Let's get real. Carl Paladino is not an aberration or an outlier. About a third of the people in the country have racial attitudes resembling his, which they normally only share with close friends and family members or reveal in the relative anonymity of social media. Vulgar images and comments about the President and the First Lady, based on stubbornly persistent racial stereotypes, have been visible for some time to anyone who has looked, listened or read bumper stickers, bathroom graffiti, or Facebook and Twitter posts.
But for a school board member and state leader of the Trump campaign to express those ugly feelings so openly presents a challenge to the two-thirds of the country who do NOT share those views. What are you going to do about this? Are you going to accept such racist bile coming out of the shadows and deforming our public discourse? Or are you going to clamp down hard on those who express those sentiments and remove them from positions of influence?
This isn't about free speech in any conventional sense. Mister Paladino has every right to denounce the President's policies in the most emotional, even inflammatory, fashion. But to use eroticized and racialized animal imagery in wishing for his death, and doing even worse for the First Lady, crosses a line that no public official should be able to cross and still retain their job.
Such remarks are an incitement to civic violence. They make the society ungovernable.
But if the two-thirds of the nation decides to remain silent, we will head to that very dangerous place. This is a test of our national character.
So far, it looks like we might fail it.
With A Brooklyn Accent