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4:09am March 31, 2013

How Alaska Rep Don Young’s “Wetback” Comment Doesn’t Change the GOP

Don_Young,_official_photo_portrait,_color

It’s going to take more than a new suit and tie. When it comes to racial issues, the Republican Party reminds me of a guy that has bad breath but insists the reason he can’t get a date is because he needs better clothes. No pal, it’s not how you dress it up, it’s what comes out of your mouth that is turning women away. When Alaska Representative Don Young broke out his “wetback” comment earlier this week, the GOP leadership was quick to condemn him and was very public about doing so. But again, this problem in the party won’t be covered up by putting on some new threads because everyone can still smell the lingering stench of bigotry in the party.

This week during a radio interview on KRBD, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) casually mentioned the type of workers that his family had on their farm in the good ol’ days.

“My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 or 60 wetbacks and — to pick tomatoes,” Young said in the interview with KRBD. “You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

It’s a great quote, and honestly you can’t fully appreciate the significance of it unless you listen to the whole thing (which takes about 17 seconds). You have to appreciate just how casually he says “wetbacks” how non concerned he is about using that term and moreover how non-apologetic he was in his first then vaguely second responses to the controversy. This is not your fire and brimstone racism, the kind that burns holes into the soul and leads to fire hoses and police dogs. No, this is the typical run of the mill racism that makes life hell for most people of color in the United States. The casual simple “it’s a fact” bigotry that is churned out every day in the halls of power, where denying someone a job, acceptance into a college or a promotion is not the result of some large diabolical plot, it’s just how large portions of white people have done things in America for years and continue to do. Let’s be honest, Don Young wasn’t trying to make a political point in his discussion, he was just speaking comfortably and he’s not atypical of his party and large swaths of America.

One of the problems that the Republican Party has about race issues is that the party is full of non-repentant bigots who want to treat racism like it’s an outlier and exceptional instead of the basic thought process of many, many (all too many) Americans. Earlier today I was on CNN with Amy Holmes from the Blaze (Glen Beck TV) and she responded with the typical talking points of the GOP, “Joe Biden says racist things to, other Democrats have said racist things etc. etc.” Trying to place blame on all sides does not solve the GOP’s major electoral and reputational problem. All Republicans, White people, conservatives and Southerners are not racists. In fact, the majority of these groups are not necessarily racist. However, the GOP refuses to take responsibility for its own bad press and would rather say that the media is blowing things out of proportion, unfairly targeting its members (instead of Democrats) or that Blacks and Latinos are too sensitive. All of these outfits and fashion flips rather than cleaning up their act.

In the last election cycle alone, the GOP with the Niggerhead Ranch Scandal, Rick Santorum saying he didn’t want to give tax money to black people, Paul Ryan talking about “urban voters,” Sununu calling Obama “lazy,” and the CPAC panel on race debacle, they’ve given the average minority American enough fodder to ignore them for several more elections. This is not an irrevocable problem but it is a problem and it’s the GOP’s fault for coddling and courting these types of voters and only recently calling out politicians who make these statements. How long will it take the GOP to stop worrying about their outfit and just take a breath mint? If they don’t figure this out soon they will always be alone without a date on election night.

DR. JASON JOHNSON, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at www.drjasonjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson.



About the Author

Jason Johnson
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