Monday, June 7, 2010

South Carolina Republican Primary: Racism and Sexism on parade

At left: Is Nikki Haley our next governor? Photo by Renée Ittner-McManus, for the Haley campaign.

Since Mark Sanford is history, the Republican gubernatorial race has been a total free-for-all. I haven't wanted to write about it because I find it far more unpleasant than usual, knowing that ONE of these clowns WILL be the governor in this reddest of all red states. ((heavy sighs for emphasis))

It all started some time ago, when I was late for work in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and what do I see right in front of me? Andre Bauer's personalized Winnebago (or some enormous vehicle like that), with a gargantuan picture of Himself grinning manically on either side. Well, damn, there is no escape.

He parked, I parked, and I followed him inside. He's a very dapper dresser, like some dude out of GQ magazine. The enormous vehicle took up more than one spot. (As I've mentioned here before, Bauer likes to grab a bite at the cafe in the store where I work.) That's when I realized how much money was behind Bauer, if they could bankroll his daily usage of a gas-guzzling vehicle like that. Who bought it?-- I wondered. Several employees craned their necks from behind the juice bar and asked (voices full of dread) if that was a SCHOOL BUS FULL OF KIDS?!? Is that some daycare expedition? No, it's only Andre Bauer, I answered.

They looked equally nonplussed. He usually drove a black, sporty, GQ-appropriate vehicle, not one the size of Arkansas with his face plastered thereon.

The race is on, I thought, and Andre means to BRING IT.

I got scared, and I've pretty much stayed that way.


The rise of this Christian fascism, a rise we ignore at our peril, is being fueled by an ineffectual and bankrupt liberal class that has proved to be unable to roll back surging unemployment, protect us from speculators on Wall Street, or save our dispossessed working class from foreclosures, bankruptcies and misery. The liberal class has proved useless in combating the largest environmental disaster in our history, ending costly and futile imperial wars or stopping the corporate plundering of the nation. And the gutlessness of the liberal class has left it, and the values it represents, reviled and hated...

Those who remain in a reality-based world often dismiss these malcontents as buffoons and simpletons. They do not take seriously those, like [Glenn] Beck, who pander to the primitive yearnings for vengeance, new glory and moral renewal. Critics of the movement continue to employ the tools of reason, research and fact to challenge the absurdities propagated by creationists who think they will float naked into the heavens when Jesus returns to Earth. The magical thinking, the flagrant distortion in interpreting the Bible, the contradictions that abound within the movement’s belief system and the laughable pseudoscience, however, are impervious to reason. We cannot convince those in the movement to wake up. It is we who are asleep.

--Chris Hedges, The Christian Fascists Are Growing Stronger

Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, wearing his GQ-duds and burning up more gas than the space shuttle, has already compared poor people to dogs. In his well-worn TV campaign ad featuring a friendly bunch of "just folks" extolling his 'true conservative' virtues, it is notable that the only person of color featured in the ad, claims they like him because he doesn't believe in government handouts.

The Republican race is filled with similar crackpots. Although I was critical of Sanford, we can't doubt that he was intelligent (particularly after reading his well-written love chronicle). Whether Bauer is intelligent or not, he panders to the those who are not, the lowest common denominator.

State Representative Nikki Haley, the conservative woman in the Republican race, appears to have taken the lead. She would be better than Andre, but not by much. The idea of a woman governor appeals to me, despite my common sense. She looks so refreshing, vital, and new, particularly amid the old-bubba's network of South Carolina electioneering. Unfortunately, her politics are more or less identical to the rest of the tea-party fellow-travelers. (Example: She is the only candidate who believes Sanford was correct in refusing the federal economic stimulus package.)

Nonetheless, the attacks on Haley (hyper-conservative or not), have been openly racist and sexist. During the gubernatorial debate (of all places) Bauer accused her of having an extramarital affair, a charge she has vigorously denied. What infuriated me about this charge was the fact that Bauer should know better, since he has been repeatedly gay-baited himself.

South Carolina Lt. Gov Andre Bauer, photo from The Palmetto Scoop.

Bauer even challenged Haley to take a polygraph! (Do you believe?!?!) My initial reaction was that Haley should challenge him right back: "Andre, why haven't you gotten married by age 40?" and make him take one, too. But Haley isn't a guttersnipe (like your humble narrator), and has deliberately taken the high road, and as a result, the charge appears to have backfired. Here in South Carolina, after the nationwide, embarrassing Mark Sanford debacle, even Republicans (maybe especially Republicans) are heartily SICK of hearing about politicians rollicking in the sack. Oh please!--seems to be the collective, eye-rolling response. And this overall disgust with personal attacks has indeed impacted the race. Character counts, and folks seem to prefer a nice conservative to one that peddles sordid adultery-tales to the Columbia State newspaper.

But Daisy remains pissed. The NERVE of that guy. Are we expected to believe that a man who dresses like Andre Bauer is a 40-year-old virgin? Why is HIS sex life off limits for discussion? (Straight or gay, and as I stated in the above-linked post, I have seen him engage in public displays of affection several times, whether "staged" or not.) Oh, right, he's a MAN and it's understood that he will "date"... should we demand a polygraph to test Bauer's virginity? He does know that unmarried men fornicating is considered adultery by his trusty King James Version, doesn't he?!?

I daresay, this might be Bauer's undoing, and it can't come fast enough for me.

From the Washington Post:

Haley leads Republican governor's race in South Carolina despite sex allegations
By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 7, 2010

CONWAY, S.C. -- Even in a state that's accustomed to two-fisted politics, this year's Republican race for governor stands out. As the contenders barreled across South Carolina in a mad frenzy before Tuesday's primary, they confronted at every turn the salacious accusations of adultery swirling around Nikki Haley, the woman who has rocketed to the lead.

Lt. Gov. André Bauer, carrying a backpack stuffed with trinkets to give to children, arrived at a diner in rural Union County to offer hope of replacing the shuttered Disney factory down the road. Yet he faced, and deflected, questions about his ex-campaign consultant who alleged an affair with Haley. Then, climbing into an RV shrink-wrapped with his likeness, he was off to the next county and more questions.

Attorney General Henry McMaster, stumping with a former governor at a brunch spot in Greenville, cast himself as the only adult in a field of adolescents. He asked Susan Bailey and her girlfriends for their votes, but moments later they confessed to a reporter that they had recently decided, over prayer, to go with Haley. "Not because she's a she," said Bailey, 55, a homemaker. "She hasn't bowed down. She hasn't gotten angry. She can handle it like a gentleman, but she's a lady."

And when Rep. J. Gresham Barrett strode into Tommy's Country Ham House in Greenville for red-meat politicking, ready to talk about his Arizona-style immigration plan, a man at the first table asked the question that has sucked up so much oxygen here.

"Do you believe she's been, what is it, unfaithful?" he asked.

"No, sir, I don't," Barrett said, shaking the man's hand and quickly moving on.

From the Bible-thumping Upcountry to the breezy beaches, Palmetto State Republicans have become transfixed by allegations in a campaign that has devolved into perhaps the nastiest brawl in a generation. Haley has fended off unsubstantiated claims from two political operatives that she had extramarital affairs with them. She has swatted away remarks from a state senator who called her a "raghead." And Haley, every bit as scrappy as she is steely, has been running circles around her opponents -- all while propped up in stiletto heels.

The other candidates have bigger names and longer résumés, but Haley, the only woman among them, built a sizable lead by making sport of busting the old-boy fraternity that she says dominates, even corrupts, South Carolina politics.

"When you turn around and threaten their power and you threaten their money, they turn around and push back," Haley, a fast-talking and polished campaigner, told a crowd here on Saturday night. "But what they don't understand is I have a strong faith, I have a strong spine, and I have a strong husband that puts on a military uniform every day."

The couple of hundred Republicans huddled outside an old barn along the railroad tracks in downtown Conway erupted, just as her supporters did after she delivered the same line 230 miles west at a hot-wing bar in Greenville the night before, leaving political observers to wonder whether all the mudslinging is only cementing Haley's popularity.

Haley's campaign says internal polls suggest she has maintained, if not widened, her lead. A few weeks ago, languishing in fourth place, she hoped to just make the expected June 22 runoff. But now she is talking about winning outright with more than 50 percent.
And guess who showed up to do ads for Nikki?

She was elevated by an endorsement from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Herself no stranger to scandal, Palin -- who has taken to calling herself the "mama grizzly" -- has defended Haley, chalking it all up in robo-calls to "made-up nonsense."

"She is like Sarah Palin," Trudy Martin, 71, a retired nurse, said of Haley. "Sarah told them to take a hike -- the oil companies, the crooked Republicans. Nikki can do the same."
Impressed in spite of myself, at this unexpected show of sisterhood. The Palin-ads are surprisingly plucky, and have an appreciable fuck-you sound to them. (Conservatives love that shit.)

And then, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, they called Nikki Haley a RAGHEAD.

Yes, you read that right. RAGHEAD:
Now enter Jake Knotts, a rabble-rousing Republican state senator, who ruminated Thursday on Haley's Indian heritage on a talk show and concluded: "We already got one raghead in the White House. We don't need another in the governor's mansion." He later apologized and said his remark was only in jest.
I'm sure he's telling the truth about that. Such a joke would be Jake Knotts' idea of humor.
This is a spectacle rarely seen in politics -- even here in bare-knuckled South Carolina, where in the 2000 presidential primary John McCain fell victim to a whisper campaign alleging falsely that he had fathered an out-of-wedlock multiracial child.

"Southern politics are always colorful, but I haven't seen in a long time, maybe in my lifetime, it so visceral, so nasty, so embarrassing," said former governor David Beasley.

The other night in Conway, it was lost on few that Haley was speaking from a stage named after the legendary senator Strom Thurmond, a onetime segregationist who might have been shocked to see this daughter of Indian immigrants as the favorite to become South Carolina's first female governor.

When Barrett campaigned at the Ham House, Bill Moore said that he would never consider voting for Haley. "I don't know any woman that I'd vote for governor," Moore, 85, a retired textile worker, said as he cleaned his plate of grits and biscuits.

Haley, asked in an interview whether this state is ready for her kind of change, said: "South Carolina is ready for Nikki Haley. . . . It's not about gender. It's not about ethnicity. It's about wanting somebody that's going to fight for the people, and I'm that person."
A group of upright, conservative suburban soccer moms came into my workplace for a quick dinner, and they were plastered with "Haley for governor" stickers and buttons. That's when I knew. She can win, I thought.

I can't hide the fact that I'd love to see a woman governor, but I also can't hide the fact that she scares me almost as much as Bauer. "Bauer with integrity" might be a far more effective Bauer, if you catch my meaning.

Either way, I know it will be pretty interesting. Let's just hope they don't bankrupt the state and lock up the progressives in Gitmo-style prison camps.

Stay tuned, sports fans.