I’ve read Richard Cohen’s article several times over now, trying to see if I had missed something in translation. After all, I thought the original premise of the piece was pretty accurate: that Chris Christie, the newly re-elected governor of New Jersey and the presumptive Republican nominee for President in 2016 (according to The Narrative, anyway), has absolutely no shot of winning in the general election among an electorate that is arguably the most vitriolic and hate-filled in the GOP’s history. In times that has seen the successful rise of a political entity proudly hell-bent on causing the destruction of the federal government, and standing idly by as white men waved the Rebel banner in front of the home of the Black man that occupies the office of the Executive, Cohen was admittedly spot-on.
Cohen’s column seemed to do everything right, from denigrating the Half-Governor Sarah Palin (who never met a camera opportunity she didn’t like) to pointing out that conservatives, in their ever-strident quest to seek ideological purity, make political hay defeating those they see as capitulating RINOs like Christie in primaries, who dared to hug President Obama when Sandy laid waste to the Jersey Shore, especially as Iowa has indeed been a fomenting ground of sorts for the conservative rage seen throughout the country.
But then, in one of the most bizarre, disjointed paragraphs I’ve ever read, Cohen says this:
Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.
When I first read this, my first instincts were that this was a really bad job on the part of the copy editors. That operative word–conventional–kept sticking out to me. Conventional, to whom exactly? Did he mean conservative? Was he intending to take a potshot at the xenophobes on the Right that long for a return to the white male power structure?
Or was Cohen projecting his own ethnocentrism onto the piece, as he has on previous occasions? Was this a way for him to express his racism on his platform at The Washington Post in a high-minded manner that most (he thought) would not catch? Why would he go so far out of his way to insult the incoming Mayor of New York City and his entire family to establish his point about Governor Christie?
Richard Cohen has written much in the way of crass, unenlightened, and misogynistic columns, but what makes this one worse is that proper editing may have been able to turn this column into a piece that had much more to say than the offending paragraph. Whatever the case, if you happen to be a person that gags when you see an interracial family, or any type of racial coming together, that does indeed make you a bigot, regardless of how upset you may be when called out on it.