Every day, a new headline paints a picture of today’s Republican Party. It’s a party the Republicans of my era wouldn’t recognize.
First we had Senate candidate Todd Akin asserting that victims of “legitimate” rape don’t get pregnant. (We have “lady parts” that “shut stuff down”…).
Then we had the GOP Rep. from Tennessee who explained that AIDS can’t be transmitted through heterosexual sex. (Tell that to the folks in Africa…)
This morning, Arizona newspapers announced that infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio would be speaking at the Republican Convention.
Arpaio, who is under investigation by various law-enforcement agencies including the Department of Justice, is best known for his anti-illegal immigration fervor, which tends to extend to the harassment of perfectly legal citizens who have the misfortune of looking Latino. He is also known for maintaining horrific jail conditions, including the erection of a “tent city” that has been compared to a concentration camp, in which he held people pending trial. (Not convicted felons, just people accused of something.) He has also reintroduced chain gangs, pressured inmates to donate organs….Not to belabor this, but he isn’t exactly a poster boy for enlightened criminal justice policies. Most recently, he has become the face of the “birthers,” insisting that President Obama was born in Kenya.
Arpaio’s racism and brutality aren’t exactly a secret. And while he is popular with others of his ilk, his approval rating in Arizona is around 37%–higher than we might wish, but hardly at a level to explain the decision to give him a role at the Republican Convention.
Republican officeholders have tried to distance themselves from Akin, but they undermined that effort with a platform plank confirming their agreement with his position. (That plank: adamant opposition to abortion, with no exception for rape or incest.) I haven’t heard of any efforts to push back against homophobia, or the profound ignorance most recently expressed by the Representative from Tennessee. And now, they extend an invitation to speak at the Convention to a man who is utterly loathed (and with good reason) by every Latino who has ever heard of him.
Add to all of this the Romney campaign’s decision to double-down on a welfare ad that every credible news source agrees is flatly untrue–an ad that is basically a very loud “dog whistle” to racism–and the picture that emerges is pretty ugly.
Some strategist in the GOP has evidently concluded that Romney’s only path to victory is through the mobilization of the old, angry white guys who “want their country back” from the rest of us.