Monday, August 20, 2012

The First Refuge of the Scoundrel

    If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, then surely the charge of "Racism!" is quickly becoming the first.  Although MSNBC's Touré created the latest stir with his inexcusable and vulgar attack on Mitt Romney, Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast puts on a virtual smear clinic in his August 13th column entitled "How the GOP Plans to Block the Black Vote."  Rather than documenting evidence, a tedious task, Tomasky employs sweeping, unfounded generalizations based on his personal experience and apparent omniscience.  His use of superlatives is breathtaking: "every single election I’ve ever covered"; "a constant through every election I’ve seen"; "Every election come the warnings..."; "delegitimizes everything else about the Republican Party"; "in every single election in this country where the black vote matters"; "Republican Party operatives in every state in the country"; "yet everyone generally knows."  And he raises the argumentum ad populum fallacy to an art form:
I’ve seen the fliers, heard the robocalls, been at the polling places with the mysterious malfunctioning machines. No one ever knows exactly who does these things, and yet everyone generally knows. Republicans...
But we do know that in every single election in this country where the black vote matters, these mysterious things happen in African-American neighborhoods in the run-up to the election and on Election Day itself. We never know exactly who does it, but it’s pretty self-evident that it isn’t Democrats. 
    Needless to say, Tomasky is not exactly in possession of hard evidence, for instance, perhaps a photo of Republican voter  intimidation taking place.  Remarkably, Tomasky does not even bring up the recent high profile case of voter-suppression via robocalls in the 2010 Maryland gubernatorial election.  Could it be because one of the accused, Republican Paul E. Schurick, even after being convicted, was aided by "[s]cores of letters from prominent Republicans and Democrats [who] asked a Baltimore judge for extreme leniency"?  In his letter to the judge, Democrat State Comptroller Peter Franchot "wrote that while voter suppression is 'morally and legally unacceptable,' Schurick’s legacy in Annapolis is foremost that of a bipartisan solution seeker."  Schurick is apparently not the wild-eyed racist Tomasky would have us believe populates the GOP.
    In spite of the evidence to the contrary, how is the anonymous cabal of Republicans carrying out their dastardly work this election cycle according to Tomasky?
This is a conspiracy of thousands of people, Republican Party operatives in every state in the country (except those where the black vote is small enough not to matter), all of them agreeing that denying the most fundamental civic right to a group of citizens because they vote the wrong way is a good idea—and knowing that they can get away with it because, after all, it’s “just” “those people.”
It's a nice touch, using the quotation marks when he's not actually quoting anyone - gives a ring of authenticity to the smear.  But Tomasky nearly outdoes himself in his closing paragraph:
 I cannot understand how any individual can be anything other than abjectly ashamed to be associated with a political party so thuggish as to try to rig elections like this and then at its conventions have the gall to invoke Abraham Lincoln and hire lots of black people to sing and dance and smile, to make up for their absence among the attendees. A black mark indeed.
I would link to Tomasky's source for the hired-minstrels accusation, but of course, he doesn't cite any.  Perhaps he felt it would interrupt the flow of his parting shot to insert proof or facts.
    Despite Tomasky's penchant for relying on his own opinion unencumbered by corroboration, he does call upon two persons to support his claims, Former Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer and Attorney Mike Freeman.  But perhaps he'd have been better off sticking with pure opinion:
Greer—and I should say up front he’s under indictment... his credibility is open to question. He’s accused of funneling party money to himself, about $125,000. He’ll stand trial sometime this fall. Obviously, we don’t know whether he’s guilty of that...
Incredibly, as poor a source as Greer appears to be, Tomasky makes it worse by noting that Greer made his charges against the Florida GOP in an interview with Al Sharpton!  Does Tomasky really believe that invoking Sharpton, the ringleader of the Tawany Brawley hoax, adds credibility to his charges?
    But what about Mike Freeman, who challenged the notion raised in a new book that felons in part helped elect Democrat Senator Al Frankin in 2008?  Tomasky reports that "Attorney Mike Freeman rebutted their charges this week.  I can’t swear that Freeman is correct..."  I'm sure Freeman, writing at Alternet (!), appreciates the vote of confidence.

    So in the midst of all the broad-brush charges and dubious accusations against Republicans, how does Tomasky portray black voters, the alleged victims?
Every election come the warnings that if you haven’t paid your telephone bill yet or what have you, you won’t be permitted to vote. Something that like, which I saw all the time in New York City, can be pulled off by a handful of ne’er-do-wells, and the party leaders themselves can maintain plausible deniability.
 Tomasky's smoking gun, his coup de grace evidence of out-of-control thuggery committed by the "racists [who] left the Democrats and joined the GOP... in the late 196os [when] these voter-suppression efforts began," consists of "warnings that if you haven’t paid your telephone bill yet or what have you, you won’t be permitted to vote."  How stupid does Tomasky believe black voters are?  After decades of get-out-the-vote and voter registration drives, all it takes is a "you didn't pay your phone bill" to keep black voters home?  Does Tomasky have such a low opinion of “those people?”
    The paternalism of Tomasky and his ilk towards minorities is perfectly showcased in his column.  Without the Democratic party, voters, especially black voters and other minorities, are helpless.  True racism certainly still exists in this country.  But when is the last time an actual racist was called to account?  The race-baiters at too busy tilting at windmills and skewering the innocent to honestly deal with the issue.  To borrow Tomasky's words, "It’s a sick and sickening situation," but as President Obama tries to eke out a second term during these next eleven weeks, it's likely to get a whole lot worse.

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