Alexi Giannoulias is a progressive Democrat running for Senate in Illinois against serial liar Mark Kirk. Alexi's parents were Greek immigrants. Kirk has a nice white bread, Anglo (Scottish) name. And Mr. Kirk keeps bringing up up Greeks and using crude ethnic stereotypes in ads:
Much of the Republican message lately has been about characterizing Democrats as "The Other." We're told that "Real Americans" live in red states, far from urban areas. The undertones of recent GOP obsessions -- Park51, the New Black Panther Party, Birther nonsense, Beck's focus on "liberation theology" -- all seem focused on scaring the bejesus out of white people.
And it's in this light that we consider the Senate race in Illinois, where the white Republican candidate seems more than a little preoccupied with his opponent's ethnicity, and the Republican attack ads play up crude ethnic stereotypes.
Maybe I'm being overly sensitive here, but given the larger GOP narratives, Kirk's attack strategy would be less troubling if he could go a whole day without using the word "Greek."
Some more details from Amanda Terkel on HuffPo:
In recent months, Mark Kirk, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Illinois, has increasingly been bringing up the financial crisis in Greece as a warning of what could happen if America doesn't reduce its own government spending. The undertones of these comments, however, seem to be directed at raising questions about the ancestry of his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, who is the child of Greek immigrants and has been painted as a "mobster" by Republicans during this campaign season.
On July 12, NBC Chicago's Ward Room wrote, "In several media appearances and press releases, Kirk has made a point of mentioning Greece as a poor fiscal example. While sound criticism, the Kirk camp surely enjoys the convenient fact that Kirk's competitor, Alexi Giannoulias, is of Greek descent."
There have also been ads playing up ethnic stereotypes and portraying Giannoulias as a mobster. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) put out an ad in February saying -- in a stereotypically ethnic Italian accent -- Giannoulias would "make Tony Soprano proud" and calling him a "wise guy." The NRSC released a similar ad in August, saying, "Al Capone would be impressed" and showing a generic picture of an Italian-looking family sitting around a table with a red-checkered cover.
More examples are in the article here: Huffpo, Amanda Terkel: Mark Kirk Increasingly Brings Up Greek Financial Crisis To Criticize His Greek Opponent Alexi Giannoulias
Not everyone's anscestors came over on the Mayflower:
Giannoulias campaign spokesman David Spielfogel replied, "These types of baseless and offensive attacks have become classic Congressman Kirk. He and his Republican pals thrive on smears that try to cast opponents as un-American and seem to think that if your parents didn't come over on the Mayflower, you're not a U.S. citizen. They can attack the President, they can attack Alexi, they can even attack their fellow Americans, but at the end of the day it's undeniable that our nation is so great because of our ethnic, religious and cultural diversity, not in spite of it."
I know Illinois a little. I went to grade school in Chicago for kindergarten, first and second grade. (Okay it was in 1960-63), but I've been back many times since then. Living in the St. Louis area, Illinois is right across the river. My girl friend grew up in a small coal mining town in southern Illinois, and still has family there. My point is, I'm very aware that not everyone's anscestors came over on the Mayflower. Mine sure did not and a lot of folks in Illinois did not. For example, in southern Illinois, where my girl friend grew up, there are many descendants of eastern and southern European immigrants in the old coal mining towns. The mines are gone, but people are there. There are little towns all over Illinois with lots of folks that have names different from Mr. Kirk. And Chicago ain't exactly white bread. Never was. Never will be. And that is what is great about America!
Ain't nothing wrong with being white bread, with anscestors from the Mayflower, with being of northern European descent. But there ain't nothing wrong with having a "funny" last name or first name or with looking different from northern Europeans, whether its skin color or any other difference.
Kirk's bullshit is a logical consequence of the racism on which the Republican Party now relies. In the old psuedo-scientic racism that was prevelent especially at the end of the 19th centry as imperialism reached its zenith, northern Europeans were at the top, then southern and eastern Europeans, then on down to Africans. So as Kirk plays the demonization-of-other game, many white folks had better watch out, cause you ain't white enough.
Racism and ethnic discrimination is wrong. Period. Being desendants of of Greeks, Italians, Hispanics, Africans, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Native American and on and on is not the other. No, it's being an American.
So, Mr. Kirk, we see you and we're going to expose you as a demogogue and bigot.
As Steve Benen says,
Maybe I'm being overly sensitive here, but given the larger GOP narratives, Kirk's attack strategy would be less troubling if he could go a whole day without using the word "Greek".
Here's something about Alexi from a few weeks ago. He's a good progressive Democrat and a proud Greek-American.
Allow me to state the obvious: despite the fact that Democrats control the House and Senate, conservatives control what gets sent to the President’s desk.
Legislation that starts off strong is watered down by conservative Democrats in the House and Senate. It’s then whittled down to ineffectiveness in order to try and get a handful of Republican votes on board.
My solution: I’m going to create a robust Senate Progressive Caucus that will hold the line and fight for progressive policies that help all Americans.
Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that the Bush tax cuts for the rich -- or as I call the policy, the "millionaire bailout" -- will add $36 billion to our deficit:
A Republican plan to extend tax cuts for the rich would add more than $36 billion to the federal deficit next year -- and transfer the bulk of that cash into the pockets of the nation's millionaires, according to a congressional analysis released Wednesday.
We know that this policy doesn't create jobs. The Bush tax cuts for the rich have been in place for almost a decade and the only effect of Republican "trickle down" policies has been the erosion of the middle class.
For me, it's remarkable that some in Congress on both sides of the aisle are seriously considering renewing this massive giveaway to the rich. Democrats need a united front to stand up for the interests of the middle class and the poor.
Go here to Give $$$ to Alexi