Members of both political parties use sharp elbows to rough up and discredit the opposition, but the media are supposed to call “foul” on the worst abuses. But when the media are ideologically opposed to conservatives — especially minority conservatives — the abuses sometimes get lost in the shuffle.
Take what happened last week to New Hampshire state representative Marilinda Garcia, who announced she would challenge incumbent Democratic representative Annie Kuster in a highly competitive district that has switched party control in three of the last four elections.
Democrats were clearly rattled by the 30-year-old Garcia’s entry. Democratic-party communications director Harrell Kirstein said she would inevitably be part of a “reckless race to pander to the same extreme right fringe of the Republican Party that forced the federal government shutdown.” He called her a “loyal rubber-stamp” for the “irresponsible” agenda of former GOP house speaker Bill O’Brien.
Tough but in bounds.
But then prominent Democratic state representative Peter Sullivan, a self-described leader of the legislature’s “progressive” bloc, entered the picture. Using his Twitter account, he compared her unfavorably to O’Brien and conservative state representative Al Baldasaro this way:
She’s Al Baldassaro [Sullivan misspelled his name] in stiletto heels, a lightweight and O’Brien clone.
Bill O’Brien + Kim Kardashian = Marilinda Garcia
She is a right-wing, homophobic, anti-worker shill for the Koch Brothers.
Sullivan’s sexist comments drew fire from some blogs. Twitchy.com noted that describing Garcia as a male lawmaker in “in stiletto heels” suggests she’s merely masquerading as a woman and that Sullivan, with the Kardashian comparison, was “not-so-subtly tying Garcia to a woman who rose to fame as the star of a sex tape.” GOP state representative Jane Cormier said her Democratic colleague “owed all women an apology for bringing sexist and demonizing remarks into the political process here in NH.”
Garcia has a “pretty significant political résumé,” Cormier pointed out. She was elected for the first time in 2006 and currently serves on the House Finance Committee. Previously, she served as co-chair of a House caucus and as a majority whip. In 2010, she received a master’s of public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. As an accomplished harp player, she is an adjunct professor of music at several universities.
Her sin in the eyes of progressives is that she is both an economic and a social conservative. She told Katie Pavlich of Townhall magazine in 2011 that she doesn’t think you can separate those two aspects of conservatism and that she expects “to be able to preserve limited government and basically individual freedom.” Those who don’t have a strong family structure or community support system logically turn to the government for help, she added.
There was virtually no media coverage of Sullivan’s sexist smears inside New Hampshire, much less nationally. If a Hispanic woman who was a Democrat or progressive had been similarly attacked, you can bet it would have been on a continuous loop at MSNBC, much as that network ran footage of the moment when GOP senator Marco Rubio took a sip of water during his response to President Obama’s State of the Union message earlier this year. MSNBC replayed what it called Rubio’s “Watergate” a mind-numbing 155 times in the 24 hours following the incident — an average of six times per hour. Hmmm. It’s almost as if liberals were desperate to discredit a Hispanic GOP political star who might run for president someday.
The lack of media attention may explain Sullivan’s reaction when some onlookers criticized his slurs — he refused to apologize to Garcia and doubled down:
After careful consideration, I want to apologize to Kim Kardashian for comparing her to a right-wing extremist like Marilinda Garcia.
He then closed his Twitter account to anyone outside his approved social circle. Representative Kuster, Garcia’s Democratic opponent, has taken advantage of the lack of media coverage and ignored calls for her to repudiate Sullivan’s remarks.
Progressives often reserve their deepest hostility for conservative minorities such as Garcia because they are a threat to the notion that minorities should only think and vote only like leftists. As former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Justice Clarence Thomas, and former representative J. C. Watts can attest, people on the left reserve their harshest and most personal attacks for minorities who have the audacity to wander off the ideological plantation.
Take the case of Miguel Estrada, a 39-year-old Honduran immigrant, who was appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bush in 2001. That’s the same court that was at the heart of the Democratic Senate’s decision last week to end the right to filibuster appellate-court nominees — a decision Democrats made in anger at Republican delays in confirming three of President Obama’s nominees. But Democrats in 2001 thought the filibuster was just dandy when they used it to hold Estrada in legal limbo for 28 months until he finally withdrew from consideration.
In leaked memos, Democrats made clear they were moved to filibuster Estrada’s nomination out of fear he would be appointed to the Supreme Court and become the nation’s first Hispanic justice. Democratic talking points written for Senator Ted Kennedy to deliver to the Democratic caucus said, “We can’t repeat the mistake we made with Clarence Thomas.” A staff memo written for Senator Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) noted that civil-rights groups had identified Estrada “as especially dangerous because he has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment.” The note added that civil-rights groups “want to hold Estrada off as long as possible.”
Democrats also played the affirmative-action card, claiming that Republicans were supporting Estrada only for his ethnic background, ignoring his sterling credentials and the fact that four Democrats, including top Al Gore aide Ron Klain, who had worked with Estrada during his time as a career lawyer in the Clinton Justice Department, sang his praises. Democrats ignored the American Bar Association’s unanimous finding that Estrada deserved its highest rating — the same ABA that Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy had once called the “gold standard by which judicial candidates have been judged.”
But Democrats persisted in the affirmative-action meme. Michel Martin, a National Public Radio host debating columnist George Will on ABC in 2003, put it this way: “He is an affirmative-action candidate as practiced by the Republican party and the conservative movement.” Will’s withering response was “Michel, affirmative action, in the [University of] Michigan [racial-quota] style, would be to give Estrada 20 extra points. He didn’t get that. He got the highest possible rating by the ABA.”
As soon as Estrada was sidelined in 2003, Democrats turned to the Borking of Janice Rogers Brown, a member of the California Supreme Court whom George W. Bush had also appointed to the D.C. Circuit. Democrats accused her of being insensitive to victims of rape, housing discrimination, age discrimination, and even racial discrimination. Luckily, she was able to overcome the attempts to filibuster her nomination and was finally confirmed.
But for every Janice Rogers Brown or Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz who overcomes the attempt of Democrats to belittle them and declare them an “inauthentic” example of a successful minority, there are many others who are defeated, become discouraged, or simply give up the notion of a career in public life. Liberals’ hazing of conservative minorities is the kind of tactic that liberals decry at the slightest attack mounted against one of their own. In the upcoming election, let’s have a debate over which ideology is really the enemy of diversity and tolerance, both intellectual and otherwise.
— John Fund is national-affairs columnist for National Review Online.