There was a time, not very long ago, when bigoted people in this country tried to hide their racism. They recognized that it was something appalling, something people would judge them for and find them wanting. They still believed they were absolutely right in their hatred, of course, but there was enough pressure from right-thinking people that it was kept quiet, expressed only in places where you knew you were “safe” to be your backward, Neanderthal, racist self. The Republican establishment fed Southern whites’ resentment against the Civil Rights Act with code words and dog whistles until the Solid South turned solidly Republican – but again, it was done through code, transparent as it may have been. On the surface, Republicans were professional and civilized and would have been shocked (SHOCKED!) at the suggestion that they were stoking racial fears. The problem with rabble-rousing, though, is that eventually you end up with a lot of highly agitated rabble who don’t just sit quietly – they make a scene, and feel great about it. That’s what we’re witnessing in Tampa.
That clip has been interpreted differently by people who were there. The reporter from Harper’s Magazine saw it as an ugly show of immigrant-bashing, while Buzzfeed asserts the crowd wasn’t reacting to the heavily-accented Latina at the podium at all; instead, it was trying to drown out the Ron Paul supporters. For my part, I can maybe believe that it may have started out as Buzzfeed suggests (though “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” seems an odd choice for people arguing about rules changes), but I’m sure that most of those who joined in were directing it at Puerto Rican woman on the dias. Reince Priebus, at least, recognized that this might not be the image his party wants on television – but it’s a bit too late for that. For decades, the Republican party has courted, cajoled, and condoned unapologetic racists, and fed them a diet of conspiracy and paranoia. You reap what you sow. You sow hatred of women, gays, blacks, homosexuals, Muslims, Jews, the poor, the highly educated… and you end up with a party full of hateful, angry, scared, ugly, stupid people, shouting down the Gentlelady from Puerto Rico. It’s your party. Cry if you want to.