Maybe you’ve seen the video circulating of state Senator Gene Jeffress praising Obamacare at a recent campaign event and blaming Arkansans’ widespread opposition to it on racism. But that wasn’t enough for him: Jeffress actually used a racial epithet (the “n word”) to make his point.
My initial reaction to Jeffress’s talk, which I posted on Facebook, was moderate and measured: I commented “Is this man clinically insane?” Once you see the video, you may share my reaction. First he says he “has no qualms” about Obamacare, as he starts up a stemwinder about how great the law is, saying “Arkansans deserve better, we can do better with our tax dollars.”
He then gets choked up while talking about his neighbor who died the day before. “I don’t know if he had insurance or not,” Jeffress said. This is worth a moment’s more thought than Jeffress apparently gave it: to recap, his neighbor has died the previous day and he really doesn’t know if he had insurance or not, but what is important here is the politicization of his death. Disturbing, to say the least.
Jeffress then explains how a lady at a campaign event in Monticello allegedly used the “n word” to express her disapproval of Obamacare. This is all too reminiscent of the incident in 2010 where Rep. Emanuel Cleaver accused a Tea Party member of spitting on him–motivated by racism, of course. One problem with Cleaver’s story: it never happened. Now, is it possible that some woman in Monticello used a deplorable slur when talking with Mr. Jeffress? Of course. But what a tremendous coincidence it is that political activists unerringly find bad (or even racist) bad behavior, but oddly enough there’s never anything recorded, and no media fingerprint, of the event.
Now, stop for a moment and imagine with me: What if a conservative legislator had used that word? In any context? Why, Max Brantley would be burning an elephant in effigy on the steps of the capitol and calling for removal from office! John Brummett would be columnizing about it for weeks. And Governor Beebe might call the candidate un-American! We are not talking about insignificant reactions here! These guys would absolutely lose it. This would be a big deal. But as it stands, Jeffress is a prominent Democrat, seeking a seat in Congress in the 4th District, so the outrage from state Democrats is nowhere to be found. Besides, there is much more serious news going on in the state, like that pesky toe-sucker! (Don’t worry, Brantley is on the case.)
There remains, however, one looming question: If Gene Jeffress is willing to use a racial slur and a story about his dead neighbor whose body hasn’t even cooled at a campaign event to score cheap political points, what will he do if (God forbid) he ever makes it to Washington? How far is he willing to go to prove his anti-racism? He’s already dropped the n-word. Perhaps he’ll wear a hoodie on the floor of the House? Or perhaps he could push a wheelchair down the steps of the House chamber with a grandma mannequin inside as an illustration of how conservatives want to kill old people by ‘ending Medicare?’ Maybe he could slaughter a crane at the podium to demonstrate how evil oil companies and the Koch brothers are killing animals? I’ll stop there before I give him any more ideas.
I’m not really sure what Gene Jeffress would do on the floor of Congress to draw attention to himself, but I hope I never have to find out. I’m sure the people of the 4th District are more than happy to send him out of the area, but it shouldn’t be to Washington–unless it’s Washington state. And in that case, he should definitely take his hoodie. I hear it rains a lot up there.