Friday, September 08, 2006

Virginia Senator George Allen - Rascist

One of the assignments of my Political Science class is to provide 15 news summary and opinion reports concerning current political events.
This is the first one. Not all that great really - I've been under the weather and under the gun but hopefully after I get past this illness and get caught up the quality will improve.
(along with Political Science this semester includes French 101 and Akido)

Enjoy ,

Current Event/News Summary # 1

Off-hand remark by senator causes flap
August 15, 2006

CNN reports on Virginia Senator George Allen calling a volunteer working for the opposition party “macaca” during a campaign rally in western Virginia.
S.R. Sidarth, who works for the Jim Webb campaign, followed Allen’s “listening tour” filming Allen’s appearances and took notes. During the rally Senator Allen pointed and referred to Sidarth as “…Macaca or whatever his name is -- he’s with my opponent, he’s following us around everywhere…” and “ Let’s give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.”
The spokesman for the Allen campaign, Dick Wadhams, said the name was a variation of "Mohawk," the nickname he said Allen campaign staffers gave Sidarth because he had a Mohawk haircut.
"It's grasping -- it's reaching," Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd said of Wadhams' explanation. "This was a term meant to demean Sidarth and his presence there at the event."
The article provides evidence that suggests the Allen campaign’s explanation was less than truthful.

Senator denies remark was racist
August 16, 2006

CNN continued following the story the next day. Allen had released a statement claiming the remark he used to describe Webb campaign worker S.R. Sidarth was not racially charged and that the media misunderstood his comments.
The article goes on to explain the term Macaca as a genus of monkeys, including the rhesus monkey. The senator's campaign said that Allen did not know that "Macaca" refers to monkeys.
The explanation for Allen’s comments from his campaign: "In singling out the Webb campaign's cameraman, I was trying to make the point that Jim Webb had never been to that part of Virginia -- and I encouraged him to bring the tape back to Jim and welcome him to the real world of Virginia and America, outside the Beltway, where he has rarely visited. I also made up a nickname for the cameraman, which was in no way intended to be racially derogatory. Any insinuations to the contrary are completely false." In the first article Allen claims the term referred to what he perceived as Sidarth’s “Mohawk” hair style. In the second article Allen claims to have “made up a nickname for the camera man” (Sidarth).

Allen apologized for 'Macaca' remark
August 24, 2006

CNN continued to follow the story through August 24th. Reported in this article is Allen’s attempt to apologize for the ‘Macaca ‘remark by personally calling Sidarth and apologizing for singling him out of the crowd.
The article rehashes the original event and reported that Webb's campaign posted the video on YouTube, then alerted reporters. Within days of the August 11 rally, it became a dominant political story and grist for late-night talk shows and Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."
CNN reported comments from Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta and a specialist in presidential and congressional races, that the damage from the comment will haunt Allen for a while. The Republican senator is seeking a second term while also exploring a potential 2008 presidential bid.
Wadhams on Saturday had sent a memo to Republican leaders saying the media created a "feeding frenzy" over the remarks, saying it "did not warrant coverage in the first place," and accusing Democrats of trying to "play the race card."
"Senator Allen needs to make it clear that he made a mistake, that this was obviously something he should not have done," said Mike Mahaffey, a former Iowa Republican Party chairman.
The article indicates there are various viewpoints on the event and that most do not favor Allen.

George Allen’s gaffe to himself is almost laughable. The only thing that keeps it from being so is that he is one of the two Senators of Virginia. That a man with such attitudes concerning race and nationality holds such a powerful position is fairly depressing.

Had he spiritedly and with class, singled out Sidarth and engaged him on a topic, he would’ve possibly came out with political capital as opposed to political fallout. Of course, which is what I suspect would happen, had he engaged Sidarth honestly on any topic he might have had his hands full.

In my opinion there are two main reasons for this; the location of the rally and the Senator himself.

First of all, Allen was playing to part of his base crowd in rural western Virginia, a place called Breaks, which is near the Kentucky border. I would surmise that the community is mostly white and mostly devout religious patrons as is the case in a fair amount of rural towns from northwestern Virginia to the southern most tip. Those attributes aside, there is still racial tension and segregation throughout rural Virginia the entire south. These communities tend to vote for a candidate that espouses traditional conservative values, which the Republican party has adopted as part of their core election draw. Politicians like Allen have convinced these communities that he has their best interests at heart by capitalizing on the racial fear and prejudice that has existed and blossomed since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Towers.

According to the CNN August 15th article, Sidarth had introduced himself to Allen earlier in the week so its apparent that Allen knew who Sidarth was before pointing him out and making his remarks. Sidarth commented that he was the only non-white person in the crowd but Wadhams refutes that. In the video you cannot see any non-white people but that does not show the entire crowd. CNN did not address that specific issue.

Secondly, the Senator appears to have a somewhat less than tolerant racial history. contains a lengthy biography and profile of George Allen and cited is Allen’s affiliation with the Council of Conservative Citizens, of the largest white supremacist groups. The CCC descended from the White Citizen’s Councils of the Jim Crow-era South. At a 1996 Conservative Political Action Conference attended by then Governor Allen and CCC leaders, apparently Allen suggested they be photographed together and the CCC later used that photograph in it’s news letter; Citizens Informer. The CCC is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, and of course the CCC dispute these claims.

Wikipedia indicates through cited sources that Allen also had an affinity for the Confederate flag; wearing pins and displaying the flag wherever he could. An interesting fact about Allen; he has apparently held the Confederate flag in high regard despite not having lived in the South at all until his transfer from UCLA to UVA as a sophomore in college.

Given Allen’s history both personally and politically, combined with this latest public display of obvious racially charged statements, George Allen has no place as a Senator in the United States Government. He panders to qualities and attitudes that may have once been a part of the American fabric but no longer have a place in the ideals that the United States of America is supposedly based on. Having a racist, and I think Allen can be called a racist, hold such a position of power is the antithesis of democracy and freedom. I’m not sure which of these challenges is most daunting; understanding how a man like Allen can continue to think and behave in the manner he does; understanding how this guy can convince seemingly grown adults to buy into this ideology; or understanding how a community could support a political representative based on such ideals.

It is my personal belief that what we see with Allen along with the rest of the Republican party is the morphology of what the conservative branch of the Republican party truly is. This evolution is being accelerated by two successive terms of Bush and his entourage, and a complete control of every branch of the Federal Government by the Republicans. The part I struggle with is observing the antics of people like Allen and Bush, yet they continue to enjoy large enough support to maintain their grip on power.

Additional Information:
Southern Poverty Law Center
Southern Poverty Law Center
Southern Poverty Law Center
Anti-Defamation League