Magoffin County are doing compared to the white folk there and then get back to me.

["Perhaps a better strategy would be finding common ground rather than continuely finding things that divide all of us."]

FYI, Mr. Scallon, the common ground desired by people who profit from the racist status quo is, "Give us everything we want and we'll stop whining." So no, your clueless "strategy" would be much worse for minorities, not better. We need to do what's right, not what's convenient, regardless of how the racists, or you, feel about that.

Posted by: Shade Tail on September 9, 2010 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK
What these folks want is local solutions to local "problems." Mob, er, sorry, Majority rule. So, if our neighborhood, our town, hell, our state, is 60% white, God fearing Christians, then we can pass local laws banning gays, blacks, muslims, short people. -And, because this a free country, you can do the same in YOUR neighborhoods. Like North Philly, Watts, Harlem. . . Posted by: DAY on September 8, 2010 at 2:14 PM

DAY, that was brilliant. I am SO going to steal that the next time I debate my pinheaded brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on September 9, 2010 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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