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Keep America American


I find the somewhat silly controversy of MSNBC insinuating that Mitt Romney stole the phrase “Keep America American” from the second Ku Klux Klan interesting for a few reasons.

1. As is not infrequent for MSNBC’s liberal shows, this claim was sensationalist, particularly how it was presented. That said, is it inaccurate? It is unclear whether Romney has actually used the phrase and his campaign has not exactly denied it. Even if he has used it, it could be a coincidence. I have little respect for the Republican Clown Show, but even Republican operatives are not so tone deaf to steal a slogan from the KKK. I think. Maybe.

2. Even if it is a coincidence, doesn’t the fact that the Republican Party shares the same immigration policy as the Know-Nothings and the Ku Klux Klan deserve reporting? Immigrants die because of Republican policy. Human rights are violated because of Republican Party. The Republican Party race-baits into ensuring its place as the White Man’s Party. Is none of this allowed to be pointed out?

3. Even if he never said it, the idea that MSNBC was so irresponsible for saying this while right-wing media pushes a consistent narrative of Obama as a socialist and a Muslim says a whole lot about how the media works in 2011. Republicans can say quite literally anything they want about the president without any consequences, but if Democrats note that Romney may have used the same phrase as the KKK about an issue on which Romney shares a lot of similarities with past hate groups, they are vilified as destroying the public discourse.

Nothing about this is a bright shining moment for the media, but it does serve as an interesting lesson.

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  • DrDick

    Personally, I find it unlikely that Mitt deliberately adopted a KKK slogan. On the other hand this phrase pretty well captures the beliefs of a large number of conservatives in this country (Tom Tancredo, Sheriff Arpaio, and Pat Robertson to name a few). So, as you say, the fact the GOP embraces the ideology of the KKK and Know Nothings is decidedly newsworthy, though it is rather surprising that the media would even notice.

    • spud

      On the other hand this phrase pretty well captures the beliefs of a large number of conservatives in this country (Tom Tancredo, Sheriff Arpaio, and Pat Robertson to name a few).

      Of course it helps that those people are some of the most blatantly bigoted political figures out there as well. 3 of the major conservative platforms are nothing but trying to give bigotry the color of law (immigration, anti-gay platform, anti-muslim hysteria).

      What I really love is when you call a conservative out on some obviously bigoted remark, they go right into counter-attack mode. Suddenly it becomes about “playing the race card”. It should be noted they don’t bother to deny their bigotry, they just whine that you are pointing it out.

  • Dave

    Uhm, what, aside from something Klannish, could “Keep America American” possibly mean?

    • Exactly.

      They’re saying that immigration makes America less American. While you can argue this without supporting lynchings or violence, it’s still a xenophobic, contaminationist argument.

  • chris

    It’s practically dead certain that Herman Cain stole an inspirational-sounding couple of sentences without knowing where they came from (since the alternative is that he *did* know and somehow expected it wouldn’t be revealed and make him look ridiculous; and a man in his position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous). So I don’t see why it’s so far-fetched that Romney could have done the same thing.

    Of course, independent invention is also possible; there’s not really that much ideological distance between the modern Republican Party and the Klan, the former just doesn’t want to be explicitly connected with the bad reputation of the latter.

  • TT

    The Civility Racket strikes again. It’s one of the more impressive double-games that the conservatives play, with a major assist from the media and with the effect that liberals are expected to unilaterally lay down their rhetorical arms (i.e. describe Republican politics or policy in an accurate and hard-hitting manner) in the name of preserving “civility” and preventing the further “coarsening” of our culture. George Will, for instance, loves bemoaning the lack of “civility” in politics, before turning around and calling Jesse Jackson “America’s senior friend to terrorists”. Or, in a more recent example, Paul Ryan can stomp and cry about those mean Democrats saying he wants to kill grandma, and the press dutifully focuses on those mean Democrats.

    The goal is to turn people’s attention and outrage away from actual conservative policy and its outcomes.

  • rea

    If you tried to take out a patent on “Keep American American,” your application would be rejected on the grounds of lack of novelty

  • bph

    The original version of the story I heard was the one on the Washington Post. Like so many WP stories, it seems it was horribly wrong.

    Read the note from the editor at the top

    • catclub

      Wow, they could post that on almost of George Will’s articles, but somehow, they don’t get around to it.

  • According to that blog post in the Times, what Romney actually said was “keep America America.” That’s what I hear in the video on Americablog (linked from the Times). Maybe Romney traded grammar for a little distance from the KKK. I have to say, though, that in context the phrase doesn’t strike me as a dog whistle, just another piece of mindless political ad-speak surrounded by same. According to Americablog, though, “It’s a Klan slogan, he said it.” That’s awfully childish logic, isn’t it?

    I also feel like the left faces more consequences for this kind of thing than the right. I don’t entirely trust that feeling, partly because I don’t keep close tabs on the media. But it does seem like Fox can be lobbing rhetorical napalm at anything that moves on the left, and, well, that’s just Fox. But something questionable happens at NPR and heads gotta roll.

    So who imposes the consequences, and why? And how did this system get set up?

  • Stag Party Palin

    A better motto: “Fighting terrorism since 1492.” Steal that one.

    • DrDick

      Actually, it is on my office door.

  • fourmorewars

    Beginning and end of the fucking argument:

    {quote] You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. [endquote]

    Anybody on our side who neglects to bring this up should be taken out and beaten severely.

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  • giantslor

    At this point everyone expects the Republicans to say crazy stuff, so they get away with it. Democrats are usually on the straight and narrow, so they get piled on whenever they stray a little. Basically, Republicans are Charlie Sheen, Democrats are Selena Gomez.

  • commie atheist

    Indonesia for the Indonesians!

    Also, too: Andrew Breitbart never recycles Nazi propoganda cartoons to attack whatever bete noire is at the top of his list this week.

  • You’ll note that the “controversy” ends up being about not getting the Romney campaign a chance to repeat their side of the story.

    As if.

    He said. Own up to it, say it was a dumb comment, move on

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