The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, August 14, 2006

George Allen vs. pigmentation

A few months ago, The New Republic printed an article on Virginia senator (and presidential hopeful) George Allen's lengthy history of linking himself to racism and the shit-kickin' Confederacy-- an odd choice for the pampered teenage son of a wealthy Californian, but the right-wing equivalent of hipsterism. And a cinch for racists, of course.

Aside from that, I've been saying for much of the year that these elections are going to be the ugliest we've ever seen. And with an increasing number of pollsters suggesting that the GOP is in serious trouble this fall, it's just going to get uglier faster.

Allen's unsavory bit of race-baiting last Friday managed to be laughably dishonest even as it tapped into the undercurrent of racism that energizes so many "red-state" Republicans. Which reminds me, I need to make another prediction-- there's no way Republicans are going to enter the election season without more demagoging on the immigration issue. Watch for it.

S.R. Sidarth, a senior at the University of Virginia, had been trailing Allen with a video camera to document his travels and speeches for the Webb campaign. During a campaign speech Friday in Breaks, Virginia, near the Kentucky border, Allen singled out Sidarth and called him a word that sounded like "Macaca."

"This fellow here over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great. We're going to places all over Virginia, and he's having it on film and its great to have you here and you show it to your opponent because he's never been there and probably will never come."

After telling the crowd that Webb was raising money in California with a "bunch of Hollywood movie moguls," Allen again referenced Sidarth, who was born and raised in Fairfax County.

"Lets give a welcome to Macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia," said Allen, who then began talking about the "war on terror."

There you have it. "Hollywood liberal" paranoia, xenophobia, War on Terror fear-mongering, and a huge helping of unintended irony. Yes, welcome to America, Mr. Sidarth. Never mind that you-- unlike George Allen-- were born and raised in Virginia. You just don't look the part, and that's enough for the decidedly non-southern man who proudly sported Confederate flags from high school through his law career, only changing (and denying) his habit once it could harm him politically.

UPDATE: While the WaPo didn't mention it, my first thought on 'Macaca' was that it resembled macaque. And while I wouldn't credit most Republicans these days with the brains to be familiar with species of monkey, Atrios writes that it's a "surprisingly common" ethnic slur referring to North Africans. And as it happens, Allen's mother is an immigrant from French Tunisia.

Considering that the Macaca business was a prelude to terrorism talk, however, I'm equally inclined to think that Allen might've hoped to imply that the volunteer was of Arabic descent. Think al Qaqaa, or Muqtada al-Sadr. Maybe Allen thought he could get a twofer and really lock in the moron vote.

To make the whole incident just that much more pathetic, one of Allen's spokesmacaques has claimed that Macaca was a "variation" of mohawk, after the hairstyle-- which Sidarth does not wear. Yet another Republican "how do we spin this" conversation I wish I'd been privy to.

UPDATE 8/15: The WaPo follows up with an editorial that points to a recent Allen statement that "we're going to run this campaign on positive, constructive ideas." Then they point out the many ways in which Allen's comments were clearly racially motivated. Worth a look.