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Read Tony Messenger’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial piece on the death today of State Auditor and gubernatorial candidate, Tom Schweich. It’s heartbreaking. If you don’t have the stomach for sad stories and righteous anger is more your thing, just read the excerpt that Michael Bersin posted below  

Messenger makes it clear that he doesn’t know the nature of the desperation that led Schweich to do what he did. What he does know: the chair of the Missouri Republican Party, who claimed neutrality in the primary race between Schweich and Catherine Hanaway, was, according to Schweich, planning to undercut Schweich through a “whisper” campaign. Schweich’s grandfather was a Jew and that seems to be sufficient to do damage among Republicans.

The use of a race-baiting whisper campaign is old-hat for Republicans. The Nation describes one of the more notorious examples:

Eight years ago this month [i.e.,  Jan. 2008], John McCain took the New Hampshire primary and was favored to win in South Carolina. Had he succeeded, he would likely have thwarted the presidential aspirations of George W. Bush and become the Republican nominee. But Bush strategist Karl Rove came to the rescue with a vicious smear tactic.

Rove invented a uniquely injurious fiction for his operatives to circulate via a phony poll. Voters were asked, “Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain…if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?” This was no random slur. McCain was at the time campaigning with his dark-skinned daughter, Bridget, adopted from Bangladesh.

In his editorial article Messenger hones in on racism in Missouri:

Missouri is the state that gave us Frazier Glenn Miller, the raging racist who last year killed three people at a Jewish community center in Kansas City. It’s the state in which on the day before Schweich died, the Anti-Defamation League reported on a rise of white supremacist prison gangs in the state.

Division over race and creed is real in Missouri Republican politics, particularly in some rural areas. Schweich knew it. It’s why all week long his anger burned.

True enough. But from what I’ve been seeing over the past six years, this roiling racist frenzy isn’t just a Missouri phenomena, but the new defining characteristic of the Republican Party itself. Since Richard Nixon, Republican politicians have been attempting to generate and exploit white racial resentment. But it’s taken the election of an African-American president to rouse the tribal hysteria that we’ve seen in recent years.

Republican politicians and their media counterparts on Fox television and rightwing radio routinely engage in the type of racist innuendos and slurs that would have been enough to have ruined careers a decade or so ago had anyone dared say out loud what is now par for the course. I could give examples, but there’s so many it’s hard to choose – and you already know what I mean. Take for instance,  this list of the ten most racist moments at the last GOP convention. It’s even disturbed some Republicans. Charlie Christ left the GOP because “‘I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president.” Hmmm, unfriendly. Politicians are politic, but the gist is clear.

As for anti-Semitism, remember Eric Cantor? You know, the Jewish guy who used to be House Majority Leader – and the only Republican Jewish member of the House of Representatives? Prior to his defeat, which many attributed to anti-Semitism, Cantor essentially admitted that racism and anti-Semitism was a problem in the House GOP caucus. And you all know about the history of anti-Semitism in the leadership of the American Family Association (AFA), the group that has given its heart, soul and financial support to the Republican Party – which reciprocates by regularly regularly sucking up in the AFA’s direction.

Of course rightwingers become apoplectic when they hear that other R word coupled with Republican, not to mention anti-Semitism. Not Islamophobic though – they seem to like that epithet. And it’s not just the denial; there’s all the projection too. Wingers are always on about how liberals are the real racists. Sadly, though their outrage is far too shrill and contrived; their red-faced conniption fits ultimately just make the rest of us laugh.

But I’m not laughing now. Folks who have a chance of adding control of the executive branch of our state to their legislative branch trophies, are accused of waging an anti-Semitic whispering campaign against a fellow party member. It’s going to be hard to escape the fall-out from this latest, local evidence of Republican moral rot. Or at least it ought to be.

*Phrase added in next to last paragraph.