Wake Up And Smell the Coffin Arrangement

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

6 thoughts on “Wake Up And Smell the Coffin Arrangement

  1. PM says:


    I think that is an excellent point. What is it about white males and their support for Mitt Romney and the GOP? Here is a great, recent article that looks at this in some depth:


    One of the things that i have noted over the past decade is a shift in GOP thinking. It used to be that the GOP decried victimology–people acting like victims in order to gain advantage (victims could be women, minorities, etc.) Now, things seem to have reversed–and the GOP (and the overwhelming majority of white males who support the GOP) now like to cast themselves as victims.

    I find the whole think not only repellent, but absurd. Karl Rove and Glen Beck and Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity as victims? And then there is the Drudge Report, which is constantly emphasizing the victimization of whites at the hands of darker skinned people.

    But I do think that you are right–this is a dead end for the GOP. Demographics alone doom this approach. At some point, aven the GOP will be forced to abandon the white male victims–and then they really will be victims–created, nurtured, and then abandoned, little frankenstein’s monsters left to wander in search of advocates across the political landscape…..well, that is what talk radio is for, i suppose.

    1. PM, I love this “why” thing. It’s what a serious listener does, or a great interviewer, like Bill Moyers.
      If I understand it, it goes like this: “I support Obama because of his environmental policy.”
      “Because he’s recognizing the problems of extracting fossil fuels and crapping up the atmosphere by, for example, increasing car mileage standards.”
      “Why does this matter to you?”
      “Because we can’t just wreck this planet — its beauty is good for our souls, and our kids need to be able to breathe and not have the Atlantic coast moving up to Ohio.”
      “Why do you think Obama’s policies will work?”
      “Because if you give people a way to make a contribution to something good, like saving the earth, they like it — people like driving cars with better mileage as long as they’re not little VW beetles.”

      The “why” questions almost always get you from the theoretical to the deeper, more personal belief, and that’s more interesting that just pronouncements on policies, and it’s more likely to spur discussion on common ground with someone who believes differently.

      In my journalism classes, I used to irritate the hell out of my students by making them keep on asking “why” question after “why” question of their interview subjects. Most journalists ask a question, get an answer, and move on. NO, did deeper, always deeper. And, this article says, going deeper may make us less bombastic and more able to find common ground.


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