Barbour Has Cooties

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Running a Twitter search is like listening in on hundreds of conversations all at once. You get a snippet of what people are saying about current news stories. It isn’t empirical research. It isn’t representative of the population in any statistical way. It does however often let us see the extremes of public opinion and the level of interest quickly. After Haley Barbour was discussed on ‘Morning Joe’, I checked the Twitter feeds to see the reaction.

Ok, he is fat, but so what?

There were two main types of posts. One type spoke to Barbour’s success as Governor of Mississippi. The other type called him a fat racist. It isn’t exactly the height of political discourse, but it does highlight the current political climate. If politics had its own version of freshman orientation, it would have a presentation entitled: “Welcome to being a Republican candidate, here’s your racist label.”

Calling conservatives racists is the adult equivalent of grade schoolers chanting that Suzie has cooties. It comes from the same motivations. It has the same level of veracity. And frankly, it hurts. It hurts because we know what it means for someone to truly be racist. To think that anyone would actually think you hold those views is painful. At the same time, to minimize the reality of racism by throwing the accusation around randomly is also painful, especially to those who have suffered from it or worked hard to see it come to an end.

The liberal who cries racist is becoming synonymous with the boy who cried wolf. Right now, it still sends people running excitedly, but for how much longer? Several years ago, the accusation of racism would have resulted in the party throwing whoever was accused under the bus. Then it shifted to providing a detailed defense of the person highlighting all the work they did for minorities and trotting out minority people to speak on their behalf. Now, the accusations are just ignored by the right because they have become so frequent and are nearly always baseless. Even many on the left are turning a deaf ear to the accusations and treating them with as much attention as accusations of cooties.

The attacks on Haley Barbour are just the latest example of this problem. Unable to find substantive issues on which to criticize him, his detractors just drag out the racist label. Showing that even they don’t take the accusation seriously, they’ve paired it with calling him fat. Yep, it is just like grade school again. Fatty has cooties.

Is this really the debate we want to have in this country? Are you telling me that we can’t find a single real issue to debate? Has it come down to calling someone fat and thinking that is meaningful? Come on. Really?

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