George Allen has risen from his self-excavated grave to run a close race with Tim Kaine for the U.S. senate in Virginia. Allen makes me think that, whatever happens on Tuesday nationally, this may be the high-water mark for the Republican Party. I know our conservative readers will say I’m engaging in wishful thinking, but Allen is a symbol of an America that is passing away with little grace.
Allen buried his own senate re-election race and his hopes for the presidency in 2006 when he waved at a James Webb campaign worker who was shadowing his campaign and called him “Macaca.” The outrage was over the word — did it have excretory implications, how disrespectful was it, etc. The word can mean “monkey” and is a slur against African immigrants in Europe. But what Allen said after that is what, I believe, dooms people like him and, perhaps, his party. Allen said to the young Webb worker, who is of Indian descent, “Welcome to America, welcome to the real world of Virginia.”
The Webb volunteer, S. R. Siharth, didn’t look like George Allen. Didn’t look like the white folks at the Allen event. He looked foreign. He looked “other.” “Outsider.” Not American. At least, he didn’t look like the “good” and “real” Americans Allen knows and pals around with and represents.
Sidarth was born in America. Was born in Virginia. He just didn’t look white. And, hello George, more than half of America doesn’t look white.
George Allen showed his views and values that day. They are views and values grounded in the Know-Nothing and Nativist movements in America, in the America of “No Irish Need Apply,” in the America that has denigrated Blacks and Jews and Italians and Native Americans and Japanese and Vietnamese and anyone who doesn’t look like what, apparently, a real American looks like: George Allen.
Good luck with that, George and the GOP.
Not all Republicans are channeling the 1950s. But…Mitt Romney surrogate John Sununu, whom Romney has not chastised or muzzled and so must agree with, is another grumpy old white guy who’s saying President Obama needs to learn how to be an American and Colin Powell endorsed Obama because they are both African American. Other. Not like us.
Well, John and George, old white guys like you and me can no longer treat America as our own private Augusta golf club. That guy with the dark skin from whom you just ordered a drink? He’s running the club, babe. And you are history.
Allen lost to Webb in 2006. He didn’t become the next president of the United States. And, come Tuesday night, I suspect he’ll slink back into the past so many in his party rue the passing of. And whatever the Republican percentage of the vote Tuesday, it all drains down from here.
— Bruce Benidt