Opinion: Barack the magic negro

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Ever since Chip Saltsman, a candidate for Republican National Committee chairman, circulated a CD with a parody on it called ‘Barack the Magic Negro,’ Republicans, pundits and more Republicans have been debating whether Saltsman’s move was racist, racially insensitive, dumb or just a good ole boy’s idea of clean fun.

Is the song, which has a white man posing as Al Sharpton singing along to the tune of ‘Puff the Magic Dragon,’ racist? Is it lampooning white liberal guilt and mocking other black leaders’ supposed jealousy of Obama? Honestly, who cares? Rush Limbaugh referred to or played that song a bunch of times on his show and Barack Obama still won the election. Black punditry has hardly commented on this most recent flap; they’re too busy picking out inaugural outfits.


But Saltsman still deserves to be raked over the coals. Not for anything to do with Obama, per se, but for campaigning with cultural references that are decades out of date.

‘Puff the Magic Dragon?’ You’ve got to be kidding. Was he on another planet Nov. 4? Did he miss how Republicans lost 66% of the vote of people age 30 and under? Thirty-year-olds weren’t even born when Peter, Paul and Mary’s hit came out in 1963. Sure Limbaugh used the parody and his crowd loved it, but the average Limbaugh listener is 51. Then there’s the parody itself and the faux Sharpton. Sure the Rev. deserves the disdain and disapprobation he earned for his outrageous behavior during the Tawana Brawley case, but that happened in 1987. The World Wide Web wasn’t even invented then, which means young people have never heard of it. To them, Sharpton is just that black guy from New York with the funny hair.

It’s a given that Republicans are done trying to appeal to black voters, but are they really ready to give up everyone else who isn’t white? Because if not, here’s the thing: it’s not much of a stretch for Latinos and Asians -- who also voted overwhelmingly for Obama -- to imagine how a president-elect of their ethnicity also could be the target of such lighthearted Republican fun. ‘Mike the Magic Jap” and “Maria the Magic Mexican” probably wouldn’t go over that well either.

It just goes to show that spanking is ineffective discipline. If it worked Saltsman would have learned from the party’s its electoral walloping last month. By 365 to 175 electoral votes, Americans demonstrated that they want political leaders who are in tune with the themes of the current day, not the Billboard hits of 1960s.

UPDATE: An astute reader pointed out that Obama won by a larger electoral-vote margin than our post claimed. The correct total was 365 to 173.

Los Angeles Times photo