Rather than getting all aggravated watching the South Carolina GOP primary acceptance and concession speeches yesterday, I took my family to a nearby Cineplex to see Red Tails, the just-out inspiro-pic about the Tuskegee airmen.
Judging by the various Twitter feeds eminating from South Carolina, I made a brilliant decision. The movie audience was, well, the photographic negative of the GOP primary. Our family provided the ocular counterparts to Herman Cain, only slightly more conspicuous by my developmentally disabled brother-in-law, who was one of several people in the audience moved to occasionally become active participants in the dialogue onscreen. The movie was alright, predictably fun for what it was.
We stumbled into a surprisingly sweet moment for many of the families there, many of whom brought their kids to celebrate the history behind the film, and maybe to see a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster with a virtually 100% black cast. The crammed-in audience seemed to be a broad cross-section of the southland African-American community, many shapes, sizes, ages. Judging by the cars in the parking lot, it was a diverse economic group, too. People paid $11 per ticket to celebrate the excellence of those airmen, who triumphed over both the Luftwaffe and Americans segregatists.
Some symbols of that segregationist system survive. The South Carolina GOP remains wedded to confederate flags which so disfigure that state’s capital grounds. South Carolina is 28% African-American. Yet its GOP primary was 98% white, won by a candidate who snarled at Juan Williams over the Martin Luther King holiday, made thinly-coded barbs about Barack Obama as the Food Stamps president, and more.
Today, Gingrich commented: “Saul Alinsky radicalism is at the heart of Obama.” Given Gingrich’s long-ago but still repellent cracks about Democrats’ Woody Allen non-family values, I’m somehow not surprised that he picked Alinsky rather than (say) Tom Watson as his preferred boogeyman representation of the President’s supposed radicalism. In any event, as Jeffrey Goldberg has tweeted, Alinsky was a lot more patriotic than the secessionists of South Carolina.
It’s sad to see so many white working class South Carolinians–people who might actually benefit from health care reform, progressive taxation, and stronger social insurance programs such as Food Stamps–embrace a stridently conservative candidate so conspicuously lacking in personal and professional integrity. To update LBJ, all these voters seem to hear at election time is “Obama, Obama, Obama.”
The South Carolina GOP primary may bring political spillovers for Democrats. President Obama’s Intrade numbers are up. Mr. Gingrich’s ascent remains depressing. Fortunately, there is more to America than this narrow primary: the Tuskegee airmen, for example, and the people who remember and celebrate them.