Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/GETTY IMAGES
How Many G.O.P. Racial Pathologies Can Fit in One News Story?
Election 2014

How Many G.O.P. Racial Pathologies Can Fit in One News Story?

By Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/GETTY IMAGES

Jonathan Martin's excellent front-page story in The New York Times on Sunday is ostensibly about T.W. Shannon, the Oklahoma Republican running for the Senate. Shannon is half black and half Native American, and his father is from the Chickasaw tribe, which, Martin explains, is "the most influential tribe in a state where Native Americans are not merely the inheritors of a poignant history but also collectively constitute the state’s largest nongovernment employer outside of Walmart." This might all seem unexceptional, except for the fact that Martin's report on Shannon's candidacy ends up exposing an absurd number of Republican racial pathologies. In no particular order...

1. Suspicion of Dual Loyalty: "'Btw, the Indians aren’t Oklahomans,' Robert Dan Robbins, a rancher and prominent supporter of Mr. Shannon’s chief primary opponent, Representative James Lankford, wrote on his own Facebook page. 'They are a member of their own nation and are suing the state of Oklahoma over water rights and other things as well.'  A Tea Party group, in an open letter about Mr. Shannon, warned, 'He has too many masters to serve,' and listed 'Indian tribes'...among his suspect influences."

2. Dislike Of Multiculturalism: "Mr. Shannon is more cautious when discussing his background. In an interview...he emphasized that he was 'very proud' of his heritage, while carefully noting that it does not define him entirely.  'I’m an American first, and that’s the most important thing,' said Mr. Shannon...Mr. Shannon recalled advice from [J.C.] Watts, who told him, 'If you make it your issue, if you make it the focus of your campaign, then it will be.' His racial background, Mr. Shannon said, 'is just one part of my experience it’s not the defining moment.'"

3. The Party's Racial Problems Can Be Solved Merely By Running Non-White Candidates: "His name alone!' Sarah Palin exclaimed at a large, nearly all-white rally of supporters for Mr. Shannon in Tulsa last month. 'The Democrats accuse us of not embracing diversity? Oh, my goodness, he is he’s it. He is the whole package.'"

4. Talking About Race Is In Poor Taste: "But other conservatives are plainly uncomfortable with such tactics. Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who was also at the rally, said in an interview, 'Rather than engage in identity politics and smear campaigns, which is the specialty, sadly, of the modern Democratic Party, we ought to be discussing how to turn this country around.'"

5. Skepticism Of Outsiders Who Succeed Too Much: "Mr. Lankford [see item 1] acknowledged that the financial backing Mr. Shannon had received from the tribes had given his opponent a boost. 'They’ve been pretty clear that they want to have a tribal member in the Senate,' said Mr. Lankford...'Most people didn’t worry about the Indians in part because they were everywhere, they sort of looked like everybody else, they sort of lived like everybody else,' said Keith Gaddie, a University of Oklahoma political science professor. 'Nobody cared about Native Americans until they got money.'" [Italics Mine]

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