What if They Gave a Debate and Nobody Showed? Again.

| Fri Sep. 28, 2007 1:01 PM EDT

Well, somebody showed at historically black Morgan State University in Baltimore last night for the All-American Presidential Forum, just no one likely to be our next president and, man, is the Afro-sphere hacked off about it. My inbox was humming like a tea kettle.

Touted as "the first time that a panel comprised of journalists of color is represented in primetime," focused on 'minority' issues like unemployment and the criminal justice system, and moderated by Tavis Smiley on PBS, you'll understand why the GOP's A-Team all misplaced their invitations. Introducing the world's first invisible perp walk, Rudolph W. Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson found themselves silently indicted as spotlights glared on their empty lecturns all night. (If you can name the ones who showed, C-SPAN must indeed be your dearest friend. And why, oh why, was the Ayatollah Alan Keyes allowed to attend, let alone mic'd for sound? I thought the election for the President of Heaven wasn't til after the Rapture.)

Unsurprisingly, the GOPs usual-suspect mouthpieces made quick work of any notion that their homies were either too scared, too uninterested or too disgusted to show this time either. Having brushed past lame excuses about fundraising cycles and their astrologer's travel advisories, a few addressed the main issue: an auditorium full of hostile Negroes (or, seen another way, the candidates' embrace of an agenda designed to incarcerate every hostile Negro in the auditorium). Jim Geraghty wrote: "when asked about Republicans not showing up for this debate, Smiley responded, "When you reject every black invitation and every brown invitation you receive, is that a scheduling issue or is it a pattern?... I don't believe anybody should be elected president of the United States if they think along the way they can ignore people of color. That's just not the America we live in." Then, Geraghty noted, "When you pretty much accuse candidates of racism before they walk in the door, that doesn't make them more inclined to accept your invitation."

It also doesn't make your "accusers" anymore likely to vote for you. And note the disgraceful sleight of rhetorical hand: Smiley didn't "pretty much accuse" the candidates of anything except either disdaining or passing on the minority vote. However racist he may believe the GOP and/or its candidates to be, Smiley merely pointed out that minority votes have to be both valued and earned or the GOP should formally renounce its renunciation of the Southern Strategy.

Still, you have to give Tancredo, whoever he is, the nod for having the vertebrae to shoot back that he couldn't "agree with th[e] race-baiting comments" of his fellow candidates, who did indeed pander with both hands and all day Sunday. I'm a little embarrassed for them. But since when is pandering new?

But. I started this entry because I, too, am sorta queasy with all these "If not 'A,' then B must be true" denunciations. Barack Obama skips Jena and Jesse Jackson, who endorsed him, accuses him of "acting white". Black Republicans are self-hating sell-outs doing The Man's bidding. Black women who criticize the community's misogyny have been brain washed by white feminists.

If playing "spot the Uncle Tom" has played itself out, perhaps "spot the racist" should, too. Condemning actions and policies as racist is one thing, but mandatory appearances at prescribed black (or most other) venues should not become a litmus test. I hate myself for it, but I had to give Bush his props for refusing to address the NAACP for so long. The organization's rhetoric regarding him had been far too intemperate for far too long (for instance, Willie Horton-ing him with the men who dragged James Byrd to death behind a pick up truck).

Landing at Ground Zero but doing a fly-by over Katrina's devastation? Racist.

Ignoring those who dog you unmercifully, let alone immaturely? Good time management.


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