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GOP Official Attacked for Racist Song   December 27th, 2008
Candidate for GOP Chairman included controversial parody on a Christmas CD       


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The buzz in this rather slow-news week has been that Republican Chip Saltsman--seeking the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee--included an allegedly racist parody song on a Christmas CD sent to others on the committee. The song, "Barack the Magic Negro" (sung to the tune of "Puff, the Magic Dragon), was originally broadcast on the Rush Limbaugh radio program and was one of a number of parodies included on the CD. I'm not one that approves of political correctness, but this incident seems to me to be a case of a very nebulous line being crossed.


The chairman of the Republican National Committee said Saturday he was "shocked and appalled" that one of his potential successors had sent committee members a CD this Christmas featuring a 2007 parody song called "Barack the Magic Negro."

In spite of RNC Chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan's sharply negative reaction, former Tennessee GOP leader Chip Saltsman said that party leaders should stand up to criticism over distributing a CD with the song. He earlier defended the tune as one of several "lighthearted political parodies" that have aired on Rush Limbaugh's radio show.

I occasionally catch some of the Rush Limbaugh program and did happen to hear the song in question when it was broadcast on the program sometime during the 2008 general election cycle. I have to admit that I cringed when I heard it even though I couldn't make out most of the lyrics at the time; when I Googled the lyrics today, I just shook my head.

Parody is an inherently very dangerous thing that one plays with at his or her own risk. I've never been a particular fan of targeted political parodies--I think there are far more constructive and useful ways to participate in the political process than to mock the other side. That's not to say we can't joke about things, laugh at ourselves, laugh at others, and have a good time. But political parodies such as this just demonstrate how dangerous these things can be.

Is the author of the song, Paul Shanklin, racist? I don't know. Is Chip Saltsman racist? I don't know. But the lyrics make me cringe and I don't cringe easily. Shanklin certainly has the first amendment right to publish his song and Saltsman can make any decision about what he wants to include on his CD, and Rush Limbaugh can broadcast whatever he wants on his program. But what bothers me is the stupidity involved in doing so.

Rush Limbaugh is considered by many in the public to be a major leader of the conservative movement. Chip Saltsman is campaigning to become the chairman of the Republican party that represents that movement. In the environment in which we live, where Republicans are mis-portrayed as being racists, it is politically stupid to be needlessly associated with something that so clearly will be portrayed as racist. And heck, the parody in question didn't even make me laugh.

It is my sincere hope that Saltsman doesn't become the RNC Chairman. Not because he is racist (since I don't know whether or not he is), but simply because the last thing we need is more political stupidity in powerful places within the Republican party. If someone doesn't have the political sense to recognize a political time bomb waiting to explode, that's the last person we want chairing the Republican party.

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