Cliven Bundy Went "Off Script"? How Do You Figure?

There was an op-ed in The Dallas Morning News this week talking about the damage Republicans suffered when Cliven Bundy, the racist rancher from Nevada, "wandered off script."

Off script?

The real problem for Republicans is their belief, if it is sincere, that Cliven Bundy was ever anything but right on script. Did they think he was going to recite Shakespeare? I see parallels here with the story about Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and his bromance with an aging rock and roller who called the president of the United States a "subhuman mongrel" and has a history of vile misogynist remarks.

Every two weeks some Republican leader steps forward to say the party needs to reach out to minority and women voters, here in Texas and nationally. A day later, their top-of-the-ticket candidate in Texas embraces a guy who racially slurs the president of the United States and says stuff about women that would get him shot if he said it about your sister.

Then the next day the entire Foxoholic wing of the party rushes to embrace an old white dude in a cowboy hat with chaw juice in his creases who refuses to pay his bills to the federal government. Off script? Somebody actually thinks Ted Nugent or Cliven Bundy went off script?

Here's the joke, and it's not funny. The average progressive urban white, African-American, Latino, immigrant or anybody else who doesn't stay up all night watching Fox would have looked at Bundy from about 50 yards distance and before Bundy ever opened his mouth would have said, "Oh, I do hope that man won't open his mouth, because if he does you know he's going to come out in favor of slavery."

Bundy was totally and inevitably and inescapably right on script. Not an inch off. That's the point. And that's what sticks. When Fox-wing Republicans chance upon a Ted Nugent or a Cliven Bundy, there is an obvious burst of passion, an immediate coloring of the cheeks, a puckering of the lips. All of that lewd body language -- the outstretched arms, clutching fingers and jiggly hips -- says, "Oh, where have you been all my life, you great big wrinkly old racist white man, you?"

If through some terrible mischance a reporter is standing nearby when the old dude does open his mouth and does pour out the inevitable defense of slavery, sure, the Foxoids all run for cover ("Slavery alert! Slavery alert! All personnel report to your slavery shelters!"). But it's too late. Way too late. Everybody already saw the big smoocheroo about to happen, and, believe me, that is one smooch that will never fade from memory even with medication.

The smooch tells people what far-right Republicans really go for, what their gut passions are. All of the revisionism and the spin that come later are a waste of breath, although I guess it has to be done. When I try to put myself in the shoes of moderate mainstream Republicans -- Oh, wow, these are really nice shoes! Can I keep these? -- I understand that they have to speak out against their Foxoholic country cousins, and I guess I respect them for doing so.

But politics and voting, especially when you are trying to win over truly undecided voters, are less like a college lecture than a fiancee's first visit to meet the parents. It's all deeply visceral and personal. So, the undecided voter visiting the Republican family for the first time may tell himself or herself, "They seem like such nice people, maybe it's unfair to hold the old, racist, demented guy in the nasty hat against them." But then they're going to think, "Gosh, there he is, though, in those very unflattering swim trunks, right in the middle of the gene pool."

And there is also this: Apparently since he appeared publicly with the racist misogynist rocker, Abbott's stock has risen among Texas Republicans. So how different is one wing from the other, really? No matter what wing of the party they tell you they're from, they all do have that strong family resemblance, do they not? Around the eyes? Especially if there is to be drinking later on, your best bet is anything you can do not to remind them of a crazy old white person. You know about that script.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze