Meet Keith Ellison, he belongs to The Nation of Islam and he's running for the US Congress but Middle America is scared of him!
By Rev Rahelio Soleil
Minnesota House Representative Keith Ellison's short-term goal is a simple one: He intends to make history by becoming America's first Muslim progressive to enter Congress.
But, he knows the pathway to history is complicated and politically treacherous.
Not only does Ellison have to fend off the racial and religious prejudice so typical of the Republican opposition, he also has to fight through the internal cynicism and opportunism of fellow Democrats on a mission to nuetralize his party endorsement.
“My faith informs me. My faith helps me to remember to be gentle, kind, considerate, fair, respectful,” he said. “But I don’t make my faith something that other people have to deal with.” - Keith Ellison to the Hill News
From the moment he was endorsed, Republican net-geeks started blogging innuendo, rumors, and half-truths about his Nation of Islam activism over a decade ago.
Ellison canvassing with his supporters
A Republican operative and paid hatchet man named Michael took the whisper bait into the blogstream, hammering out one racially charged slander piece after another. He conducted a poll asking if Ellison's former ties to NOI would hurt Twin Cities efforts to bring the Republican and Democrat national conventions to the Twin Cities.
He obsessed about Ellison's statements on reparations and land for blacks. He spent days posting about race, religion, and anything but Ellison as he is today, an official with a legislative record we all can review.
And now, Katherine Kersten, another Republican operative who writes a naked republican talking points column for the Star Tribune has followed suit. "Let us not forget Ellison's support of Nation of Islam," she reminds us.
Imagine that a Republican seeks his party's endorsement for the U.S. House of Representatives, despite having been allied with a white supremacist organization just a decade earlier.
Imagine that this candidate had once sarcastically proposed setting aside certain states for white citizens and had shared a stage with a speaker known for excoriating Jews as "bloodsuckers."
Kersten's premise means to point out the proverbial double-standard alleged of lefties when the race issue arises. Republicans are called racists but Democrats are allegedly given a free ride.
Let's test her idea. Let's imagine that a Republican with ties to a white supremacist group sought the GOP endorsement. What would happen?
In 1994, 2000, and 2006 Trent Lott has sought the GOP endorsement, even though he has been tied to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a hate group that advocates against race mixing, denies the holocaust, and distributes anti-minority psuedo-science.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has the GOP endorsement this year even though last year he went public with his ties to the bigoted, and discredited, Paul Cameron.
And, for a more subtle connection of republicans to racist power, just consider the memo that went out from Washington to every republican governor. It basically instructed all of them to quickly make an issue of immigration, because, after all, nothing motivates republicans to the polls like a brown scare.
Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota's governor, took the orders and promptly went into action. He introduced several high profile measures intended to "crack down" on illegal immigration.
Pawlenty suggested Tuesday that polling by his campaign had confirmed what he said is obvious to anyone in Minnesota who isn't "living under a rock" -- that illegal immigration is a serious issue for much of the public. He added, however, that neither the governor's office nor the campaign had run polls on his specific proposals.
Others, however, disputed the depth of public concern over immigration and branded the initiative part of a poll-driven nationwide Republican election strategy.
"Evidently the governor and the White House are planning on using wedge issues again," DFL state chair Brian Melendez said in a news release. "Last cycle, it was gay marriage. This year, it's immigration. You can campaign on these issues, but you can't govern on them." - Star Tribune
Not only can Republicans win their party's endorsement by appealing to bigotry, it is a winning strategy that most of them have learned.
Take for instance, Michelle Bachman. Her claim to Republican fame is her fight against gay rights in the form of a constitutional amendment. The thrust of her energy is aimed at defeating the rights of an entire group of people, basically stating, through actions, that gay Americans deserve second class citizenship.
The basis of her hatred? Christianity.
But, in America, it is ok to hate a segment of society as long as you do it from the proper religion. Hating for Christ is better than hating for Allah.
As a legislator Ellison has never made a step in the hateful direction. He's been downright mainstream. He has championed the rights of the vulnerable and oppressed. He isn't running on a platform against gays, against minorities, against the poor, against everyone except white middle and upper class recipients of corporate dividends.
His opposition is running on that ticket, yet they have nerve enough to accuse him of hate.
In the early 1990s Ellison, like many black Americans, was fed up and seeking new ways of black empowerment. In the aftermath of the Los Angeles riots this sentiment was particularly strong. Eventually, Louis Farrakhan announced a "million man march" for black men across America to come together for a "day of atonement."
Ellison, like many of us, was drawn to the idea that it was time to do something to better ourselves - by any means necessary. The event, by design, was not a Nation of Islam ceremony because the majority of black men are not muslim, not politically affiliated, and not reading Final Call.
So, here are the crimes Ellison committed against the gods of white sanctimony:
He organized the Minnesota chapter for the Million Man March, wrote an article suggesting that "liberal social programs" had not worked and giving blacks land of their own would be better, and as an attorney he represented clients who were criminals.
Whether or not you believe these things rise to the level of high crimes, to be compared with invading a country, killing it's people, and transferring its wealth to cronies at Haliburtons - that isn't the point.
The point is that these supposed transgressions occured over a decade ago.
What is being ignored in this slander-fest is Ellison's public record as a State Representative.
As Republican strategists and democratic traitors attempt to scare the public with the radical negro boogeyman, the record reflects a man closer to Paul Wellstone than Marcus Garvey.
His time has been devoted to protecting voting rights, reducing child harm from lead poisoning, curbing prostitution, providing re-entry opportunities for ex-offenders, and ensuring health insurance for those who go without it.
How racist is that?
With each day the water torture of "Ellison's past" comes from several directions. The Republicans are loving it. His Democrat opponents who are running against the party endorsement seem to be participating.
And, even the so-called liberal media is furthering the damage. Even though Ellison has done everything possible to satiate the concerns of voters, even going so far as arranging a visit to Israel, the finger waggers continue to tsk, tsk, tsk.
It's fortunate for Representative Ellison that he has the true grassroots support of the Wellstone camp. The got him to where he is today, and with that progressive calling card, the effects of conservative angst or corporate old school democrats will serve to fuel a victory, not a defeat.
Like most of us there's a story to who we were before we got on the green bus, but that story doesn't revoke our ticket to ride, especially if our actions speak louder than our past.
At the end of the day Ellison's detractors will look foolish. For having cast him as the scary black Muslim rather than the fierce progressive that he is, we will have the last laugh as he erects a political record that pays tribute to Paul Wellstone even as his critics attempt to paint him as Bin Laden.
Rev Rahelio Soleil is a commentator on American politics. He blogs at American Hot Sausage.
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