GOP Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Texas governor Rick Perry, and The Washington Times in quick succession indignantly denounced racist loudmouth, rocker Ted Nugent for calling President Obama a communist-raised, educated, and nurtured sub-human mongrel. Now Paul, Cruz, Perry, and especially The Washington Times, know full well Nugent's near psychotic penchant for taking the most outrageous, off-the-wall racist shots at Obama. That's because he's done it before. And for a time the Times featured his rants in a weekly column. But this is an election year, a crucial election year, and the GOP has taken dead aim on taking back the Senate, and boosting its dominance in the House.
To stay close-mouthed on Nugent would be disastrous. It would again loudly stir the GOP boo chorus to finger-point the party as a warm nesting ground for unreconstructed racists, kooks, cranks and crazies. It would give lie to the already much suspect effort by Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus's public crusade to speak out and even take quiet action against the racist antics of some party officials and other GOP notables. Nugent is certainly near the top of that list. A few choice, and well-timed, words of criticism from GOP ultra conservatives from the likes of Cruz, Paul, Perry and the Times is beyond laughable. Both senators have clothing bags full of race-tinged skeletons tumbling out of their closets, and Nugent performed at Perry's 2007 inaugural ball. The Times had the most benign of benign views toward Nugent during the times he disgraced their pages. But let's say Paul, Cruz, Perry and the Times really have had a true racial enlightened epiphany, and their call-out of Nugent was an expression of heartfelt rage, and not done out of tawdry political expediency. Does that mean that the GOP can and will reverse its decade's long course and kick the bigots and bigotry out of the party?
A blast here and there against a nutty rocker is not even the proverbial finger in the dike against the steady torrent of racial baiting that has routinely poured from the lips and actions of legions of GOP rank and filers, especially against Obama. Back to Nugent, he apologized for the use of the derogatory term and characterization about Obama. He did not apologize to Obama. He did not apologize for the sentiment he expressed. There was no word of denunciation or public expression of embarrassment from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who Nugent stumps with in his bid for the Texas governorship. The GOP's bigwigs that blasted him for the Obama hit didn't disinvite him from the Texas campaign or any other GOP campaign for that matter.
They really can't. The hard reality is that there are still millions of GOP backers in the South and Heartland, and the gaggle of right-wing webs, blogs, and talk radio jocks that think the GOP's only flub is that it's not truly conservative enough. They have hammered the GOP that any retreat from its core beliefs and message will perpetually doom it to political extinction in national politics. They warn that if the GOP suddenly started pandering to minorities and gays it could kiss millions of their fervent supporters goodbye. Indeed many who didn't think Republican presidential contenders John McCain and Mitt Romney were authentically conservative enough for their tastes did stay home in 2008 and to an extent in 2012. It was evident even in the backwash of the 2012 defeat, when a parade of GOP hardliners jumped all over Romney and wailed that he and GOP candidates lost because they weren't conservative enough, or their self-inflicted gaffe wounds did them in. They denounced and sloughed off any talk from the GOP party leaders of re-messaging, mounting an aggressive outreach to minorities, even Hispanics, and do a reversal on immigration, and they won't let up on that.
The demonstrations that dogged Obama in several cities during the past year and the loud cheers from hundreds at a Missouri state fair for a rodeo clown that mocked Obama and wished him harm last August was not just simply the tortured and sad outbursts from a few wacky bigots. It is the open sore that represents the ugly rot of racism that pulses through the party's base, which if anything, has gotten even more uneasy, angry, and frustrated, with every passing day of the Obama administration, and now with the looming prospect of a Clinton presidential bid with no credible GOP candidate to make it a contest against her.
In the end, it's always action not rhetoric that tells whether the GOP as a party really means what it says about dumping racism from its marrow. During this election, there will be more outbursts from the likes of GOP stalwarts like Nugent, and some GOP leaders will huff indignant about it. That's simply doing due diligence. But they also know that there are many millions such as Nugent that back the GOP precisely because they like the party just the way it is. That will assure that the GOP's denunciation of creatures like Nugent is a sham. Or as the GOP's top bigotry cheerleader Sarah Palin put it on her Facebook page about Abbott, "If he is good enough for Ted Nugent, he is good enough for me!"
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.