The Republicans have a race problem, and by this I don't just mean that racial minorities don't much vote for them, particularly in the age of Obama. Rather that overtly racist figures are rising in prominence in the party. And as this takes place, party leaders are not handling it well.
Paul Rosenberg, writing at Salon.com has an extensive discussion of this as part of a wide context of how poorly we all deal with extreme political and religious views.
Rand Paul is not alone. It’s not just the Kentucky senator complaining about folks at MSNBC [Rachel Maddow et al.] who “misrepresent” his past viewpoint opposing the Civil Rights Act by replaying videotape of him refusing to support it. It’s a malady affecting the GOP as a whole as its racial incoherence reaches a new high.But party leaders are openly struggling with what to do about their Peroutka problem.
Then there’s the Maryland GOP, which has its hands full with a wealthy, self-funded county council candidate, Michael Peroutka, who’s a past leader of the League of the South, a group that thinks the wrong side won the Civil War, and whose president, Michael Hill, recently openly fantasized about creating their own three- to five-man death squads. The squads’ “primary targets will not be enemy soldiers; instead, they will be political leaders, members of the hostile media, cultural icons, bureaucrats, and other of the managerial elite.” There’s even a videotape of Peroutka leading a meeting of the League of the South in singing “the national anthem,” as he introduced it—yes, “Dixie.”
It’s not just that state and local GOP leaders have had to struggle with themselves over whether to support Peroutka’s candidacy, as he has refused to disavow the League of the South or its belief in secession. Deepening the incoherence even further, Peroutka himself uses exactly the same sort of rhetoric that Brooks uses—he’s not the racist, he explains, the Democrats are!But Rosenberg warns that
"If Republicans don’t act now—not just individually, but organizationally—then they will literally own Peroutka. There will be no escaping him. As things stand now, they already own him... he’s an elected member of the GOP’s county committee—a post that the party could remove him from, if it had the will to do so. But party chair Joe Cluster remains mum on the matter.
It might seem bizarre that an advocate of Southern secession would claim to be anti-racist, but that’s exactly the line that Peroutka would take, when questioned—showing just how far this feigned posture of wounded innocence can go. The “American View” website, sponsored by Peroutka’s law firm, even contains a 1956 article defending segregation, which begins, à la Rand Paul 2010, “Whereas liberty is a prerequisite to happiness, the unrestricted right to discriminate is in turn a prerequisite to liberty,” and goes on to say, “We see no reason why men should not discriminate on grounds of religion, race, or nationality, if they wish.” Such are Peroutka’s anti-racist bona fides.
Peroutka is the Republican nominee for a county council seat in a majority Republican district. Common sense has it that unless Republicans stay home or vote for the Democratic candidate, Patrick Armstrong in November, Peroutka will be one of the most prominent Republicans in the state. He is already an elected member of the county GOP central committee.
Peroutka is best known for his involvement with the white nationalist organization, League of the South and for having served as the 2004 presidential candidate of the Constitution Party. Less well known are his overtly theocratic views, and the extraordinary views of his close colleagues, his pastor and business partner David Whitney, and Michael Hill, the president of the League of the South itself. There is no one word or phrase that really does justice to their violent, theocratic, white nationalist views. And to judge from the reaction of the political parties and most of the media, it is hard to tell that something extraordinary is going on that requires extraordinary responses. As a society, we need to learn to do better.
But buried in Rosenberg's essay is a remarkable disclosure. Rosenberg learned that someone or some group of someones is concerned enough about Peroutka and what he represents to do something independently of the parties. Its not clear that the mysterious group has even gone public, but their site is live and is like nothing I have ever seen. (It even has a "Reading List" with a Daily Kos post post by Denise Oliver Velez at the top of the list.)
... there are encouraging signs that the complacency is eroding. A new PAC, StopPeroutka.com, has been formed, with a website obviously intended to maximize awareness of what Peroutka actually stands for. According to its “About” page, “StopPeroutka.com is a Maryland political action committee dedicated to educating voters on the theocratic policies and bigoted national network of Michael Peroutka, a Republican Party official who is running for Anne Arundel County Council in District 5.”Its an intriguing start to an alternative to politics as usual.
Back in October 2004, when Peroutka was running for president, he addressed an enthusiastic League of the South gathering in Montgomery, Alabama. At about 35 seconds into this long video which features his speech, he explains that he joined the League of the South not in spite of the fact that it is a hate group, but because it is considered a hate group.