As a writer, I always have been opposed to joining up with the Republicans or the Democrats. Independence is important for a writer. Vile odors and vile intentions can come from every side. One should not be duped into intellectual self-abuse by making things seem too simple.
Part of the reason I came to this conclusion is that growing up in the 1950s meant that you learned to see human inconsistency ever more clearly. Back then, the Democrats could be proudly racist in the South and liberal in the North.
A similar trend exists in today’s Republican Party with the advent of the far right. We see all of its ugliness in the attacks on the Democrats and even some in the ranks of the GOP, where a few sane minds still exist. David Frum, Joe Scarborough, Jon Huntsman and Peggy Noonan are disrespected because they do not get down on their knees among the lowest and the most manipulated.
The fever dreams of willful lightweights like John Sununu, Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump are right there. They call President Obama lazy, they question his integrity and his motives — not to mention his birth certificate and college transcript.
This becomes another kind of contemporary horror when taken up by the more serious likes of Arizona Sen. John McCain, who ran against Obama with honor and would not descend into the cesspool of paranoia and bigotry. The inherent tragedy of politics is that with some, one is only what you get when able. We are now no longer able to see that glorious version of the senator. Now he debases himself with totally fraudulent attacks on U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.
The truth is, there have been glaring (but rarely mentioned) race problems with Republicans since the presidency of Richard Nixon. In the first six decades of the 20th century, undisguised racists were bubonic rats riding high on the Democratic hog — until Lyndon B. Johnson took bloodstained office after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Though a former segregationist, Johnson moved in such support of civil rights — forcing through passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act — that he ran the redneck vermin out of the Democrats and into the street.
They became Republicans, and Democrats lost power in the South until Bill Clinton took office. With his Arkansas charm and warm but easy brilliance, Clinton led Americans to listen as well as look.
While pretending to have as much mud between his toes as the next country boy, Clinton made Americans rethink the subtle race prejudices that had for so long lingered because of the sound of the evening news. He was not to be doomed by his sound. That was one of the biggest cultural changes since the civil-rights movement itself.
Clinton brought individual freedom to Southern whites who were far too accustomed to Northern condescension because of the way they spoke. Unlike previous assumptions, Northern liberals would not be allowed to close the door on him, or his kind. His accent was not so different than what one heard from the Ku Klux Klan; but what he said with his Southern drawl could not be further away from the KKK’s base bigotry. Clinton brought a sophistication to the sound of American politics that was equal to what William Faulkner brought to our literature. Putting an end to any assumptions about crudity and prejudice, he was the Lincoln who freed the many white Southerners living under the slavery imposed by the sound made by men like George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Mitch McConnell, the last making no automatic impact.
Today, the Democrats are powerful again, while the Republicans are stuck with the Southern whites who constitute their base. Thus the attacks on Rice, the highly accomplished and respected U.N. ambassador whom Obama might want to serve as his next secretary of state.
No one has swung harder at her than McCain, still smarting from how she attacked him during the 2008 campaign. Some remembered wounds turn men into what used to be called heels, and women on paid assignments become attack poodles, as James Wolcott dubs them. All of those so supposedly flummoxed by Rice’s inadequacies have been told all top-flight information from the Secret Service, and they know it. Instead of being willing to melt away with imminent time, McCain now imitates Trump, the hairdo guy: Anything for as much attention as possible — including missing closed meetings for press conferences!
This is how The Huffington Post describes the attacks on Rice by McCain and his South Carolina muck buddy, Sen. Lindsey Graham: “In numerous media appearances, the two senators have called Rice everything from ‘incompetent’ to ‘not very bright’ to ‘deeply troubling.’ Even White House press secretary Jay Carney couldn’t resist pointing out their ‘obsession’ at Tuesday’s press briefing.”
This “not very bright” woman is an American classic, with degrees from Stanford and Oxford, neither of which guarantees anything. Action usually tells us what one knows and what one can do. This one is not only respected throughout her profession but knows how to put up or shut up. That atmosphere comes with her presence. She has won jousts with leaders the world over, none care to claim otherwise. Many men, however, regardless of whatever their color may be, are not ready for her kind of black woman.
But McCain, Graham and all the rest seem to know exactly what their base would like to hear. They know the rabble has a deep love for rotten meat. Throw it on the ground, and they will growl and gobble. Susan Rice neither hurls rot nor qualifies as an incompetent.
The rendering of colored women as human beings rather than walking and talking causes, weakens our literature and always has. They have been here for over a century or more. Such women have been present and are very familiar in the real world where flesh and blood is well-known.
I do not know her personally, but I am very familiar with her type, each one armed with her own individuality and her own set of responses to each context.
Susan Rice reminds me of all the neighborhood girls who went into education, medicine, business and politics. None would fit in on Fox News, but what brilliant modern-day woman would?
This all adds up to the dues that Fox News has extracted from the Republican Party, which has gotten it where it is today: a puppet swinging in a foul wind.
Stanley Crouch is a King Features syndicated columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org