Yesterday, a CPAC breakout session on reaching out to black voters broke down in shouting and acrimony as a handful of ‘disenfranchised whites’ attacked the premise of the session (along with black complaints about slaveholders), got into a verbal fight with a black female attendee and with all that managed to unite the crowd against the black woman as the one who somehow spoiled all the fun.
TPM’s Benjy Sarlin was there right as it was all happening and wrote this eye-popping account in more or less real time. (If you’ve already read Benjy’s piece definitely also check out fellow TPM scribe Pema Levy’s companion piece just filed this morning on her effort to find out from CPACers why they think Romney lost.)
Already this morning, I’ve watched on twitter the birth of a mini-conspiracy theory that the slavery defenders were liberal agents provocateurs, presumably sent by whoever sent Todd Akin and the rest of the plants who now are ruining the conservative brand.
But the bigger thing coming out of this raucous event isn’t what the one or two people said — though that was probably enough to be the takeaway for many for the entire conference — as the fact that the whole imbroglio ended with denunciations of the black woman who was the one person to go into freak out mode — pretty understandably — on hearing the merits of chattel slavery being argued in the 21st century at a panel on racial tolerance and outreach. (And I’m using ‘freak out mode’ here in the most positive sense.) And that, I think, goes to the heart of the enterprise, this panel, itself.
In the physical world there are some chemical processes so inherently unstable that, absent great care and certainly with any other unstable compound added, you’re certain to have an explosion. Similarly, there are some political processes so inherently ridiculous that even the slightest trigger and things are sure to explode, which is clearly what happened here.
Think: The panel (“Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?”) was run by an African-American man named K. Carl Smith (founder of something called “Frederick Douglass Republicans”) whose schtick is to rant against Democrats as the party of the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan.
“I don’t care how much the KKK improved,” he said defiantly at the event before things got out of hand. “I’m not going to join the KKK. The Democratic Party founded the KKK.”
In other words, you’re preaching/ranting to a crowd of Republicans (an almost entirely lilly white party) against the racism, softness on paramilitary violence and Confederacy-love of the Democratic party (roughly half of which is made up of non-whites). There’s just too much denial, bad faith and comedy there under high pressure for the center to hold. And you can’t tempt the gods of farce on such an epic scale and not have a blow up.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.