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Political Animal

Run and Hide

By Brian Morton | Posted 9/27/2006

I haven't been this mad after hearing a campaign ad in a long time. A new attack ad on Baltimore African-American radio stations argues that Democrats founded the Ku Klux Klan, passed Jim Crow laws, and "fought all civil-rights legislation from the 1860s to the 1960s." The ad, sponsored by the Washington-based National Black Republican Association (NBRA), presumes that every black person in the state failed 20th-century history all the way through high school. It's as if they're thinking that nothing in America changed politically over the last 56 years, and that the Democrats of today are the same as the Democrats of, say, 1940.

Perhaps the reason no one returned calls reporters made to the NBRA is because someone was using the phone booth the group meets in. I'm guessing they must have been out of the office the same way they've been out of touch. Perhaps I needn't mention how Ronald Reagan symbolically started his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., a sop to the racists that lynched three civil-rights workers in the 1950s. Or how Jesse Helms moved over to the Republican Party along with Strom Thurmond and the rest of the Dixiecrats once civil-rights laws were passed. Or that modern Mississippi Republican senator Trent Lott was forced out of his leadership post after proudly exclaiming that his state went for Thurmond's 1948 segregationist run for president, saying that "if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years."

How about the biennial Republican election-year tactic of suppressing the urban black vote via "ballot security" due to claims of voter fraud that have never been proven? Why is it that in states like Georgia, the GOP passes onerous and expensive voter ID laws that require special ID cards, and the places to obtain them only exist in areas far outside urban areas where most blacks live and work? You get the idea. I could go on, but they only give me one page here, and I'd need the rest of the paper.

Michael Steele, Maryland's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, gets to have it both ways, just like he has been trying to the entire election season. The lieutenant governor can take the high road and argue that the NBRA should yank the ads, and the group can ignore him and keep running them. This way, they get their message out, and he gets to appear above it all.

Steele wants this campaign to be about anything except the issues. America is divided more now than it ever has been in the last 46 years, with high-profile issues like the Iraq war, torture, stem-cell research, abortion rights, energy policy, and the regulation of big business--and Steele acts like this campaign is about him and his fabulous personality. Excuse me while I gag.

Last week, Steele was on WBAL-AM claiming that nobody cares about the important things. He actually said, "To me that's what this campaign is all about. It's not about the issues as much as about the style of leadership that we need to elect in Washington." Here's a surprise for you, Mr. Lieutenant Governor: Voters send candidates to Washington to vote on issues. How a person votes is what constitutes "leadership," not the other way around. If we wanted to elect leaders based on "style," we'd send an empty suit. Oh, wait . . .

Reagan once said, when it came to politics, "You gotta dance with them what brung you." George W. Bush has raised campaign money for Steele. Dick Cheney has raised campaign money for Steele. Karl Rove has raised money for Steele. I don't think that Steele is taking all that money with the idea to turn around and vote against the interests of the men who helped send him to Washington, do you?

Punch the button on the screen for Steele in November (if they're working at the time), and what are you getting in Washington? A vote to bring an end to the waste of American lives that is the war in Iraq? Not likely. A vote against torture and the redefining of the Geneva Conventions that is making the United States a pariah in the civilized world and a model for dictators everywhere who might want to do the same? Hardly. A vote for the return to real science instead of politicized pseudo-intellectual garbage like "intelligent design?" How will we know--Steele won't talk about it. But he'll tell you he's all about his "style" of "leadership," whatever the hell that means.

If Steele can make it through to the end of October with all of his feel-good ads claiming he's some different kind of politician, he'll be one happy guy. Because he'd rather talk about talking about debates, instead of having them. He can hide in and around the controversy rather than addressing it. If this election campaign is as deep as weeknight prime-time television, Marylanders lose. But don't be surprised if Steele wins, and then forgets that he's supposed to be "different" and ends up as one more vote for the Republicans' failed status quo. Because he'll have six years to help you forget about it, just like the NBRA wants us to forget the real history of the last 50 years. How disgusting.

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