The stupid political crap over Reid

Sen. Harry Reid recently was quoted as saying Obama’s electability comes in part from being relatively “light-skinned” and having no “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one”. Naturally, the political spin machines are going crazy.

One thing missing from all this is that Reid was right. His terminology was dumb, but the essence of what he was saying was correct. Obama’s skin tone and lack of identifiable accent have helped him. If he talked like Gary Coleman from back in the day, he would have been rejected rather promptly. Something similar can be said of accents from the deep south. There’s the on-the-border Fred Thompson accent that gets a pass, but the slack-jawed yokel accent would be unacceptable. Granted, that’s more a caricature than anything, but there are associations people make the more a person has an accent. How many politicians are there in England with thick cockney accents?

All that aside, this whole fiasco is being compared with the past political transgressions of Republican leaders. Trent Lott, for instance, said the country would have been better had Strong Thurmond been elected in ’48. He probably should have realized that Thurmond ran on a segregation platform, but there shouldn’t have been too much to say about his comments. It’s obvious he was trying to be nice to an old man on his birthday. Honestly, if Lott really is a racist, I think he would be either far more careful with his wording in all situations or he would have been found out much, much earlier.

Then there’s the case of Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland who said Obama was “uppity” during the last presidential campaign. He was roasted because the term has been used to trivialize blacks whenever they’ve argued for civil rights (sort of like “militant” gets applied to atheists who dare speak an ill word toward religion). Of course, Westmoreland claimed he had no idea what the racial connotations were of the word. I find this credible. Plenty of people didn’t know anything of the word (myself included). What’s more, it fit in with the political rhetoric of Obama being an elitist. But no one cares about truth when politics are involved.

So now there’s Reid. The GOP is calling for his resignation and just won’t shut the hell up. The talk shows are whining about Democratic hypocrisy in light of reactions to similar past Republican missteps. Okay, there’s a point there. The Democrats did put up a big political stink over a number of trivial issues. They’re politicians; we should expect as much. But don’t the Republicans agree that those past issues really were trivial? Don’t they agree (especially on the talk shows) that Lott et al shouldn’t have faced the sort of criticism they did? So why is it that two wrongs make a right? Their argument is essentially that Democrats should not be hypocrites by demonstrating that they can do something wrong once again. It’s entirely stupid and only politically motivated.

But if any Republican is interested in why more people may care about this sort of thing when they say it over when a Democrat says it, it’s obvious. The Republican party does not support policies which tend to favor minorities. There’s a strong feeling that George Bush and other Republicans really, in fact, don’t care about black people. Furthermore, Republicans aren’t necessarily going to be racists, but racists are likely to be Republicans. That’s why Democrats get more slack. They’ve tended to earn it by not having the same history as Republicans (more specifically, liberal trends don’t have the same track record as conservative trends, and Republicans are conservative and Democrats are (relatively) liberal, by and large).