by John Hawkins | December 29, 2008 7:51 am
In the slow-news period following Christmas, RNC Chair candidate Chip Saltsman’s Christmas gifts seem to have drawn an inordinate amount of attention,
A leading contender to become chairman of the Republican Party has left senior officials horrified after he distributed a CD featuring a parody song called Barack the Magic Negro.
At a time when the party seeks to recover from heavy electoral defeats in November – and amid calls that it should reach out to younger and ethnically diverse voters – the emergence of the parody, sung to the tune of Puff the Magic Dragon, has left many Republicans cringing.
Chip Saltsman, a former leader of Tennessee Republicans, who is seeking to take over the party’s national committee, sent the CD to party members as a Christmas gift. But unlike him, few found it funny.
The ditty, written by Paul Shanklin, a conservative parodist, alludes to an opinion piece penned by the black writer David Ehrenstein in the Los Angeles Times last year headlined “Obama the Magic Negro”. In the article the author argued that voting for the “warm and unthreatening” Mr Obama helped whites to alleviate guilt over the country’s past racial injustices. The song has been played by Rush Limbaugh on his conservative talk radio show. “Barack the Magic Negro,” it begins, “made guilty whites feel good/They’ll vote for him and not for me/Cos he’s not from the hood.”
Honestly, the song isn’t the least bit offensive, but Saltsman still showed poor judgment in sending it out. Why? Because politics is much about perception as reality and a lot of people will see the title of the song, “Obama the Magic Negro,” hear the outraged liberal reaction, and that’s all she wrote.
Should Saltsman sending out the CD knock him out of qualification for the RNC Chairmanship? Honestly, I don’t think so, although it certainly isn’t going to help his bid, which quite frankly, hasn’t been generating much buzz anyway.
This is one of those stories that people would just shrug off if it were done by someone more popular, but for a lesser know pol like Saltsman in a competitive race, it’s tough to shake.
PS #1: Ken Blackwell’s response to this was pure genius,
“Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-Elect Obama being the first African-American elected president. I don’t think any of the concerns that have been expressed in the media about any of the other candidates for RNC chairman should disqualify them. When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people.”
Why is this such an inspired response?
Well, we’re talking about a parody song from the Rush Limbaugh show. The chances that voting members of the RNC are genuinely offended by it is practically zero, but they do understand there’s political heat on over it. Blackwell perfectly straddled that line with his statement and in doing so he,
#1) Still drew attention to the fact that Saltsman screwed up.
#2) Gave a concrete demonstration of how useful it would be to have a black RNC Chair with the media looking to play the race card at every opportunity.
It’s a sharp move.
PS #2: Blackwell and Steele, both of whom I’ve coincidentally gotten to meet, are my two faves for the RNC Chair race. I’m of the opinion that we need a conservative, tech savvy chairman who’s a solid spokesman for the party and can excite Republicans. I think both of them fit the bill better than the other candidates (although I like Saul Anuzis, too).
PS #3: The only guy in the race that I really don’t like at all is Mike Duncan, the current RNC Chair. Of course, judging by how things have been going in the GOP of late, that makes me think he has to be the odds on favorite.
PS #4: The sad fact of the matter is that no matter whom we like, this is an insider election that will largely be decided by who sent whom a Christmas card, who raised cash for whom in some long forgotten race, and who can call in the most favors. In other words, qualifications for the job are secondary to which man and his supporters can generate the most juice with the 168 members of the Republican National Committee.
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