Ira Hansen says what Republicans believe

Nevada Republican Ira Hansen has resigned as Speaker of his state’s Assembly after the revelation of multiple racist articles he wrote for the Sparks Tribune.

“The relationship of Negroes and Democrats is truly a master-slave relationship, with the benevolent master knowing what’s best for his simple minded darkies,” Hansen wrote.

The GOP has attempted to distance itself from his comments; Nevada governor Brian Sandoval, for example, wrote that “This abhorrent kind of speech is unacceptable.” But Americans shouldn’t be so quick to let the party off the hook. Hansen’s comments merely reiterate racist beliefs that the right has embraced for decades, and that mainstream Republicans have openly endorsed in recent years.

Telling black Americans how to vote

Hansen’s complaint about a “master-slave relationship” faces a basic factual problem: the consistent and overwhelming black vote for Democrats is completely voluntary.

To claim otherwise, you have to believe that black Americans are being tricked – that they don’t know what’s best for them, and that white Republicans do. There’s simply no other explanation for the fact that 95% of them are voting the wrong way. Beneath the rhetoric, Hansen’s position relies on precisely the racist condescension and white supremacy that he tries to pin on Democrats.

But this isn’t just Hansen’s position. As I’ve written about previously, Hansen is making an argument that has become extremely popular among Republicans, and that the right has embraced since the Civil War. It’s the premise of best-selling books and the explicit belief of party leaders.

The right’s guilty conscience

Republicans who agree with Hansen have defended his phrasing as merely “provocative,” in the words of conservative activist Chuck Muth – but even his choice of words is typical.

“Obama, after losing the white vote…has decided to enslave it,” Charles C. Johnson wrote in the wake of the President’s immigration announcement September 20.

“Guns & Ammo are the only thing keeping us from being Enslaved by the Tyranny of Obama,” wrote another conservative, Tony Bilotto.

Republicans aren’t just being colorful or clumsy when they bring up slavery. It has become the go-to analogy for the Obama-era GOP, invoked far too often and far too deliberately to dismiss as spontaneous. Hansen accuses today’s Democrats of enslaving black Americans to mitigate his own guilt over actual slavery. He hopes to tie that abomination to his political opponents, or at least find them guilty of an equivalent sin. Obama’s critics could accuse him of oppressing them, or persecuting them, or subjecting them – but they gravitate towards “enslave,” and there’s a reason. They know that they still prosper from the legacy of real, historical slavery – and they fear revenge.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia.