While the turnout in the country’s most populous areas may determine the outcome of the presidential election, organized hate finds victory in the nation’s small cities, towns, villages and hamlets.
And the Republican Party is having a hard time tamping it down.
Earlier this week, the chairman of the Mecklenburg County (Va.) Republican Committee called doctored photos of President Obama, which portrayed him as a witch doctor, a thug and a caveman, among other things, were well within the range of free speech and there was no harm in posting them on the committee’s Facebook page.
State party leaders had called for the committee, located in south Virginia, to remove the photos, but R. Wallace “Wally” Hudson said the photos were nothing more than harmless fun, according to The Washington Post.
State party Chairman Pat Mullins said putting up the photos on the site was “unacceptable behavior from any local unit associated with our party.”
By Thursday morning, however, all of the images had been removed, replaced by 100 “less controversial images,” The Post reported. Later in the day, the site was “temporarily unavailable.”
It’s one thing when average citizens put up offensive or racist commentary on their personal sites. It’s quite another when it shows up on the sites of major political parties, elected officials and public leaders.
One would think that the both major parties would warn all their affiliates to be a bit more circumspect in what they post for public consumption and when in doubt, run it by state party officials or the national committees before posting or publishing materials.
Yes, it should go without saying that public figures should not post racist, sexist, offensive materials anywhere, but other institutions, employers and organizations circulate their policies, just in case there is someone who thinks rules do not apply to him.
Just as faculty now routinely put university policy about cheating in syllabi and many companies send employees copies of their ethics policies each year, the GOP and the Democratic Party have to know there is always someone willing to cross the line because it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
When an election is at stake, however, you’d figure that party officials would think there is no room for error. Or maybe Hudson just didn’t get the memo.
The altered photos have been on the Mecklenburg County Republican Committee’s page for months but drew attention outside the rural southwestern enclave after a luncheon event this week with Republican Senate candidate George Allen.
Allen, you may recall, lost his reelection bid for the Senate six years ago after a video showed him calling a young man of Indian descent "macaca" – a derogatory term that means monkey in some countries.
“George Allen kept a noose and a Confederate flag in his office and anyone who would insult the African-American and Latino people of Virginia this way is not fit to hold office," Eddie Vale, communication director for Workers' Voice, told USA Today earlier this week.
His organization has ads reminding voters of Allen’s gaffe in 2006. For his part, Allen has condemned the photos posted on the Mecklenburg GOP page.
"This is similar to, but even more offensive, than Mitt Romney secretly attacking 47 percent of all Americans," Vale told the newspaper.
The aim is to appeal to a voter’s basest emotions and hope that will lead to a decision based more on gut feeling than a considered opinion based on enlightened and educated self-interest.
Anna Scholl, executive director of ProgressVA, the group that brought attention to the images on Facebook, called the images racist.
“I think the images are obviously offensive and seek to portray our president and black men, more broadly, as, quote unquote, savages,” she told The Post. “I think it both perpetuates this totally debunked idea that Obama wasn’t really born here, that he’s not really an American.”
Chairman Hudson was surprised to hear from a Post reporter that anyone had taken offense.
“If that group is that sensitive, I’m sorry, they’re just not human,” he said, chuckling. “It’s not American. If they’ve got a problem with it, we’re not going to change what we do.”
So now you know why rules and policies bear repeating.