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Sun Nov 11, 2012, 07:14 PM

Michael Tomasky on How the Right Is Still Racist

by Michael Tomasky Nov 11, 2012 4:45 AM EST

Bravo to the GOP for entertaining an amnesty program for undocumented immigrants. But it won’t make a difference at the ballot box until the party stops its race baiting.

Well, it’s all very touching now that Sean Hannity wants the Republicans to embrace immigration reform, isn’t it? And Charles Krauthammer, bless him, calling on the GOP to repeat the word “amnesty” as if it were some tantric mantra of salvation. Look, I think it would be great if Republicans would vote for a bill including a path to citizenship for people who came here illegally. But if they think they don’t have a long list of other problems, these people are just delusional. And the list of problems starts with the phrase made famous by Mitt Romney, a little phrase perfumed enough in racial code to have raised a wry smile on Jesse Helms’s face.

Let’s travel back in time to Romney’s infamous NAACP speech, the one he gave (in my view) basically so that he could be booed by a black audience in order to impress his skeptical base. That was July 11. The next day, he spoke at a fundraiser in Hamilton, Mont.—I’m just guessing here, but it was probably a pretty melanin-deprived room. And he told them: “When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare they weren’t happy, I didn’t get the same response. That’s OK, I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy—more free stuff.”

The superstitious mind pondering any question latches on to the first answer that is both a) plausible and b) supportive of its darkest suspicions. And so, just as some in the olden days concluded that a woman was guilty of being a witch if she didn’t cry when she was accused, today’s conservatives took to Romney’s analysis like Donald Trump to styling mousse. Of course! It explained everything! These people—or, to put it in the usual way, “those people”—just want government to take care of them.

Then came the famous 47 percent video. Remember what Romney was asked that occasioned his infamous comments? He was asked what he would do to convince Americans that “you’ve got to take care of yourself” instead of depending on the government. Remember that Romney said he’ll “never convince” the 47 percent to live that way. And remember, finally, that after David Corn made the video public, the overwhelming majority of conservative pundits and thinkers, far from shuddering at Romney’s remarks, urged him to take the argument public and run on it.

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