Making the bigotry more transparent

MAKING THE BIGOTRY MORE TRANSPARENT…. That the far-right would go after Rep. Rep. Keith Ellison (D) in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district is not surprising. Ellison is one of Congress’ leading progressives, and it stands to reason conservatives would love to defeat him.

More relevant, though, is how the right shapes its message. Jamil Smith highlights a message distributed over the weekend by Tea Party Nation, touting its support for Ellison’s GOP challenger, Lynne Torgeson. Here’s the far-right group’s message:

There are a lot of liberals who need to be retired this year, but there are few I can think of more deserving than Keith Ellison. Ellison is one of the most radical members of congress. He has a ZERO rating from the American Conservative Union. He is the only Muslim member of congress. He supports the Counsel [sic] for American Islamic Relations, HAMAS and has helped congress send millions of tax [sic] to terrorists in Gaza. [emphasis added]

As a factual matter, a great deal of this is wrong, or at least misleading. That last line was especially amusing — if the U.S. government sends aid into Israel, which in turn benefits people in Gaza, and Keith Ellison voted with congressional majorities on the spending bills, so he necessarily has “helped congress send millions of tax to terrorists.”

But it’s that italicized line that’s of particular interest. For Tea Party Nation, the incumbent congressman deserves to lose because he’s “the only Muslim” lawmaker on the Hill. First, that’s simply wrong — Rep. Andre Carson (D) of Indiana is also Muslim. But putting sloppy errors aside, what difference does Ellison’s religion make?

We’ve reached the point in some conservative circles that simply identifying someone as Muslim is an insult. Or in the case of Tea Party Nation, a disqualifier for congressional service.

The 2010 cycle will be known for a lot of things, but the use of overt bigotry on the right shouldn’t be overlooked as of the key components of the elections.

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Steve Benen

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.