Friday, December 22, 2006

There seems to be a sense among reasonable people that GOP congressman Virgil Goode ought to apologize for his recent bigoted pronouncements about Keith Ellison and Muslims, and that other Republicans will surely distance themselves from those pronouncements.

But why? Why would they bother?

If a public figure in America makes a blatantly anti-black remark, there's widespread outrage among non-African-Americans as well as African Americans. A large percentage of Gentiles regularly recoil at anti-Semitism. Many straight people are repulsed by anti-gay bigotry.

I'd love to see some evidence that there's a big group of Americans who've developed a similar instinctive reaction of disgust at attacks on Muslims. I know of no such evidence.

Whether or not this is a coordinated strategy, it seems clear to me that we're seeing a significant new GOP line of attack against Democrats: that the Democratic Party is the party of Muslims, who are, simply, America's enemies. (See also the attacks on "Barack Hussein Obama.")

The key question is whether the number of voters who wholeheartedly believe Muslims are America's enemies is greater than the number who are sure that's a bigoted viewpoint; I'm afraid the former group is bigger than the latter. (I think most Americans, alas, just aren't sure.)

If this viewpoint isn't repulsive enough to arouse widespread outrage, but is a rallying cry for a significant sliver of the electorate, then it's a winner for the GOP. So why should a sufficiently cynical Republican bother to denounce it?

All the 'pubs have to do is, at most, maintain a certain distance from Goode, while letting him pump up the bigots in the base. So what Goode said simply isn't a political millstone -- and nothing like this will be until large numbers of Americans reacts to such pronouncements the way they reacted to Mel Gibson's drunken tirade.

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