There are those who think John and I are wrong to want to move the discussion of Rand Paul away from the topic of whether or not Rand Paul is a racist. Let me remind you: a few years ago, there was an extended back-and-forth between Bobo and Paul Krugman about the extent to which Reagan used racism to help himself politically. Republicans tried to deflect it into an argument about whether or not Reagan was racist himself and then trotted out old friends to say how much Reagan loved black people, had black best friends, didn’t see race at all, and so on.
But, you see, it doesn’t matter whether or not Reagan harbored racist feelings in his own heart, he gave his first post-convention speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi and talked about “states’ rights”. He talked about “strapping young bucks” buying T-bone steaks with food stamps. Reagan’s “actual feelings” about race matter about as much as Lindsey Graham’s “actual feelings” about health care reform.
Once things become personal, Republicans can wriggle off the hook. It’s just too easy to trot out black friends or at least stories about black friends and say “see, Rand Paul is not a racist, next question.” The last 40 years of American politics haven’t been destroyed by a bunch of dumb, racist crackers, they’ve been destroyed by cynical conservatives who were all too willing to manipulate dumb, racist crackers for political gain.
Rand Paul is a nut. But the focus has to be on his nutty political positions and the extent to which other Republicans also believe them (the denials have not been strong so far, aside from McConnell, who already hated Paul), not on his “actual feelings”. Republicans have made a lot of hay out of white fear over the past few decades. And now, to use their own words, it’s time to shove it down their throat.
Update. This is very smart: