South Carolina state Sen. Jake Knotts has served up the latest in what will certainly be a rising chorus of racist gaffes as the campaign season heats up. Knotts guffawed on a political talk show that both President Obama and Tea Party-backed gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley are “ragheads.” AP quotes Knotts saying: “We’ve already got a raghead in the White House, we don’t need another raghead in the governor’s mansion.” (Via HuffPo)
Haley was already fighting allegations that she’s a tramp (that’s the long and short of speculation over whether she’s had extramarital affairs). Now Knotts and others on the right are fretting over her Sikh heritage. Haley appears to be fretting over it as well, having set up an Obama-style “truth” section on her Website in which she reassures everyone she’s now deeply, truly Christian.
For his part, Knotts insists he was telling a joke that would not offend if we all heard it in context. He’s at least right that the broader context matters more than either his quip or himself. Knotts will not be the last partisan combatant to step in it this political season while questioning someone’s whiteness bona fides. Not everyone can be as subtle as Sarah Palin’s 2008 “real Americans” refrain.
Salon’s Gabriel Winant advances the coming trend with an essay worth reading today. Winant says beware the debate over whether Knotts and his ilk are racists, foolish or both. The point is that xenophobia is the connective tissue of today’s conservative movement. An extended snip after the jump: