The obligatory "Barack the Magic Negro controversy" post

Tapper reminds us of the song’s genesis in a lefty LA Times op-ed about conventions of authenticity, which the lyrics parody, and The One’s good humor in laughing it off when asked about it last year (“I don’t mind folks poking fun at me”). Which leaves us with a tediously predictable debate: If the song’s not clearly racist, should Chip Saltsman be scolded for circulating it? Some righties say yes, since we know what the media will do with it and how that’ll affect voter perceptions of the GOP; others say no, that they’ll be damned before they let the left set the parameters for what’s politically correct. Count me in the former group with Geraghty and John Avlon. There are perhaps principles so important that it’s worth risking the party’s viability to defend them — strong borders, an end to bailoutmania — but the use of an archaic term like “Negro” that’s disfavored by blacks doesn’t strike me as one of them. If you disagree and think the real principle here is resisting an ever-expanding Orwellian universe of “unacceptable” terms, fair enough. But be prepared to divert party resources from other business to try to convince blacks that they shouldn’t feel uneasy about words that cause them unease.

All while trying to expand the tent, of course.


Saltsman presumably did not intend to offend by mailing out the parody CD by Paul Shanklin with songs that first aired during the campaign on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. A look at the lyrics shows that the song’s real target is the Al Sharpton-sound-alike singer who feels that Obama has usurped his rightful place as the protest leader of African-American politics. But now that Obama has been elected the president of all Americans, and Saltsman is attempting to run for leader of the opposition party, the song—whose title comes from a Los Angeles Times column—could not help but become a lightning rod. The failure to anticipate the outrage points to the blinders that exist in racially homogenous Republican backrooms. Conservatives who take good ol’ boy pride in being politically incorrect are either unaware or don’t care that they come off as being somewhere between indifferent and hostile to the full diversity of American life…

Obama won in large part because he appealed to the better angels of our nature, and himself looks like America in the 21st century. Republicans need to respond with something better than cynicism or sarcasm. They need to rediscover their founding ideals, confront the ghosts of their past, and present a party that looks like America to regain credibility as The Party of Lincoln.

Most candidates for RNC chair have gone the pragmatic route, as has Newt Gingrich. But Ken Blackwell, leveraging his own Absolute Moral Authority, cannily absolved Saltsman. If this “scandal” gets big enough, I wonder if the RNC won’t try to defuse it by making him chair. Exit invitation: Vote it out!