Sen. Rand Paul‘s (R-KY) social media director, Jack Hunter, is making news by virtue of his not-so-secret identity as the masked Southern Avenger, a Confederacy-boosting radio personality who celebrates John Wilkes Booth’s birthday. That news has, unfortunately, lost Sen. Paul an important quasi-ally, as All In with Chris Hayes host Chris Hayes announced, Tuesday night, that Paul had exhausted his supply of “racist strikes,” placing him “outside of the boundaries of being listened to on anything.”
Hunter’s alter ego landed him in the spotlight Tuesday, as the conservative Washington Free Beacon published an exposé of The Southern Avenger’s exploits, one which included weird, pillow-soft rebukes, by Hunter, of his previous activities. For example, he told the Free Beacon that he no longer believes the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was so great, because “I don’t think assassinating a president is ever right, unless it was somebody like Adolf Hitler.”
But the article also explains that Hunter once “suggested that the 16th president would have had a romantic relationship with Adolf Hitler if the two met.”
Hunter’s Southern Avenger schtick is nothing but an extension of the toxic campaign to normalize Old South racism as a celebration of a misunderstood cultural heritage. They don’t miss the slavery, just the snappy white uniforms. The Battle Flag isn’t a symbol of hate and oppression, it’s just a signal to play Freebird. They don’t hate black and Mexican people, they just want The Man to quit messing with white people. Can we get a damn History Month?
All of this is repulsive to Chris Hayes, who, like colleague Rachel Maddow, places the Hunter story in the context of other racially dodgy episodes in Rand Paul’s career. After detailing Hunter’s Southern Avenging activities, he allows that “There are things Rand Paul says, once in a while, that I agree with, some stances he’s taken I find praiseworthy. There are some things I find absolutely loathsome.”
“In the final analysis, there are certain thing, certain views that put you outside of the boundaries of being listened to on anything,” Hayes continues. “I’d say white supremacy is one of those. And association with people that hold those views, or endorsements of features of those views, well, they render you unfit.”
He then cites the 2009 resignation of Rand Paul spokesman Christopher Hightower over racist content on his MySpace page, which is Strike One. Strike Two is Sen. Paul’s infamous Civil Rights Act skepticism in a 2010 interview with Rachel Maddow.
“Now this,” Hayes concludes. “Southern Avenger on the senator’s staff. Well, I’m sorry, Rand Paul. That’s three racist strikes. You’re out.”
Hayes’ commentary on Jack Hunter is perfectly fine, as are his recaps of the Hightower and Civil Rights Act controversies, but the sum of the parts left me with a few questions, like why does Rand Paul get three racism strikes? His views on civil rights ought to have been enough for someone like Hayes, or any other decent American. Whatever you think of Paul’s gyrations on the subject since then, his attitude is that of the quintessential libertarian struggle; become part of a privileged status quo, then call it even. Before he ever sat down for Rachel Maddow, that was his worldview, and it remains so.
Also, why does Rand Paul need any racist strikes? Chris Hayes, along with many other people I like and respect, became momentarily infatuated with Rand Paul during his ballyhooed filibuster, but even if you disregard every other lousy thing that Rand Paul stands for, he even brought the crazy thunder during that filibuster. Look, I get that even the most awful people occasionally say something that seems to make sense, but you don’t watch The Silence Of The Lambs and come away thinking, “Y’know, putting lotion on your skin really is a good idea.”
Finally, what do Rand Paul’s three racist strikes put him out of? Maybe we won’t have to listen to liberal commentators humor him anymore, but beyond that, Rand Paul is nowhere near being hurt by this. He’s a leading presidential contender for a party that just nominated the “Macaca” guy to run for the US Senate. Racism doesn’t hurt Republicans, it helps them.
During the last presidential election, Newt Gingrich rode to the top of the polls on a wave of some of the most blatantly racist garbage I’ve ever heard, and just when it looked like they learned their lesson, along comes talk of scaring up their missing white voters. To Republicans, racism is just something they get accused of for being too realistic, or for making elections too awesome, or for hiring a guy named The Southern Avenger. They don’t even try to hide it, they just resent that it hasn’t normalized yet.
When the Free Beacon asked Paul’s office for a statement, this is how their spokesman defended Hunter: “Sen. Paul holds his staff to a standard that includes treating every individual with equal protection and respect, without exception.”
Especially the proud white ones.
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