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Know Your Enemy

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” — Sun Tzu: Ancient Chinese warrior-philosopher, The Art of War

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Mike Huckabee will not win the Republican nomination for President, but he has won several states, particularly in the South, including Louisiana and Kansas this past Saturday. Ron Paul is not a factor in the Republican race, but even still, he won 20 percent of the vote in the Washington caucuses on Saturday. Many African Americans and progressives more generally have been captivated by the protracted struggle for the Democratic party’s nomination. They have paid scant attention to developments and candidates on the Republican side, except for worrying about a McCain candidacy. As Sun Tzu and many other strategists remind us, knowing your enemy is critical for obtaining victory.

Huckabee and particularly Paul have supported racists, racist organizations and racist issues. While campaigning in South Carolina Huckabee invoked the hoary old racist shibboleth of state rights in defending the right of white South Carolinians to fly the Confederate Battle Flag. As Christopher Hitchens writes on Slate, Huckabee’s statement was “unambiguously racist” for several reasons. The Confederate Battle Flag is not the state flag of South Carolina. Segregationist started flying the “Stars and Bars” at the State capitol in 1962 as an act of defiance against the Civil Rights Movement. The segregationists also fiercely opposed any measure suggesting that once again the Federal government, the Union, would intervene on the side of rights for black citizens. Indeed, the only purpose for Huckabee’s invoking the battle flag was to appeal to and energize racist sentiments among white South Carolina Republicans. This was not a first for Huckabee. In 1993 he made a videotape which was played at a meeting of the Council of Conservative Citizens-a group which declares, “”We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called “affirmative action” and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.” For all of his good old boy charm, Huckabee is very comfortable in making appeals to the most racist segments of the nation.

The views that Paul are associated with are worse. Paul, a member of Congress from Texas, and a darling of libertarian professionals in the high tech sector (thus his strong performance in Washington state, home of Microsoft), published a newsletter in the 1980s and 1990s that was straight up racist. Paul’s newsletter over the past several years, has claimed that “only five percent of blacks have sensible political opinions.” James Kirchick, writing for the New Republic about Paul, bluntly states when describing back issues of Paul’s newsletter, “What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays.” The newsletter referred to MLK Day as “Hate Whitey Day,” and denounced the overthrow of apartheid in South Africa as “the destruction of civilization.” It also stated that the reason that the 1992 urban conflagration in Los Angeles only ended when it did was because it was “time for blacks to pick up their welfare checks.” Although Paul has denied writing these racist stories and claims no knowledge of them, it is still the case that they went out under his name over the course of several years. (In interviews during his presidential campaigns he has denounced the racist content of the newsletters.)

The common thread is that both Governor Huckabee and Congressman Paul are exceedingly comfortable associating with individuals and organizations that espouse the racist beliefs and policies. Further, Huckabee has shown no hesitation in evoking racist symbols in order to arouse racist sentiments if it will afford him electoral advantage. We should never forget that the basest racist sentiments still churn just below the surface among some conservatives. That constituency represents a political tradition in American political culture that continues to produce enemies for black people and all citizens who desire equality for all regardless or race, sexuality, gender, or religion.

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