Republicans Worried About Being Labeled Bigots

It never struck me as especially complicated. Once there was a clear Democratic presidential nominee, the Republican National Committee would label him or her weak on terror, liberal (on everything), and desperate to raise your taxes. Throw in some references to 9/11, a few pictures of menacing-looking Middle Easterners, and a dash of immigrant bashing, and voila!

But it appears the RNC is hesitating, not because they’re unsure how to attack, but rather, because they want to prefer to avoid being labeled bigots.

Top Republican strategists are working on plans to protect the GOP from charges of racism or sexism in the general election, as they prepare for a presidential campaign against the first ever African-American or female Democratic nominee.

The Republican National Committee has commissioned polling and focus groups to determine the boundaries of attacking a minority or female candidate, according to people involved. The secretive effort underscores the enormous risk senior GOP operatives see for a party often criticized for its insensitivity to minorities in campaigns dating back to the 1960s.

Look, RNC officials know the difference between a clean attack and a dirty one. They recognize when an attack is driven by race-based politics, and when one is substantive and above-board. The only reason they would need a focus group to help them out on this is if they planned to walk right up to the decency line, and wanted to know how far they could go without crossing it.

Update from Blue Gal: this quote from David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, on NPR's Morning Edition, is right on topic:

I happen to think that the American people's real problem, isn't about jobs. I don't know very many people who think that some illegal immigrant from Mexico is going to come in and take their job. That's not what's happening. It's not about the crime, and all those things, although that exists. I think what the concern is, is that we've had waves of immigrants, that have not been able to be absorbed, they haven't been assimilated, and as a result, people are concerned about what they see as the Balkanization of American culture, and the American nation, and I think, neither side really talks about it in those terms.

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Mr. Keene? The reason my particular "side" doesn't talk about it in those terms is, to believe that white Anglo-Americanism is the way into which immigrants must be "absorbed" and "assimilated" is, well, racist.


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