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Listen To All Of Republican Congressman’s ‘Wetback’ Comments

Rep. Don Young‘s (R-AK) invocation of the term “wetbacks” could not have come at a worse time for the Republican Party, which is trying to crack the code that allowed a coalition of white, non-white, and female voters to propel President Obama past his GOP rival* in November. While the racial slur that Young used is getting all of the attention, there’s a real learning opportunity for Republicans here, if they’re willing to listen to all of what Young said, including his clumsy attempt at a walkback.

In case you missed it, here’s what Don Young told Alaska’s KRBD radio:


The gasp-worthy portion is the first part of that clip: “My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes.”

The really crucial part of the quote, though, is where he answers the natural follow-up question: How many “wetbacks” does it take to pick tomatoes now? The answer is zero.

Young said, “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

It used to take “wetbacks,” but now it takes “people,” to pick tomatoes.

In his pork-mitted walkback, Young referenced the supposed difference in the term’s meaning today, as opposed to when he was growing up, but even back in the days before cellphones and horseless carriages, “wetback” was never a term of respect, and like all racial slurs, its primary purpose was to dehumanize. In Young’s day, a “wetback” was a lesser organism whom you could pay substandard wages, and upon whom you could enforce substandard working conditions.

It is here that Republicans continue to misunderstand their problem with 51% or more of the humans who voted for President Obama: the view that certain groups of people are lesser human beings. It doesn’t really matter if you can get Don Young to stop calling people “wetbacks,” or if you can get Sen. John McCain to stop calling people “illegals” (good luck with that)if your words and deeds are still driven by that view.

For example, you’ve got Donald Trump telling the CPAC crowd to give up on Hispanic voters, because they’re going to vote Democratic no matter how much amnesty you give the lousy ingrates. Now, Donald Trump doesn’t hold any elected office, and his notion of giving up on Hispanic voters is not the view of most Republicans, but the deeply poisonous part of Trump’s premise is shared by both sides of the Republican divide: Hispanic voters are only people to the extent that they are willing to deliver votes.

That’s the entire problem with the Republican Party’s entire rebranding effort: it only views, as people, those from whom they can swindle votes. Their autopsy report doesn’t view the gays as people at all, and black people mainly as an acceptable target for insults. Women are people only to the extent that they can be sweetly coaxed into voting for the same policies, occasionally voiced by other women.

Then, there are Hispanic voters, the only group to merit a specific policy change in that report. As John McCain said, though, that “change of heart” is the result of a desperate need for their votes, a need that leads to pathetic scenes like Marco Rubio (R-FL) cozying up to a guy who pimps racist, anti-immigrant parody songs.

If the Republican Party really wants to attract some of the voters who put President Obama back in the White House, they’re going to need to start thinking of them as complete human beings, and acting accordingly. Luckily, there’s already a party that does that.

*Presdident Obama’s opponent in the 2012 election was a man named Mitt Romney.

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