Saturday, June 11, 2005

Nebraska Democratic Party Blog

Sometimes we bloggers may feel that no one is paying any attention to what we say. Other times we may wish that were the case. Barry Rubin, the excectutive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party, stirred up quite a kerfuffle with a post on the Nebraska Democratic Party Blog. In the post Rubin referred to Douglas County Election Commissioner Carlos Castillo as a "Tio Tomas" (i.e. a Spanish rendition of "Uncle Tom"), cleverly mixing black racism and Hispanic racism in one, concise epithet.

At least one reader didn't find that amusing or appropriate, and before you could say MSM, it was all over the news. Kyle at New Nebraska Network has a rundown on who said what. Kyle believes the "outrage" expressed by Nebraska Republicans is overblown:
"All in all, referring to anyone as an Uncle Tom, as a traitor to his or her people - be it in Spanish, English, French or Farsi - is a highly offensive accusation that should not be tossed around lightly. But, it's more than a stretch to claim this as a racial slur. Simply making reference to a person's ethnicity, even in an attempt at being clever, can not and should not be considered offensive in and of itself."
In a way Kyle is right. Considering the venom that regularly spews from the maws of national Democratic Party "leaders" such as Howard Dean, Hilary Rodham Clinton, Harry Ried, Robert Byrd, Al Gore, and Charles Rangel, Rubin's remark seems almost quaintly charming. It is most noteworthy for displaying that peculiar, unspoken idea of Democrats that the votes of blacks and Hispanics automatically belong to the Democratic Party.

Yesterday, Rubin bowed to the inevitable and appologized to Castillo, by proxy since Castillo would not take his call:
Lincoln Journal Star Online: "The executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party apologized Friday to Douglas County Election Commissioner Carlos Castillo for a Web site posting that Castillo labeled 'a racial slur.'

Barry Rubin said he phoned Castillo to 'offer my apology for offending him.'The posting on a Democratic blog on the party's Web site referred to Castillo as 'Tio Tomas,' or Uncle Tom, for allegedly making it difficult for the predominantly African-American minority population in north Omaha to cast votes in the 2004 presidential election.

'I want to extend my apology to each and every person who was offended by my comments,' Rubin said in a news release."
In the aftermath of this affair the entire Nebraska Democratic Party Blog now consists of a single post by Rubin, dated June 9. Evidently, there was a decision to wipe the record clean, and one can't help but wonder why.

It would be a shame if this signals the end of the blog. Kyle's analysis is good:
"Achelpohl had something of a point about this being posted on a blog and not in a general press release. They are different creatures as the internet demands more openness and less holding-back if people are going to give a damn. Rubin was right to be passionate in this format but will need to be more careful with his words in the future.

Honestly, though, the biggest disappointment from the whole incident is actually the NDP's removal of Rubin's post from the blog archives. It reeks of having something to hide and covering their tracks rather than properly acknowledging and apologizing for any over-statement as an addendum to the original post, allowing people to vent and see for themselves what this mess was all about. Such action would have been more in keeping with the idealist spirit of the blog, as well as the committment to a new, more open and honest relationship with the people of Nebraska that it represents."
We agree.

UPDATE 6/13: Heath at the NDP points out in a comment that the blog has moved from Blogger to a new site here. That url is provided in Rubin's post on the Blogger site, and the new site does apparently have many of the older posts on it. This site also has a note of appology from Rubin. As far as I can tell, it does not have the original post that caused the furor.

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