HOUSE, SENATE REPUBLICANS LATCH ONTO NBPP GARBAGE…. Several congressional Republicans have said they would use their power, in the event of a new GOP majority on the Hill, to go after the Obama administration relentlessly. Threats of endless subpoenas and hearings aren’t just bluster; they’re what we could expect from a right-wing congressional majority.

But what would Republicans actually look into? Take a wild guess.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have requested a hearing to investigate alleged racial bias within the Department of Justice, according to a letter sent Friday to committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

The request came in relation to a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party that was first prosecuted as a civil action in January 2009, then dismissed for two of the three defendants the following May. An injunction was issued for the last defendant.

House Judiciary Republicans also moved for further investigation on Thursday, urging President Obama in a letter to direct Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor for the case.

This is hopelessly insane. There’s just no way around this simple fact. The NBPP “controversy” is complete and utter garbage, a detail even many conservatives are willing to concede.

Judiciary Committee Republicans, I’m willing to bet, know this. They know the Bush Justice Department dismissed the issue as pointless; they know no one was prevented from voting or felt intimidated at that Philly precinct; they know that the New Black Panther Party didn’t even support Obama.

But these congressional Republicans pursue transparent garbage like this for one reason: to stoke the fires of racial resentment. That’s why Fox News has been obsessed with this story; it’s why Senate Republicans want hearings; and it’s why House Republicans want a special prosecutor. The desire to make white voters afraid is as obvious as it is shameless as it is ugly.

Republicans have worked to undermine the country in a wide variety of ways over the last 18 months, but deliberately trying to scare whites into fearing blacks with a trumped up story is arguably the most loathsome move yet.

Commenting on conservative media’s interest in the NBPP story recently, Jon Chait noted, “What you’re starting to see from Fox News now, though, is the most widespread and mainstream right-wing effort to exploit racial fears against Obama…. There has been a great deal of right-wing insanity unleashed over the last year and a half, but this is the first time that the fear has an explicitly racial cast. You now have the largest organ of movement conservatism promoting Limbaugh’s idee fixe that the Obama administration represents black America’s historical revenge against whites.”

And now notice the next step. From Limbaugh … to Fox News … to the Republican base … to House Republicans … to Senate Republicans. This is the pattern that will dominate American politics in 2011 and 2012 if there’s a GOP majority on the Hill.

(Note, these same Republican lawmakers saw no need for a single hearing when it came to the Plame scandal, Scooter Libby and his get-out-of-jail-free card, the warrantless-wiretap scandal, the torture memos, the purge of U.S. Attorneys for political reasons, the no-bid Halliburton contracts, the cost estimates of Medicare Part D deliberately hidden from Congress, Interior Department officials literally in bed with oil company officials, the pundits paid to toe the administration’s line in the media without disclosure, the probably illegal fake-news segments the administration created to run on local news outlets without disclosure, the misuse of “faith-based” grants to help Republican congressional candidates, and Karl Rove’s campaign “briefings” to federal offices in violation of the Hatch Act. But the NBPP story? That’s worth investigating.)

I should be past the point of getting surprised, but this is disgusting — and Republicans know it. I know RNC Chairman Michael Steele recently conceded his party relied on a racially-divisive “Southern Strategy” for at least four decades, but the sooner the public realizes that these same tactics haven’t gone away, the better.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.