The last six months have been difficult for Virginia Republicans. The party has long talked of wooing black Virginians. Jerry Kilgore fought for that once it became clear that he was facing a loss and George Allen made that a fundamental part of his campaign, courtesy of Sen. Benny Lambert. More than anything else, the party’s constant fight for the black vote has highlighted their inability to get a toehold in that demographic.
In that light, the Republicans’ trio of recent high-profile embarrassments have been particularly harmful.
First came the series of revelations about then-senator George Allen’s racist background. The noose. The rebel flag. The racial slurs. The hate crimes. Then came Allen’s comment at The Breaks, in which he attacked an audience member based on snap (wrong) judgments based on the man’s skin color. The campaign tried four different excuses and, when none of them worked out, they tried for a belated apology, but nobody bought it. Virginia was a national laughingstock.
Then came Rep. Virgil Goode’s attack on newly-elected black lawmaker Rep. Keith Ellison. Like Allen at The Breaks, Goode judged Ellison on a single element — his religion — and concluded that Ellison was an immigrant, possibly illegal, and a cancer on the congress. Unlike Allen, Goode didn’t bother with apologizing. Again, Virginia was a national laughingstock.
Finally came yesterday’s comments from Rep. Frank Hargrove, an elderly white delegate from the Richmond suburbs. In this, his 25th year in office, Hargrove was faced with the proposed resolution apologizing for slavery and didn’t like what he saw. In comments to the Daily Progress‘ Bob Gibson, Hargrove suggested that blacks simply “get over it,” asking if next we might need “to force the Jews to apologize for killing Christ.” (Thus making it a two-fer.) Whether Hargrove will apologize for his remarks remains to be seen. And yet one more time, Virginia was — is — a national laughingstock.
The Republican Party has been thick with excuses in every instance. A small number of Republicans have even leapt forward to defend the offending sentiment, apparently believing that they’ve found an ally in their hatred of Muslims, blacks, foreigners, or people who look funny, utterly unable to understand how much their bigotry damages their party.
This resolution apologizing for slavery may not accomplish much. But it certainly won’t harm anything. Reasonable people may be lukewarm about this bill. But opposing the bill is politically indefensible.
HJ728/SJ332 is a very public test for Republicans. If they pass this bill, they gain little or nothing. If the block this bill, they’ll set themselves back a decade, confirming the intent of everything that Allen, Goode, and Hargrove have said about “them” — non-whites, non-males, non-Christians, non-normal.
As a Democrat, I look forward to Republicans screwing this up. But as a human being, I find the prospect just plain depressing.