By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Op-Ed Columnist
CALIFORNIA — GOP Central Committee member Marilyn Davenport’s email blast depicting President Obama and his family as monkeys was sick, vile, and disgusting. But that was not the worst part of it. Even her witless defense of the photo as just a “joke,” was not the worst part of her slur. The worst part was the reaction of GOP officials.
The local party chair, Scott Baugh, appropriately blasted the email, saying it “drips with racism,” and said Davenport should resign. He claimed that the bylaws prevented him from expelling Davenport. But he did not call for a change in the bylaws to make expulsion possible, or even indicate when or if he would move to censure Davenport. To their credit, some former GOP state officials did call for her expulsion. But no action of any kind has been taken against Davenport.
The non-action paled in comparison to the reaction of other GOP officials who either downplayed it as “much ado about nothing,” as Davenport branded it, or defended her. Davenport is not some raving Tea Party haranguer. She’s a member in good standing of the powerful and well-connected Orange County GOP party machine. In Democrat-leaning California, this is not insignificant. Orange County is one of the reddest counties in Southern California, and a traditional bastion of GOP conservatism. The Orange County Republican Party can still muster tens of thousands of votes for local, state, congressional and presidential candidates. Republican presidential candidates have beat a steady path to the county for decades to secure votes and money.
Davenport, for her part, has adamantly said she won’t resign. She wouldn’t have dug her heels in on staying at her party post if she wasn’t confident that she had the backing of more than a few party members.
Those GOP Davenport cheerleaders aren’t just in Orange County. Other party officials essentially blew off the controversy as a non-issue. This speaks to the GOP’s continual denial and subtle or flat-out stoke of the racial fires.
Davenport underlined her despicable depiction of President Obama with the caption, “Now you know why there’s no birth certificate.” This is just the crude version of what would-be GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has been parroting with his crusade to bait President Obama on his birth certificate.
It’s worked because polls consistently show that a significant minority, possibly a majority, of the GOP rank-and-file cling to the false belief that Obama is a fake American citizen. Trump would not have gotten to first base with his birth certificate ploy if these millions didn’t give credence to it. The controversy has had enough juice to draw Obama himself into it. In a recent interview, Obama made more than a veiled reference to it when he said, “We’re not really worrying about conspiracy theories or birth certificates.”
Top GOP possible presidential contenders have either been mum on the issue, sent mixed messages, or, as in the case of Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin, given tacit credence to it. Despite the media ridicule, Trump hasn’t backed away one inch from the issue. In a pep rally speech to a swooning Tea Party throng in Boca Raton, Fla., he again questioned Obama’s citizenship. Trump’s slur didn’t dampen the applause or enthusiasm of the crowd. Nor has it dampened the enthusiasm for him from millions of others. In the latest national poll of the names of the potential GOP presidential candidates, Trump obliterated the field. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was a distant second, garnering 10 percent less of the straw vote than Trump.
At this stage of the presidential derby, the straw poll tells nothing about who the GOP voters, party regulars, and party money backers will ultimately decide on. It won’t be Trump. But that’s hardly the point. The fact that a political non-entity can work up the kind of mania and media attention that he has on the strength of virtually one issue, namely Obama’s birth, tells much about the crazed state of millions of GOP voters.
Davenport’s slanderous email depiction of Obama and family, her refusal to see anything wrong with it, and the foot-drag by GOP local and state officials in California and nationally to say or do anything about it, speaks volumes for GOP leaders. Trump, Davenport, and the Orange County GOP top brass are not bizarre aberrations. They publicly echo the sentiment of a wide swath of Americans about President Obama, and that sentiment has nothing to do with any political criticism of his policies. Davenport’s racial belligerence on Obama, and the Republican Party’s official inaction about it, just prove that the GOP blows every chance it gets to show that it’s Obama’s policies, and not his race, that is their only concern.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is associate editor of New America Media. He hosts a national Capitol Hill broadcast radio talk show on KTYM Radio Los Angeles and WFAX Radio Washington D.C. streamed on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on blogtalkradio.com and wfax.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com.
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