It happened in Delta County, Colorado. Was it a fluke? Was it a misstep by party officials? Did they not get the memo that shame is dead and gone because Donald Drumpf killed it and is hiding the remains in his cantaloupe-colored comb-over?
Delta County’s population is around 30,000 folks, mostly white folks. Uh, mostly white Republican folks—Obama only received 29% of the vote in 2012. You get the idea. But there was something positive that came out of Delta County on Sunday. Let’s start, though, with the negative:
Republicans in Delta County, Colorado are seemingly scrambling after a racist photo likening President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee was posted on a top official’s Facebook page.
The photo briefly appeared on a Facebook page belonging to Linda Sorenson, who chairs the county Republican Central Committee, and was captured by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.
The image was taken from the Ronald Reagan film Bedtime for Bonzo, and shows Reagan bottle-feeding the titular chimpanzee, with a caption saying, “I’ll be damned … Reagan used to babysit Obama.”
We’ve all seen this stuff so many times it doesn’t surprise anymore. Such is how, in the age of The Scary Negro, Republicans make themselves feel better. But what surprised me a little bit was what happened after the Grand Junction newspaper confronted some local GOP officials with the fact that their leader, Linda Sorenson, admitted to a progressive blogger the following about her Facebook post:
I really don’t care if people are offended by it. Un-friend me. Stop looking at me on Facebook.
That is the Drumpf response, right? I mean that’s what the GOP has come to these days. Don’t back down when you’re caught doing or saying something offensive. Own it. Hell, double down on it. But the reaction of two other local party officials was more traditional. According to the newspaper, the vice chairman of the party said,
This whole thing is a hoax. Someone got into the Facebook somehow. It was hacked and somebody got into it, definitely.
The treasurer for the party said,
That whole thing is bogus. Somebody hacked Linda Sorenson’s Facebook page, and posted that out there. We believe it has something to do with Media Matters. They’ve been harassing her the last few weeks.
Now, that is the old GOP right there. Don’t own it. Don’t admit to it. Just say it was the liberal media’s fault. And in that more traditional way of handling things like this we have at least a teensy-weensy slice of hope that Drumpf hasn’t quite finished off the idea of shame in the Republican Party after all. The Grand Junction paper reported that it had asked the local vice chairman why someone would want to hack Ms. Sorenson’s Facebook page. He said,
I have no idea…Just to damage the Republican Party, no doubt. … Just to make us look bad.
You see that? This man is worried that the party will “look bad.” How refreshing is that, after months and months of Drumpf? A Republican Party official is actually out there worried about the image of the Republican Party! Who knew?
A few months ago, Ezra Klein fretted over Drumpf’s “complete lack of shame.” Klein wrote:
It’s easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they’re exposed as liars, when they’re seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.
Trump doesn’t. He has the reality television star’s ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won’t, to say what others can’t, to do what others wouldn’t.
Yes. Drumpf is shameless. He is crass. He is unpredictable. He is ignorant. He’s a bigot’s bigot. But his party’s leadership, at least most of them, have embraced his shamelessness and crassness. And the party itself is coming to terms with his unpredictability and his ignorance and his bigotry.
Marco Rubio is the latest enabler. After Drumpf humiliated him in the primary by way of nasty insults, and after Rubio called Drumpf a “con artist” and a “lunatic,” Little Marco recently said he would be “honored” to speak for Drumpf at the convention. Honored. He actually said the word honored. Oh. My.
But once upon a time there was a different Rubio. One who said of Drumpf and the effect he was having on the country:
This is a man who in rallies has told his supporters to basically beat up the people in the crowd and he’ll pay their legal fees. Someone who’s encouraged people in the audience to rough up anybody who says something he doesn’t like… This is what a culture and society looks like when everybody says whatever the heck they want. When everybody goes around saying I’m just gonna speak my mind. If I’m angry, it gives me the right to say or do anything I want.
Well, there are other people who are angry too, and if they speak out and say whatever they want, the result is it all breaks down. It’s called chaos. It’s called anarchy. And that’s what we’re careening towards in our political process… And you wonder whether we’re headed in a different direction today, where we’re no longer capable of having differences of opinion but in fact now protests become a license to take violence, to take on your opponents physically.
Forget about the election for a moment, there’s a broader issue in our political culture in this country, and this is what happens when a leading presidential candidate goes around feeding into a narrative of anger and bitterness and frustration, and I think we all need to take a step back and ask ourselves: Are we contributing to this?
That was a damned good question. And Rubio has answered it for himself. He has every intention of contributing to “this.” He is willingly contributing to it. He is “honored” to contribute to it. Talk about shamelessness.
Marco Rubio, as well as other Republicans who have stained themselves orange, makes those party officials in Delta County, Colorado—those who actually want to distance themselves from a racist Facebook post because it makes the party “look bad”—appear quaint, makes them look out of step with the new GOP.
Sadly, though, it’s a good bet that those white party officials in Delta County will, like most of the locals they represent, run to the polls in November and vote for Drumpf. Why? Because people like Marco Rubio, John McCain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, and, yes, Paul Ryan, are in the process of telling them it’s okay to do so, telling them that conscientious Republicans no longer have to be conscientious.
They no longer have to be ashamed of shamelessness.