National Commentary

Virginia’s Latest ‘Macaca Moment’

bentonmugThe solid victory of a Democrat over a Republican in the 19th U.S. Congressional District special election in Florida Tuesday marks the first reality check since the historic passage of health care reform last month.

bentonmugThe solid victory of a Democrat over a Republican in the 19th U.S. Congressional District special election in Florida Tuesday marks the first reality check since the historic passage of health care reform last month.

A harbinger of this November’s midterm elections, this outcome put the lie to the demagoguery of the Republican and Tea Party mouthpieces for the insurance industry and their Wall Street cohorts. It’s not the American people that hate health care reform, it’s only them.

Over the course of the past year, with the inauguration of the nation’s first African-American president and health care reform looming, a barely-disguised racially-tinged so-called “movement” was organized and fueled out of the offices of the right-wing Freedom Works operation that evolved into the obstructionist misbehaving at the summer recess’ town hall meetings and cohered into the so-called Tea Party movement.

The Republican Party reaction to this was to allow the tail to wag the dog, and now the GOP is in deep trouble for its inability to extricate itself from its ties to the wild-eyed Tea Partiers. Whereas formerly, even the Democratic leadership was willing to concede that the GOP would make major gains in this November’s election, now that has been thrown into doubt.

You can thank signs of a recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression for some of that, but you can thank the Tea Partiers, and the enormous strategic error by the GOP to join at the hip with them, for a better part of it.

Sarah Palin is doing more to bring down the GOP than anything any horde of Democrats could do. Her attacks on science, of all things, in her Tea Party stump speeches are extraordinary.

Others are jumping on the Palin bandwagon to torch the GOP. There is a growing list of egregious outrages and it’s getting hard to keep track. Congressmen saying that adults should not be allowed health insurance for pre-existing conditions because they brought them on themselves. Tea Party state heads using racial slurs in comments to a CNN reporter who is, himself, Hispanic. (Rick Sanchez’s energetic reaction to that was one of the more refreshing moments on the 24-hour snooze cycle we’ve seen in awhile).

Now, remarkably, there are GOP leaders resisting regulatory reform on Wall Street with jaw-dropping consequences for the credibility of their party in the eyes of the general public.

Before now, if you were a stooge for Wall Street, you found more subtle ways of acting out. You told your masters that you had to go easy, to not expose themselves too much. Not now.

In the context of this, Virginia is again taking center stage in this unfolding national farce through the antics of its newly-elected Republican governor and attorney general.

In only three months since taking office, these two have done more to reinforce the nation’s worst image of Virginia as the unrepentant Capital of the Confederacy than the previous decade of Democratic leadership overcame.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell allowed his AG, Ken Cuccinelli, to issue a mean-spirited order for the state’s colleges and universities to remove language protecting lesbians and gays from protection against discrimination. He ordered a written essay as a precondition for ex-felons to have their voting rights restored. He issued a proclamation in honor of the state’s role in the Confederacy without any mention of the role of slavery as a despicable practice the Confederacy protected that was a core cause of the Civil War.

He responded favorably to the declaration by the chair of Republican Governors Association, good old boy Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, saying McDonnell’s “oversight” on the slavery matter “doesn’t amount to diddly.”

All of these, in a matter of a few months, make former Virginia Gov. George Allen’s career-ending “macaca” slur that cost him the 2006 U.S. Senate race seem insignificant by comparison.

But none of the above is slowing the GOP’s zeal to serve Wall Street. According to Media Matters, the GOP’s Senate leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders had a private meeting with 25 Wall Street executives, including hedge fund managers, promising they’d fight the Democrats’ crackdown on Wall Street, while adding they need Wall Street’s help in the fall elections. It was followed the very next day with McConnell’s fiery but false attack on the Senate floor against financial regulatory reform.


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at