Saturday, February 25, 2012

Republican Racism Example #27: "Gangster Government . . . Coming With A Knife"



Ralph Reed may look boyish, but he wants to see you in a body bag.  (Photo from The Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/18/ralph-reed-says-he-has-no_n_850445.html)

Don’t let Ralph Reed’s baby face fool you.

In spite of his public effusions of Christian piety, the Evangelical Right leader always relished in brutal politics as he rallied religious voters during the past three decades to support the Republican Party.  Reed once described his campaign approach this way to a reporter: “"I do guerrilla warfare.  I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag." (For more see, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1218060,00.html#ixzz1nR36txVA

It’s no surprise that a ruthless man like Reed would stoop to racist appeals.  The evangelical crusader has done just that this year, comparing the re-election campaign of the nation’s first African American president to a violent street crime.  In a speech to Florida Republicans February 16, Reed warned the shock troops that GOP candidates should watch out for the Obama campaign “coming with a knife in an alley.” (For more see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/gop-operative-ralph-reed-_n_1300019.html)

The myth of the black man as an atavistic beast bent on mugging, rape and murder dates back at least to the age of heroic slave rebels like Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner.  The myth suggests that African Americans, men in particular, lack morality and impulse control, yield quickly to greed and lust, and lack the decency to know that violence is wrong.  All this, racists, suggest, is because blacks rank lower on the evolutionary scale than whites.

This black man-as-criminal meme fueled the almost weekly torture and lynching of mostly African men, primarily in the South from the 1880s to the 1930s.  A black rapist provides the primary plot point of the first-ever Hollywood blockbuster, the pro-Ku Klux Klan silent film The Birth of a Nation in 1915.  Citing the threat of criminal blacks served as a favorite political ploy of the right wing since the time of slavery, a way to distract poor whites from who was really robbing them blind and assaulting their families – rich Anglo elites.  The myth played a heavy part in George H.W. Bush’s ugly “Willie Horton” TV ad, which prominently featured the face of a black rapist as the narrator blamed Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis for the crimes Horton committed on parole while Dukakis served as Massachusetts governor.

The black-man-as-street hood motif has made a horrible and unwelcome return in the age of Obama. One Tea Party sign in 2009 featured a caricature of Obama grabbing Uncle Sam from behind and slitting his throat with a knife.


(Photo from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/16/10-most-offensive-tea-par_n_187554.html

In March 2011, during one of the many low points of her brain-free presidential campaign, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann described President Obama’s administration as a “gangster government.” (http://www.salon.com/2011/03/07/bachmann_on_gangster_government/)

Sarah Palin, in October 2011, accused Obama of bringing “Chicago-style corruption” to Washington.  (This is from a woman living in the infamous “bridge to nowhere” state.) It’s not hard to pierce the code there” Chicago = Al Capone and brutal black street gangs dealing drugs. (See http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_1036babf-3b35-5ab5-b9b4-ae3246d2b55f.html)

 Perhaps Reed’s inflammatory language was part of a pathetic attempt to become relevant again.  Reed faded from the political scene after his days as the hatchet man for televangelist Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition from 1989 to 1997.  Serving as the organization’s executive director, Reed left the group under a cloud of scandal, facing accusations that a Christian Coalition vendor owned by a friend of Reed’s overbilled for its services.  The Federal Election Commission also charged that the Christian Coalition, while under Reed’s command, violated campaign finance laws in 1990, 1992 and 1994. (For more, see http://lw.bna.com/lw/19990817/961781.htm and http://www.publiceye.org/ifas/fw/9609/fec.html)

After he left Robertson’s group, Reed continued his life as an ethical Real Slim Shady.  Reed worked closely with baroquely corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who would be convicted in 2006 of mail fraud and conspiracy.  Abramoff would be charged with bribing members of Congress and bilking his clients, including Native American groups that controlled gambling operations.  Sen. John McCain’s Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigated Abramoff’s sleazy dealings with Native American groups that were requesting favorable legislation for casinos they operated. Reed’s name came up repeatedly in a report issued in 2006.  As Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post:

“E-mails and testimony before McCain's panel showed that Reed, who once branded gambling a ‘cancer’ on society, reaped millions of dollars in tribal casino proceeds that Abramoff secretly routed to him through various non-profit front groups. Abramoff, a lobbyist for the tribes, paid Reed to whip up ‘grassroots’ Christian opposition to prevent rival tribes from opening casinos.” (For more, see http://blog.washingtonpost.com/44/2008/01/post-270.html).

Reed’s ties  to Abramoff hit the press as the still youthful looking hitman ran for Lt. Governor in Georgia in 2006.  The allegations blackened Reed’s reputation and he suffered a 12-point loss in the Republican primary to the much-less famous state Senator Casey Cagle on July 18.

It’s no shock that such a pious hypocrite would jump from the world of corrupt lobbying (for an industry he condemned publicly) to the realm of theocratic politics.  Reed founded and now chairs the Faith and Freedom Coalition.  (The Faith and Freedom website at http://ffcoalition.com/leadership-team/ features an endorsement from Dick Morris, a former Bill Clinton political advisor and current Fox News talking head who was forced to leave the Clinton team when it was discovered that the married man had a penchant for sucking the toes of prostitutes.) 


Ralph Reed and infamously corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff really enjoyed ripping off Native Americans.  (Photo from http://cdn2.dailycaller.com/2011/10/Jack-Abramoff.jpeg).

In 2011, talk buzzed around New York and Washington that Reed would serve as the campaign manager for a theoretical Donald Trump presidential campaign.  (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/18/ralph-reed-says-he-has-no_n_850445.html)
Trump briefly shot to the head of the GOP pack by pandering to Republicans racists, embracing “britherism” – the ludicrous conspiracy theory that President Obama was secretly born in Kenya and therefore is not eligible for the presidency.  Trump also implied that Obama could only get into law school through affirmative action and, without evidence, suggested that the president had made poor grades.  His anti-black talk excited Republican voters, but Trump’s campaign fizzled because the incompetent billionaire-turned-millionaire could not afford to give up his salary as host of Celebrity Apprentice.



Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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