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Brent Budowsky: The GOP’s bigot problem

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Memorandum to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and GOP presidential candidates:

Recent comments by Rudy Giuliani suggesting President Obama does not love America, and comments by various Republicans and conservatives questioning the president’s Americanism and Christianity, prove again that the GOP has a bigot problem and that party leaders lack the political courage and moral compass to confront it.

{mosads}The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines bigot as “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices” who “hates or refuses to accept” the targets of their bigotry. It can take the form of hatred or intolerance against race, religion, ethnicity or alternate opinion.

Since January 2009, America’s first black president has been accused by various voices on the GOP right of being born in another country, not loving the United States, not being a Christian and not being a man of either patriotism or faith.

These defamations should have been decisively denounced by every GOP political and media leader the minute they were uttered. But they were not, because many GOP leaders consider bigots an important part of their political coalition. The overwhelming majority of Republicans and conservatives abhor bigotry but, because of political cowardice, or cravenness, they are afraid to speak publicly what they know privately is true.

Let’s credit Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for unequivocally stating that Giuliani is wrong and the president does love our country. By contrast, shame on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) for giving credence to Giuliani’s defamation and exploiting political hate to raise money for his campaign.

Walker, Giuliani and Republicans like them do not understand this: True patriotism is not quoting scripture, waving the flag, praising the Constitution and speaking of American exceptionalism while playing a politics of bigotry and hate that violates everything America stands for.

We Americans are a nation of diverse people from different backgrounds. We honor and respect our differences with a shared patriotism that soars above cheap-shot partisanship and the rancid stench of McCarthyism, which too many Republicans failed to condemn when it first reared its un-American head in the 1950s.

Of course Obama loves America. Of course Obama is devoted to his Christian faith. Every GOP leader knows it and should damn well say it and condemn — unequivocally — anyone who denies it.

Americanism means tolerance. No man or woman, gay or straight, should need permission from the right to marry the person he or she loves.

Americanism means respect. No citizen of New Jersey should be insulted by the governor telling people to “sit down and shut up.”

America is a nation of immigrants. Reasonable people can disagree about immigration reform, but let’s remember that an immigration politics of fear was once played against those who were Irish, Italian and Jewish, among others.

America is a nation of equality that stands for the proposition that bigotry against Muslims is just as deplorable as bigotry against Jews.

America is a nation that cherishes the right to vote. I do not know what is in the hearts of GOP politicians who enact voter suppression measures, but who can deny that these measures are racist in impact and designed to deny many black and Hispanic citizens the right to vote?

None of the Republicans I name here are bigots. All of them are honorable men. Yet their party has a bigot problem that they condone and continue at their peril.

Giuliani’s defamation against Obama will ultimately be viewed as a seamy politics that should have been universally denounced in our times, as Joe McCarthy was belatedly denounced for his.

Walker will ultimately learn that Republicans rarely nominate, and Americans rarely elect, presidents who behave as he does. What plays on the fanatic fringes of GOP primaries is deadly for Republicans in general elections against Democrats. If not addressed, the GOP bigot problem will bring a landslide triumph for Hillary Clinton. 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors Blog and reached

Tags Boehner Hillary Clinton John Boehner Marco Rubio Mitch McConnell
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