By John V. Moore
This morning I saw the following message on Twitter from @ isaac_hayes:
“The Radical Left has begun its viral attack machine...http://bit.ly/cZAe2”
Which linked to a blog post from The American Spectator (AS) titled “Democratic Underground Posts Racist Comments on GOP Candidate,” which caught my immediate attention because it was about a thread I started on The Democratic Underground (DU), a progressive website I have been a member of since 2001, posting under the screen name wndycty.
In the original post I had fun with the fact that a man seeking the Republican nomination for Congressman in the 2nd Congressional District of Illinois was named Isaac Hayes. As others learn of this I am confident they will have jokes as well. If nominated Mr. Hayes will run against the incumbent, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
Before I go further I must disclose the following, I am a 41 year-old African American voter who lives in the 2nd Congressional District, has volunteered for many Democratic candidates over the years and is actively supporting a number of candidates who will be on the ballot in 2010. Additionally, I was raised in the Village of Park Forest, IL, the very same community that Mr. Hayes resides in. I currently live in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood in the northern part of the congressional district.
The title of my post was:
“LOL the Illinois GOP is running Isaac Hayes (not chef) against Jesse Jackson Jr.”
In the body of the post I wrote:
“Am I wrong to be cynical about this guy's name just happening to be Isaac Hayes? LOL” ,
I also included his picture as well as the prepared text of the speech he delivered to the 2009 Cook Country GOP Convention.
Some of the 19 replies to that thread included comments like “Apparently they think their black guy will automatically pull the black vote off of JJ Jr.” and “Hello there, children! How would you like to suck on my Chocolate Salty Balls?”
I and others at DU, some of who may be African American as well, were having fun with the fact the GOP candidate who hopes to challenge Congressman Jackson just so happens to share the name of a deceased African American music legend, who also was known as the voice of the character “Chef” from the TV show South Park. (The mention of “Chocolate salty balls” was a reference to a line from South Park, not a racist slur as characterized by the AS).
My reaction to a candidate named “Isaac Hayes” is not without merit, this isn’t the first time Congressman Jackson has faced a challenger who shares a name with a famous African American. In 2002 a man also named Jesse Jackson had filed paperwork to run against him in the primary but didn’t make it to the ballot.
AS goes to extreme efforts to paint the DU as a bastion of racism when it writes “The White Democratic Underground (or White DU) has focused on -- what do you think? Race, but of course. Rev. Hayes is mocked as an ‘Oreo,’ a ‘black guy,’ ‘Chocolate Salty Balls,’ while another White DU'er is relieved they live in ‘the Southern part of the state’ -- apparently so he or she doesn't have to face a choice between Jackson and Hayes, African-Americans both.”
Unlike the conservative Free Republic and other right leaning website/blogs, the moderators and administrators at DU have zero tolerance for bigotry, be it racism, homophobia and sexism. The DU boasts a diverse membership that has healthy debates about race, sexual orientation, gender and religion, I wonder about the diversity that one will find on conservative sites.
Democrats, especially those of us who are African American, are justified in our cynicism directed the GOP, its efforts to diversify and it the candidates of color who have represented the party in elections.
In a recent OpEd in the Chicago Tribune, its former Public Editor Don Wycliff, an African American who says he is attracted to the ideology of the Republican Party, writes:
“At least at the national level, the contemporary party of Lincoln looks to me like a confederacy -- and I use the word advisedly -- of weak-kneed politicians cowed by a posse of braying broadcast bullies who do what passes for the thinking of a mob of the frightened, the resentful and the bigoted.”
Accusing the DU and by extension Democrats as well as progressives of racism in this matter is absolutely laughable. The GOP and its allies in the conservative media echo chamber (Beck, Coulter, Hannity, Limbaugh and others) have exploited racism in the past, denied it when they were caught practicing it, marginalized those who have called them out on their bigotry and now they are trying to play the victim. GOP PLEASE!
Its funny that conservatives often accuse Democrats of playing the “race card”, because if Mr. Hayes reaction and promotion of The American Spectator blog post is any indication of the type of campaign that he plans to run, it is safe to say that the “race card” will be played in the 2nd District of Illinois in 2010, but it won’t be Congressman Jackson playing it.
Mr. Hayes, may I would to propose the following as your campaign theme song. It would show you to be a fan of pop-culture with a great sense of humor: