Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t
On the heels of the hectoring race-baiting George Allen seemed to find so amusing at the time, nobody was much surprised to learn that he has some — er — compromised friends in overtly racists groups with which he stands proudly. The kicker is not that Allen is a bigot; that’s been known for some time. The problem Allen is now having is that the "dog whistle" element is taken out of it, it’s out in the open, and he’s either got to confirm or dissavow it. As Max Blumenthal notes in The Nation:
Now Allen finds himself in a quandary. While he atones for his racist gaffe in order to succeed in the 2008 Republican primaries, he cannot afford to alienate the neo-Confederate movement that helped propelled his career during the 1990s. As Allen begs forgiveness for his "mistake," his spokesman avoids criticizing groups like the SCV and CCC. "The neo-Confederates could break a Republican candidate, especially in South Carolina, where they’re extremely organized," Sebesta observes.
Senator John McCain’s misadventure with the neo-Confederate movement in the 2000 South Carolina primary provides a cautionary tale that must not be lost on Allen. Facing George W. Bush in South Carolina, McCain hired Richard Quinn as his state field manager. Quinn was an editor of the neo-Confederate magazine Southern Partisan, and a frequent critic of Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, who he once dubbed a "terrorist." Before the primary, Quinn organized a rally of 6,000 people in support of flying the Confederate flag over the statehouse. Quinn dressed up McCain volunteers in Confederate Army uniforms as they passed fliers to the demonstrators assuring them that McCain supported the Confederate flag.
As soon as news spread that McCain had called for removal of the Dixie flag from the statehouse, the SCV’s Richard T. Hines funded the distribution of 250,000 fliers accusing McCain of "changing his tune" and describing Bush as "the [only] major candidate who refused to call the Confederate flag a racist symbol." Bush surged ahead of McCain and took South Carolina, dooming McCain’s presidential hopes.
Allen’s got himself his own personal "wedge" issue. When bigots are your bread & butter, you can’t push them away, yet failure to do so makes clear that Allen is one as well, and there’s a whole crowd that’s not going to play well with, either.
Poor George. These idiots have been getting away with such nonsense for so long it really never occured to them that anyone would ever hold them to account for their dog-whistle bigotry, and if it had been up to the traditional media that might have been a correct assumption. Now Allen is dancing as fast as he can to try and escape the controversy, and it isn’t working — at least not as long as people keep hammering him on it.
I don’t know how many folks have applauded S.R. Sidarth for having the stamina to follow Allen around with his video camera; that must’ve taken some strong stomach. But what is now happening to George Allen is a shining tribute to his willingness to do so.
(photo cribbed from Sam Rosenfeld at The American Prospect)