By now most of you have heard about the racist cartoon published in The New York Post. There’s a lot of good commentary out there on this already, and some calls to action, which I strongly urge all of you to heed.
That said, I haven’t said much about this before today because my feelings pretty much match Ta-Nehisi Coates’: meh. Maybe it helps to provide some “local context” here, because I think a lot of people don’t get what most New Yorkers do: the Post is crap. It’s a step above the National Enquirer in terms of quality, and that’s only because it doesn’t talk about aliens and its inanity has a focus — which is to be the voice of the substantial contingent of conservatives in this famously liberal city. It’s the paper version of Fox News, which isn’t surprising because it’s owned by the same guy. And because of this, I do not believe for one moment that the editor who approved that cartoon didn’t know exactly how it would be received. I think the Post is getting exactly what it wanted here.
Think about it. These are hard times for the Republicans right now. They’re struggling to find a way to reformat themselves in the wake of the backhand slap they received on November 4th. While the party’s leaders flounder in search of a vision/purpose/direction, however, the party’s ideologues don’t have this problem; they’re still repeating the same message they’ve been parroting for the past 20+ years. But with the leadership gone silent, the ideologues’ broken record is suddenly much more audible than it has been for the past couple of (campaign) years. Which is why we’ve heard so much lately from Rush “Crackhead” Limbaugh. He hasn’t been in rehab all this time, as I had naively assumed; he’s just popular again, largely because many Republican voters are desperate to hear someone, anyone, speak up for their side.
Likewise Fox News and, now, the Post. These media entities are jockeying for control of the party’s soul, in hopes of pushing back the darkness — pun intended — that might, just might, cause the Republican party to reform into something a little more representative of America and less representative of the angry white men who’ve been the party’s guiding light. So naturally we can expect some blatant appeals to the paradigms that have proven so effective for this group in the past. They’re gambling that this “back to basics” strategy will work. And it might. Despite all the slightly creepy “post-racial” camaraderie we’ve been seeing in the nation since Election Day, most of us know full well that racism isn’t dead and that a substantial percentage of the 46% who voted against Obama did so because they hate black people (even the ones who are half white). How does one rally this group in the wake of a national defeat, and let them know that somebody in Republican Land still loves them? This cartoon is one rallying cry. Expect more.
That said, I’m not certain this strategy will still work the way that Rush and the gang think. Sure, there are plenty of folks out there who will respond positively to this appeal to their baser nature. But there are also a lot of Republicans who are taking a hard look at themselves right now, and asking some hard questions about the tried-and-true ways of doing things. Already we’re seeing signs of an unheard-of revolt by some Post staffers in the wake of this cartoon. The Republican base might be OK with it, but the base is still the minority within the party, and it’s growing smaller as time passes. The rest of the Republicans, I’m guessing, are starting to read the writing on the wall: the old ways of doing things have got to change.
Before they do, though, I’m sure we’ll see a lot more dead monkeys.