So when actress Stacey Dash comes out in support of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, it's all good. She's just another American exercising her free will, freedom of speech and intellectual independence, according to all the GOPers who rushed to commend her half-baked endorsement.
But now that retired general Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State under nation-wrecker George W. Bush, has thrown his support behind President Barack Obama again, suddenly the choruses about "free-thinking" black Americans come squealing to a halt.
No presumption of intellectual independence for old Colin. No defense of his right to think for himself. No cheering him on for breaking ranks (same as he did in '04) with the party he's served loyally for decades.
Nope. Powell, to let right-wing kooks like Romney-campaign attack dog John Sununu tell it, is only voting for Barack Obama because both men are black.
Speaking yesterday on CNN, Sununu moronically reduced Powell's thoughtful and serious endorsement to some knee-jerk exhibition of racial cheerleading.
Sununu: Well, I'm not sure how important that is. I do like the fact that Colin Powell's boss, George Herbert Walker Bush, has endorsed Mitt Romney all along. And frankly, when you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that's an endorsement based on issues or whether he's got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.
Morgan: What reason would that be?
Sununu: Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.
As Republicans have spent a lot of time doing this election season, Sununu tried half-heartedly to walk his comment back afterward, but by then social media and the airwaves were all abuzz about his statement. I have no doubt that that buzz is exactly what Sununu and his paymasters in the Romney camp were hoping for.
This has, of course, increasingly become the GOP's bipolar tack in the Age of Obama: Utter all manner of strange and racist (not to mention sexist and classist) bile and then look to walk it all back with the classic non-apology while still winking slyly to "the base."
And it dovetails quite nicely, of course, with the myth that says that black people are only politically "independent" when they're supporting crazy right-wing positions and politicians, a myth that plenty of far-right black thinkers have perpetuated themselves. Cats like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas and Walter Williams have successfully pimped this myth for years, as have lesser lights like Alan Keyes, Armstrong Williams and Ron Christie. More recently, failed Dems like Artur Davis have also climbed aboard this gravy train.
Now, I can't say whether the Sowells and Thomases of the world actually believe the bullshit they shill to their Republican colleagues on the lecture circuit and book tours. But they get over nonetheless, casting themselves as fierce intellectual rogues willing to break from the "liberal plantation" for a few dollars more.
Gen. Powell has never pimped his Republicanism, as far as I can tell. (Which isn't to say he didn't do some foul shit in service of GW Bush because he did.) He's never tried to get over on demonizing liberal African-Americans or pretending as though being a black conservative gives him any special "insight" into the dynamics of race and power in this country. He's always been a moderate, a man whose shown the ability to balance a conservative approach to foreign policy with a cold-eyed realism about social ills domestically. Like millions of patriotic people of color who know well the sting of American racism, Colin Powell has shown deep love for his country without making any excuses for its shortcomings.
Remember, even before Obama's election, Powell was considered by some in the Republican establishment to be a prime candidate to become the first black president.
But then we actually got one. And Colin Powell had the audacity to support him. Now, it seems, Powell is no longer the man the righties loved so much when he was lying about WMDs. He's no longer seen as the great American warrior, the credible global statesman, the thoughtful and self-made success whose very life was a testament to the transformative power of a nation.
As far as Powell is concerned, the GOP myth of the "independent" black conservative no longer applies. In its stead now stands just one more crude, racist stereotype.