Newt’s exit may be the end of racist politics

Billy Corriher

Mitt Romney’s nomination is looking more inevitable, and Newt Gingrich is looking increasingly desperate.  With his campaign coming to an end, Newt has shown himself to be the candidate most willing to stoop to new lows in appealing to racism.  The good news is that – after months of silence from the mainstream media – Gingrich is finally being called out.

Gingrich recently visited an African-American church in South Carolina, where he was bombarded with questions about his racist rhetoric.  In a Sunday sermon honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, the pastor of King’s former church accused Gingrich of “scapegoating and race-baiting.”  Dr. Raphael Warnock stated, “He is playing an old game that’s part of the Southern strategy.”  After finally hearing about Gingrich’s racist statements in the news media, I have one question: In this post-racial America, why did no one call Gingrich out for being a racist before now?

Newt’s language offers not-so-subtle clues to those who already hold racist views.  Newt has faced criticism for repeatedly calling Obama “the food stamp president.” Gingrich is not using the phrase because he wants to highlight growing poverty; rather, he is subtly suggesting that Obama is doling out government benefits to his black constituents.  Gingrich also thinks federal courts should not have ordered Southern schools to desegregate in the 1950′s. He has referred to Spanish as “the language of living in a ghetto.”  Gingrich, a former history professor, once warned white people that you can only understand President Obama if you understand his “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.”

The most offensive idea to come out of Gingrich’s mouth: he claimed that poor children have no role models to teach them about hard work, so he advocates relaxing child labor laws to allow them to work as janitors in their own schools.  For someone who once touted his bipartisan education ideas with Al Sharpton, this idea is ridiculous. When would these students/janitors do their homework? If these kids truly lack role models, the solution is to give them role models, not to have them cleaning up shit in their spare time.

No other Republican presidential candidate has such a clear pattern of racist and offensive statements. Having grown up in the South and studied its history, Gingrich understands the language of racism. As a fellow son of the South, I know what Gingrich’s rhetoric about food stamps and work habits really means.

The other candidates have their own issues with race. Romney has no idea how to talk to black voters, and Rick Santorum thinks only black people are on welfare. But these guys seem more oblivious than malicious. Ron Paul has been rightly criticized for the unforgivable views espoused in his newsletters, but his current views don’t seem to be racist.

Gingrich is either attempting to appeal to racism, or he is just another racist Southerner who is completely oblivious to his own prejudice.  Either way, it is clear that Newt is not as shrewd as he likes to think.  Gingrich likes to brag that he is a student of history, and that’s where politicians like him belong – in the past. One day, the history books will look back on his presidential campaign and say that it represented the last throes of racist politics in America.

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