On Friday, two liberal writers looked at the Steve Scalise story and related issues. They agreed that the Republican party has a serious racism problem but differed on what the GOP could or will do about it.
In a Talking Points Memo column, Ed Kilgore offered that “it might help if Republicans could find a ‘Sister Souljah’ moment to distance themselves from elements of their own coalition whose attitudes towards minority voters are toxic.” Kilgore added that congressional GOPers apparently blew their first chance at such a moment by failing to remove Scalise from his position as House majority whip.
At the Washington Monthly, however, UCLA professor Mark Kleiman sounded much less hopeful, asserting that “the current strategy of the Confederate Republicans [is to] seek the votes of bigots by winking at them, and by pursuing policies that are hostile to African-American interests without being explicitly racist.”
From Kilgore’s piece:
The big question for Republicans is whether their much-delayed “rebranding” will actually have to take place in order to do well in a presidential cycle with its larger youth and minority voting strength, or whether the small gains they made in 2014 in elements of the “Obama coalition” will stay with them, particularly without Obama on the ballot…
It might help if Republicans could find a “Sister Souljah” moment to distance themselves from elements of their own coalition whose attitudes towards minority voters are toxic. They are letting one pass by this very week, allowing (or so it appears) Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana to retain his House leadership post after some rather unconvincing rationalizations about a speech he made to a white supremacist group in 2002. There’s not much question Republicans will be playing with fire in 2015 by expressing violent opposition to…an executive order on immigration that is proving to be wildly popular among Latinos.
From Kleiman’s post (emphasis added):
Scalise…appears to be surviving the flap over his appearance at a David Duke-organized event. It’s good to be able to welcome the New Year with a word of praise for the party I oppose. I’m glad that the GOP has decided to come out of the closet as openly racist…
So what did Steve Scalise, aspiring Louisiana politician, have to say about David Duke?
The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he can’t get elected, and that’s the first and most important thing.
…Politicians who frankly campaign on their hatred of blacks and Jews can’t get elected. So voters who “care about” hating blacks and Jews need to find politicians like Steve Scalise, who “believes in” Duke’s message but won’t say so explicitly, because such politicians can get elected.
That sums up the current strategy of the Confederate Republicans about as clearly as I’ve ever heard it summed up: seek the votes of bigots by winking at them, and by pursuing policies that are hostile to African-American interests without being explicitly racist. So it’s entirely appropriate that Scalise should have been chosen for, and remain in, the House Republican leadership.