Is calling Brown ‘unqualified’ racist?

If this doesn’t make the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy turn over in his grave, then what will? A Republican filling his U.S. Senate seat?

This has got to be a sure sign the apocalypse is upon us. A Republican in the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts?

The state so blue it’s been called the “People’s Republic of Massachusetts”? The state where elected officials play it so footloose and fancy free with public funds that its nickname is Taxachusetts?

Ah, these are, indeed, strange times in which we live. A Republican getting elected to anything in Massachusetts is something I thought I’d never live to see.

I’ve taught a writing course at Johns Hopkins University since 1996. Through the years, I’ve had more than a fair share of students from Massachusetts take the course. There was nary a conservative or Republican in the bunch. In fact, nearly all expressed disdain for conservatives and Republicans.

“I’ve never voted for a Republican in my life,” one wrote last semester, “and I probably never will.”

The notion of a two-party system barely exists in Massachusetts. (It doesn’t in at least four Maryland subdivisions either: Prince George’s, Montgomery and Howard counties, and Baltimore.) So how did Republican Scott Brown win a U.S. Senate seat? Why is the man Keith Olbermann called an “irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, tea-bagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees” soon to sit in Kennedy’s seat?

I have a couple theories. The first involves Mr. Olbermann, to whom I’ll give a word of advice: The ad hominem attack apparently is played out, even in Taxachusetts.

Some voters catch code words and phrases for what they really are. “Homophobic,” for example, doesn’t necessarily mean someone who’s bigoted against lesbians and gays. It also means “does not genuflect when the issue of gay rights is mentioned.”

Racist means “someone who dares to utter uncomfortable truths about race I don’t particularly like.” It’s a definition akin to Ambrose Bierce’s brilliant definition of bigot, which he wrote in the 19th century but applies more aptly to the America of this one:

“One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.”

The ex-nude model thing? I would think liberals would be in favor of that, not against it. There was something else Olbermann said that explains why Brown won the election. It has to do with that matter of qualifications.

“In any other time in our history,” Olbermann said, “this man would have been laughed off the stage as unqualified and a disaster in the making by the most conservative of conservatives. Instead, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is close to sending this bad joke to the Senate of the United States.”

Surely voters in Massachusetts saw the irony — and the hypocrisy — of a supporter of President Barack Obama dredging up the matter of qualifications. If anyone should have been “laughed off the stage” as unqualified to even run for, much less be elected, president of the United States, that would have been one Barack Obama.

He had no executive experience. His sole political experience — before his two meager years as a U.S. senator — was as a state senator in Illinois.

A white guy with those presidential credentials surely would have been laughed off the stage if he’d dared to run. Olbermann said, ranting against the alleged racism of the “tea baggers.” It’s time conservatives talked about the racism of whites who voted for Obama but would never have dreamed of voting for a white candidate with the same “qualifications.”

Long story short: Maybe some Massachusetts voters felt that if voting for an unqualified candidate was good enough for Obama, then it was sure as heck good enough for Brown.

My second theory? Brown is a “pro-choice” Republican. Yes, they do exist.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a pro-choice Republican, as is former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich is a pro-choice Republican. Brown’s being pro-choice probably didn’t hurt him with Massachusetts’ liberal voters, but on the matter of Roe v. Wade, I have a question for him and other Republicans who have no problem with that Supreme Court decision.

The issue in Roe wasn’t choice; it was naked, crass, callous abuse of power by the federal judiciary. Don’t you, as a Republican, have just a little bit of a problem with that?

Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to Sudan.

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