When I think of obnoxiously radical pro-gun trolls who delight in killing rare and spectacular animals for fun while routinely popping off with NRA slogans thinner than the bumpers stickers on which they're printed, the first name that comes to mind is aging rocker and Vietnam draft-dodger Ted Nugent. Of course. When I think of people who have fought against racism and in support of civil rights more than anyone else, the last person I think of is also Ted Nugent.
But Nugent doesn't see it that way. In fact, he sees it the opposite way.
Last week, Nugent declared himself to be "anti-racist." Yes, anti-racist. No only that, but he's so anti-racist that we "would be hard pressed... to find someone who has fought racism more than [he has]." He wasn't joking.
Nugent continued by enumerating all of his black friends, specifically his favorite African American musicians. He praised artists like Bo Diddley and Little Richard for, among other things, their "uppityness." Cue the Price is Right fail horn. He's clearly unaware of his ignorance, so it's important to highlight something which the rest of us know to be true: just because you admire African American musicians doesn't mean you've done more than anyone else to fight racism. Realistically, name-dropping does nothing to fight racism.
From there, Nugent continued by noting "black mobs" in Milwaukee, and he emphasized the black-perpetrated rapes, burglaries and murders in Chicago, including, allegedly, 29 black-on-black shooting deaths. (Predictably, Nugent didn't say anything about his beloved NRA, which is almost exclusively responsible for making it easier to attain firearms in American while fueling the gun culture. But there you go.)
Nugent ended his "anti-racist" rant by suggesting that African Americans should be profiled like, yes, attack dogs. Just the other day, he said something even more horrendous. He compared African Americans in South Central to pigs and joked about shooting them from a helicopter. Before that, Nugent referred to a Trayvon Martin as "an enraged black man-child" and a "dope-smoking, dope-peddling, gangsta wannabe, Skittles hoodie boy."
Yeah, that's really, really "anti-racist." Even right-wingers might consider Nugent a little bit off the rails for declaring himself to have done more to fight racism than anyone else. But Nugent isn't the only man on the right with a shaky racial history to have declared himself to be an anti-racism superhero.
Last week, Rand Paul met with a group of Christian pastors in Iowa (and you know what that means). During the meeting the Republican senator burnished his efforts to reach out to African American and Hispanic voters. As we all know, this Republican outreach effort has utterly failed, but okay. The outreach effort has dwindled to Republicans vaguely saying they're planning to reach out while doing absolutely nothing of substance to actually reach out.
But then he said, "I don't think there's anyone in Congress who has a stronger belief in minority rights than I do."
Someone ought to introduce Rand Paul to Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) whose skull was bashed-in by a white state trooper on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. After Rand Paul learns about a real civil rights superhero, he could also introduce himself to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Maybe he could brag to them about how he believes in minority rights more than they do. Though I suspect they're already aware of Rand Paul, and not in a good way.
Like Nugent, Rand Paul wasn't joking. It's continuously astonishing to me that these guys are still oblivious to the existence of the internet, which, seemingly to their dismay, contains a complete record of remarks that thoroughly debunk these declarative lies.
As we've covered before, Rand Paul's core values include a firm belief in states' rights and nullification -- positions with roots in the pro-slavery movement of the pre-Civil War South. That doesn't necessarily make him a racist, but it certainly doesn't make him a champion of minority rights especially knowing that he's talked about his opposition to historic federal legislation that has expanded minority rights: the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act. Why? States' rights. But when it came to civil rights, the states, especially the southern states, weren't doing a damn thing. So the federal government, including the U.S. Senate of which he's currently a member, passed these laws in the total absence of state-level civil rights laws.
Rand Paul doesn't believe that either Congress or, by extension, Rand Paul has the power nor the authority to pass civil rights legislation. But he totally believes in it!
How much does he believe in it? Let's take a look.
We know that Rand Paul has hired at least two men with racially insensitive records: Christopher Hightower and the "Southern Avenger," Jack Hunter, who resigned this week after his neo-Confederate past came to light.
He voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). He also vocally opposed the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and he ran on the plank that the military, not Congress, should decide whether to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT). In fact, while appearing on the Glenn Beck show, Rand Paul said that marriage equality could lead to man-on-dog marriage. These guys, Nugent, Paul and others, seem to have a bizarre tic in which every time they discuss minorities, they can't help but to belch out some sort of awful dog metaphor.
To paraphrase Steve Benen: if Rand Paul and Ted Nugent are the biggest supporters of minority rights, then minority rights are in serious trouble.
They're playing the same old Republican game: do and say a lot of peculiar things, then later insist that it never happened and hope that no one fact-checks any of it. This is a tactic that's also embedded within the Southern Strategy: incite white racial resentment by demonizing minorities, then gloss over it with a thin layer of self-aggrandizement about a nonexistent record of racial outreach to win over anyone who's concerned about supporting them. And if minorities or others call them on it, then it's the minorities who are the real racists.
To repeat: this isn't the exclusive domain of fringe crackpots like Nugent. Rand Paul is one of the most prominent congressional Republicans today, and he's absolutely going to run for president. Then again, Nugent might run as well. I assure you, neither man will run on a civil rights platform. (Do I smell a possible ticket?) And so the Southern Strategy will live on, while they and other Republicans continue to deny its existence just as they deny their racially insensitive records.