Last week I suggested that the Republican party was at a crossroads of sorts. They could continue down the road of hatespeech, fear, anger, and thinly-veiled racism or they could take a cue from Conservatives like David Brooks, Peggy Noonan, Colin Powell, David Frum, and many others and engage in dignified, constructive, fact-based criticism of policies and statements with which they disagreed.
Now, just a few days later, the "dignity" option seems to have been taken off the table. The Republican chosen and designated leaders just can't seem to help themselves. They just keep flailing away at the tar baby (a term I use deliberately) so vigorously that they don't realize that they are caught in a trap of their own making that is leading to both their unmasking and their undoing.
A few days ago, the national Young Republicans elected 38-year old Audra Shay as their new chair. As I wrote last week, Ms. Shay is an Arkansas native who now lives in Louisiana and was endorsed for the position by her governor, Bobby Jindal.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, she gained some unwelcome notoriety during the week prior to her election for cheering on a participant in a conversation on her Facebook page who referred to President Obama as "a commie and a coon." Participants in the conversation who criticized her response were immediately defriended and blocked from the website. Eric, the commie and coon guy, was not.
This and other arguably racist comments she has made caused a number of Young Republicans, including John McCain's daughter Meghan, to encourage her to drop out of the race. Instead she won election by a comfortable margin after scrubbing her Facebook page in an effort to destroy the evidence of her past remarks.
The next day marked the beginning of the confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a 17-year Federal court veteran who has been nominated by Obama for the Supreme Court.
From the moment Judge Sotomayor was nominated to the court, the Right wing made it clear that they were going to play the only card left in the Republican deck--the race card. The water carriers of the Right immediately launched into racist attacks against her on the radio with Limbaugh, Levin, and others branding her a "bigot" and Glenn Beck calling her "Hispanic Chick Lady" in their dignified and nuanced commentaries on her qualifications.
Despite the fact that Sotomayor's confirmation should be a formality--she has extensive experience on the bench and has been given the highest rating for her qualifications by the American and New York Bar Association--the focus on her race and ethnicity continued.
Ranking Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama--who himself was rejected for a Federal judgeship by a GOP controlled Senate committee years ago based on his numerous apparently racist comments--humiliated himself with his line of questioning expressing his surprise and disappointment that Sotamayor didn't vote along with her fellow Puerto Rican in the Ricci case. His clear implication was that it is surprising that all judges of Puerto Rican descent don't think and vote alike.
Can you imagine a Senator expressing surprise that Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Breyer don't vote alike because they are both white males? Can you imagine repeatedly citing a line about "wise Latina women" that Sotomayor used in speeches eight years ago as a reason to repeatedly express concerns that she would be biased in favor of minorities who claim they have been victims of discrimination?
Maybe. If it weren't for the FACT that in the 90 cases Sotomayor has heard from people alleging discrimination, she has ruled AGAINST the plaintiffs in 80 of them. And in all but one of the cases where she determined discrimination took place, she was part of a unanimous decision.
The next day, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma)--who you may remember as Senator John Ensign's spiritual advisor and marriage counselor--did his best Ricky Ricardo imitation in a response to a Sotomayor answer telling her that "she had a lot of 'splainin' to do."
After three days of hearings, the Republicans on the committee have revealed themselves to be so obsessed with race and bias that their efforts to transfer their own bigotry and "concerns" to Sotomayor has come across as childish, transparent, dishonest, and scary.
But the way things are playing out with the entire party and its chosen leaders and spokesmen, that puts them right in sync with the program. The only question remaining is where independents like me will find the next legitimate and credible alternative to the weak and frightening Democratic leadership in Congress in the future.
The Republicans are a decade late and a trillion dollars short. There just aren't enough racists and bigots still around to give them a base on which to build. Instead of opting for facts, reason, and dignity they continue to flail away at those pesky Black and Hispanic tar babies. The harder they punch, the more ensnared they become in the sticky, unyielding mess.
That may play well in the former Confederate states that voted against Obama and with a smattering of proud and closet racists here and there.
But we all heard those Uncle Remus stories growing up.
And we all know how they end.