In 1948, after President Harry Truman desegregated the US Army, Senator Strom Thurmond and a bunch of other racist, white Southern Democrats walked out of the Democratic National Convention and formed the Dixiecrat party (and soon after he became a Republican) - which was the beginning of the politics of bigotry and religion imbedding itself into the modern Republican party.
This tactical wink and nod toward unacceptible behavior has been fueling GOP efforts across the country for decades since then, mostly in more subtle ways (think about Ronald Reagan visiting a Mississippi state fair in 1980 and declaring his support for states rights), but frequently in ways not so subtle (George H. W. Bush's Willie Horton ad against Mike Dukakis in 1988).
Over and over the Republicans have used the emotional politics of ethnic, racial and religious differences to move independent voters to their side, gin up turnout among the extremists, and supress turnout among those who do not support them. It also - clearly - has incited some on the right to feel that violent behavior is somehow condoned - and every so often you would see a news story about a shooting, an attack on a protester against a Republican at their campaign rally, or the desecration of a non-white or non-Christian place of worship.
The beauty of the 2008 election was that it was the ultimate triumph against this lunacy. We elected somebody who looked like America. I am a white, middle-aged man who makes over $250,000 a year. But my country is not about my color, my gender or my salary. My constitution says we are all equal. And when I watched Barack Obama get nominated in the summer of 2008 - officially, during the middle of the afternoon - I keenly felt this. I ran upstairs to my wife - and watched it with her. Both of us weeping with joy at the idea that our party, the Democratic party, had finally - utterly and completely - shed the legacy of Strom Thurmond and repudiated the Republican politics of hate and division and embraced what America truly is.
We won. They lost. And you had to hope that this crap was gone for good (or at least would be shunted out of Republican politics).
Well, here we are in 2010, and it's not only back, but the hateful, bigoted politics of divide-and-conquer is back with an intensity that I'm sure I have not seen in my lifetime. People hating groups of people are all over the Internet, and virtually all of them are on the right. And these are not just the fringy people that you laugh at uncomfortably and quietly wish would go away. These are people at public protests covered by the media. These are candidates - Republican candidates that have the backing of their national party.
The 19th century style stereo-typing of our African American President and First Lady are all over the place. They say he isn't American. Rush Limbaugh says he wants to destroy the country. The Republican candidate for Governor in New York wants to ban the building of all mosques (are synagogues next)? Today I see that some Southern Baptist preacher is saying that yoga is not Christian because it has it's roots in an Eastern religion.
A Republican Assistant Attorney General in Michigan is spending copious amounts of time on a website designed to personally destroy the openly gay university student body president as if this is more important than prosecuting illegal activities that threaten the citizens of his state (which is, I don't know, HIS JOB). A church mocks the attendees at the funeral of a gay dead soldier.
Watching Sharon Angle's latest campaign ad reminds me alot of the nausea you get before you vomit. You know what it is, you how disgusting it is, but you have to sit through it anyway. She says the brown people are coming to get you. The Republican governor of Arizona is proud of her new legislation that legalizes Hispanic racial profiling and treats all Hispanics in that state as potential criminals. Republican candidates all over the West and Southwest are campaigning against Latinos, and claiming that they are ruining American culture.
And this isn't even taking up the hateful idea that a Republican-controlled local government in Tennessee could instruct their fire department not to put out a house fire (and watch the home burn to the ground instead) because the homeowner forgot to write a $75 check.
Even if this Republican party had good ideas, supported health care reform, job stimulus and all of the other great things that our Democrats in Washington have done - even if they weren't loony tunes about our constitution and our economic rights. Just this idea alone: The idea that this blatant violent and bigoted behavior is OK, should be enough to motivate any decent American to come out and vote to defeat them in November.
Frankly, it's my opinion that this crop of Republican candidates, and their avid supporters, and their insidious behavior, should convince most of us to never, ever support that party again. But if we don't show up and send that message, clearly, polls show they win.
Somewhere in Hell, that ignorant, bigoted ass Strom Thurmond is laughing.