With his book The Tipping Point: How Things Can Make A Big Difference, mega best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell outlined real-world acts or issues which eventually became "tipping points" for action. With that immutable law of gravity in mind, I wonder if the latest outrageous, insulting and demeaning remark made by a Republican official at the expense of the poor and minority community will finally be the tipping point that forces the GOP "leadership" to scream enough is enough to such affronts.
In case you missed it, Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer of South Carolina compared people who take public assistance to stray animals. Stray animals.
With regard to such people -- more often devastatingly poor children in need -- Mr. Bauer said in part:
"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed ... You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."
Are you kidding me? Is this 2010 or 1810? Are we talking about desperately hurting, frightened and humbled human beings here, or are we talking about livestock, or worse, the "possessions" from a shameful and destructive chapter of our history?
For the record, I grew up on welfare. Many times as a child, I was homeless, malnourished and petrified of what pain and humiliation the next day would bring. By the time I was 17 years of age, I had moved 34 times -- all of those moves being forced evictions with my family's belongings many times strewn across the sidewalk for all to see.
During many of those evacuations across the city of Boston and the face of New England, I encountered a number of people on "public assistance." Most, of course, being fellow innocent children who were hardly responsible for their plight or the fact that their parents "didn't know better and bred." Shame on those children for being the result of "that type of behavior" and for being hungry and in need of "ample food."
Ironically -- at least for most of my liberal friends -- from that horrific environment, I chose to become a Republican. The simple reason being that the GOP's core principles of self-responsibility, smaller government and lower taxes spoke to me at the time.
After 20 years in the "political" business, I officially gave up on the Republican Party and morphed into an "independent conservative." Like most politicians from both sides of the aisle, many Republican elected officials tend to put self-preservation or the interests of their party well before the needs of the people or their nation.
Fine, as depressing, deflating and dangerous as that is, I get it. That's the increasingly heavy burden we all carry which is grinding our future into a fine powder.
That said, an honorable way for any politician to stop, or at least slow, that suicidal progression is to challenge and rebuke those in his or her own party who gleefully turn the grind stone and shame themselves. That the lieutenant governor of South Carolina has done so is not in doubt. Unfortunately, what is in doubt is the resolve of Republican leaders to condemn Mr. Bauer's hurtful and obscene comparison while demanding an apology.
To Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Sarah Palin or any other Republican who occupies a leadership position within the party, I would tell you they don't come any more urgent or righteous than this. Mr. Bauer's disgusting attack upon the dignity of poor and minority Americans is a disgrace and must not go unanswered.
If Mr. Bauer's rhetorical assault is not "the tipping point" for Republican leaders to forevermore repudiate such vile language and bigoted and ignorant individuals, then theirs truly is the party of yesterday. Their demise will be dictated by hubris and simple math.
The complexion of America is growing darker and more diverse by the day. Soon, this minority will be the majority -- a majority which will remember who stood up to be counted when others looked the other way.
Douglas MacKinnon, a novelist, is a former White House and Pentagon official who also served as press secretary to former Sen. Bob Dole.