By Elizabeth Burke
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report
Lately I’ve had some fun at the expense of the Republican Party. Quite honestly, there are days when I wish for a little less material. It’s like picking on the short, nearsighted kid in class: it’s only fun if reciprocated with the victim kicking in return.
I also wonder where the party’s future lies. Who, exactly, will take this weary, angry, sexed-up, aging, mighty-whitey-and-Dixie party of the past and move it into the 21st century? Enter the Young Republicans — a group, I admit, I know relatively little about. Log Cabin Republicans? Yes, though they baffle me, too. Young Republicans? Not so much. Since the end of the election, Meghan McCain, queen of the Young Republicans, has been all over cable TV, on every right, left or straight-down-the-center show, espousing her fervent desire to collect everybody under 40 and wrap them up in her warm, elephantine embrace.
While McCain and I will not agree on many things, we do agree on many social issues: freedom of choice, legalizing gay marriage, gun control and other seemingly liberal stances. While she made the grand — and to me, opportunistic — gesture and switched her party affiliation to the GOP in time for her father’s birthday during his campaign, no one can accuse her of not doing whatever she can to move her new party into the bright open sunlight of 2009.
Yet, while I admire McCain’s ambition, I fear for her people. There is, as everyone knows, a huge divide among young Republicans today, especially if you define “young” as 18 to 40 years old.
During its yearly conference in June, the Young Republicans National Federation held elections for chairman of the National Young Republicans. A great opportunity to showcase what the GOP is focused on, what lies in its future. Is it headed back into the American mainstream? Will the young generation of this venerable party choose to be more than a mere geographical entity, a viable contender for Hispanics, African Americans, gays and the critical youth vote? Will it grow into a party that looks ahead to the demographic shifts in the U.S. over the next five, 10, 15 years?
It seems so if you read this mission statement on www.youngrepublicans.com:
I believe that they (the youth of America) are no longer getting the courageous leadership, the guidance, the council, the discipline, the sense of principle, and standards that they ought to get from the generation that should be their leaders, that should be their guide, that should be their elders in spirit and in truth.
Fantastic! Looking ahead! Realizing the ideals of the GOP are mired in scandal and curmudgeons and, let’s be honest, open racism and guttural hatred for the 44th president! Now, before you say I’ve gone too far, here’s a question: How many “birthers” questioned Sen. McCain on his citizenship — he was, let’s recall, born in the Panama Canal Zone! Not a single one, I’ll guess. After all, he’s white.
But back to the kids. What’s interesting are the two women who ran to be chairman: Audra Shay, a 38-year-old event planner from Louisiana, and Rachel Hoff, director of media relations for Young Republicans and guest of Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NBC and CBS. It seemed like a good race between passionate political activists until we learned that Shay has a Facebook account and a bunch of racist friends stupid enough to post their primordial garbage on her wall for all (including the media) to see. With props to the Daily Beast:
On Wednesday, Shay — a 38-year-old Army veteran, mother, and event planner from Louisiana who has been endorsed by her governor, Bobby Jindal — was holding court on her Facebook page, initiating a political conversation by posting that “WalMart just signed a death warrant” by “endorsing Obama’s healthcare plan.”
At 1:52, a friend named listed as Eric S. Piker, but whose personal page says his actual name is Eric Pike, wrote “It’s the government making us commies… can’t even smoke in my damn car… whats next they going to issue toilet paper once a month… tell us how to wipe our asses…”
Two minutes later, Piker posted again saying “Obama Bin Lauden [sic] is the new terrorist… Muslim is on there side [sic]… need to take this country back from all of these mad coons… and illegals.”
Eight minutes after that, at 2:02, Shay weighed in on Piker’s comments: “You tell em Eric! lol.”
The Daily Beast obtained even more troubling details of Shay’s online musings — despite clear attempts on her part to scrub her social-media pages clean. More props to the Daily Beast:
* In October 2008, in the wake of news that an effigy of Sarah Palin was being hung outside an affluent Hollywood home as an offensive Halloween decoration, Shay replied, returning to the “LOL” style that she employed after the “coons” comment: “What no ‘Obama in a noose? Come on now, its just freedome [sic] of speech, no one in Atlanta would take that wrong! Lol.”
* Posting and endorsing a conspiracy-theory video that attempts to prove that Obama believes he can only “ensure his own salvation” and “fate” if he helps African Americans above whites, complete with Barnum-esque captions (“LISTEN AS HE ATTACKS WHITE PEOPLE”).
Wow. I mean, jaw-dropping, eyes-bugging, stunned-into-silence Wow. Not that I believe people no longer harbor such sickening thoughts, but Wow, now they’re stupid enough to post them where anyone can see them.
Shay’s response? The standard “I’m sorry, but it’s not my fault” apology. She claimed, for example, she was “lol”-ing to the first comment about the “commies,” not the “coon” in the second comment. Blah blah blah political attacks, blah blah blah liberal media, wah wah wah, blah blah blah.
Um, all right. How, then, does Shay explain this:
In October 2008, in the wake of news that an effigy of Sarah Palin was being hung outside an affluent Hollywood home as an offensive Halloween decoration, Shay replied, returning to the “LOL” style that she employed after the “coons” comment: “What no ‘Obama in a noose? Come on now, its just freedome [sic] of speech, no one in Atlanta would take that wrong! Lol.”
Keep it classy, Audra!
Also, keep your hateful invectives foreshadowing your doom when these friends of yours make your Grand Old Party obsolete. It seemed that in the light of day, this would have been the moment when Shay would lose the election, when the Young Republicans of which the young McCain waxes so sympathetically would rally around Hoff and emit a clear message: “We’re not that person anymore!” Shay won. Her ideals — White vs. Everyone — prevailed. Reason lost. Sadness ensues.
Mocked for wearing pants and not a “sundress” (code for “she’s a lesbian”?) Huff was all grace and generosity in her remarks. She’d run a competitive race, the kind of forward-thinking, inclusive, open-minded operation reflective of, well, the Obama campaign.
It made me wonder if Meghan McCain cared enough about her own party to stump for Hoff, to perhaps even attend the convention in Indianapolis, to give one of her heartfelt appeals for a better, kinder GOP. Indeed, if she really wants to make a difference in her party, is it fair to suggest she spend more time reaching out to actual young Republicans and not Bill Maher or Jon Stewart, or co-hosting The View? She might have helped elect a really gifted, centrist young Republican.
And why haven’t we heard from McCain regarding the words on Shay’s Facebook page? What a great opportunity to say that such words aren’t what her party is about, that it’s not what the GOP youth believe or want for their future.
We heard nothing. Not a word. She ignored the clearest sign yet that her party is in disarray — that, despite the recent pugilism over healthcare and despite the premature triumphalism over President Obama’s faltering poll numbers, her party is splitting apart like a two-headed monster. Meghan McCain lost credibility with me when she punted the chance to make her party more inclusive, more kind and understanding. Instead, she let it slither back into the dismal swamp in which it has lived for 30 years, where it is now slowly dying.