The controversy sparked by the brutal racial insult of President Obama by rocker Ted Nugent is a sign of the problems of a Republican sector that seems to believe that the only way to mobilize the political base is by offending minorities.
Nugent is free to express his thoughts, even to call the president a “subhuman mongrel,” a pejorative term that has been used in its time to justify slavery, the annihilation of Jews, and racial persecution.
The First Amendment allows the musician to use this insult against the first African-American president born to a white mother and a black father, as distasteful as it may be.
The problem is that this individual is also representative of a Republican sector that loves firearms and verbally abusing those who do not think the way they do.
It is true that Nugent’s statement was rapidly condemned by Senator John McCain, among other Republicans. But the party’s public condemnation of a perverse racial insult of this type fell short of what it should have been.
Moreover, after Nugent made this statement, Texan Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott campaigned with the musician. Nugent had already been a guest of honor of a Republican congressman to attend the 2013 State of the Union address.
The relevance of Nugent, who in 2013 said on television that he wanted to “shoot dead” undocumented immigrants crossing the border, represents the deterioration of public discourse. He also embodies the problems Republicans face in creating a broad platform that allows space for diversity. This was a perfect opportunity for the Republican establishment to send a forceful message that there is no room in their organization for people like Nugent, who didn’t even apologize for his insult.
The attitude taken in this case harkened back to when it was said that Obama was not American, and politicians turned a blind eye so as not to offend their base that was propagating the lie. Now, tolerance for Nugent to avoid offending the political base is an offense to the vast majority of Americans.