And If You Re-Arrange the Letters in "Chris Coons," It Spells "Death to Whitey"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 20 2010 1:34 PM

And If You Re-Arrange the Letters in "Chris Coons," It Spells "Death to Whitey"

Jeffrey Lord, the Reagan administration veteran who argued that Shirley Sherrod's story that a relative was "lynched" was false because he was merely beaten to death, is out with my absolute favorite article about Delaware U.S. Senate candidate Chris Coons. It's a complicated, Rubicon -worthy web of associations making the argument that Coons's happy-sounding charity and anti-apartheid work in 1980s Africa was at the service of an organization -- the South African Council of Churches -- that adhered to "black liberation theology." A cynic might point out that blacks in 1980s South Africa were in need of some liberating, and that the red-baiting of the groups that ended up running the market-friendly Mandela/Mbeki administrations looks sort of stupid in retrospect. But a cynic hasn't read the Kairos Document!

The Kairos Document was issued by a group of black South Africantheologians in 1985 -- the year Chris Coons graduated from Amherst.It opposed apartheid -- again, all to the good. But the KairosDocument, which is said to have been mostly drafted by FrankChikane in his role at the Institute for Contextual Theology, wasmuch more than that. It was a fierce advocate of James Cone's BlackLiberation Theology... if socialism and liberation theology were "just," whatwas "unjust"? Said Kairos: "any kind of domination andexploitation by a capitalist minority." Thus, by the time Chris Coons thought it an excellent ideato volunteer for the South African Council of Churches -- andheaded to Africa to do just that -- the group's pro-Marxist,pro-socialist, anti-capitalist views were well ondisplay.


I've been saying for a week that these kinds of attacks on Coons fail a credibility test, because after his 1980s work he went into the private sector and then county government; there's not much to suggest he's a closet radical. There is, I guess, if you accept Lord's definition of radicalism and " liberation theology," which ensnares Elizabeth Warren ( "the Harvard Law School professor NewHampshire whom Senator Judd Gregg calls a 'social justice'advocate") later in the column. But it's tough to compare these guilt-by-association arguments and the tongue-in-cheek column he wrote in college to remarks Christine O'Donnell made on camera over 15 years.

More odd anti-Coons arguments? Stephen Spruiell's got 'em :

In a wave election year where voter sentiment is running stronglyagainst the Democratic party, Coons is the epitome of a partyapparatchik. When all signs were pointing toward Mike Castle’s beingthe Republican nominee, Coons was recruited by Democratic elders to runagainst him, and he gladly accepted the mission, despite its apparentfutility... Beau [Biden] was widely expected to run in 2010, but last January, followingthe Scott Brown stunner in Massachusetts, Biden fils announcedthat maybe this just wasn’t his year. The party needed someone else toget beaten by Castle, so — loyal party man that he is — Coons steppedup to take the fall.

You know who else this could describe? Scott Brown! After Mitt Romney and Andy Card passed on the race, Brown, a state senator, stepped up to challenge likely Democratic nominee Martha Coakley. A lot of people thought, at the time, that Brown was trying to run as good a race as possible to set himself up to win Coakley's office when she got to the Senate.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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