An Authentic Asshole

Allen turns away and spits a long brown streak of saliva into the dirt, just missing one of his constituents, a carefully put-together, blonde, ponytailed woman approaching the senator for an autograph. She stops in her tracks and stares with disgust at the bubbly tobacco juice that almost landed on her feet. Without missing a beat, Allen's communications director, John Reid, reassures her: "That's just authenticity!"

— From Ryan Lizza’s TNR profile of Senator George Allen, R-VA, presumptive GOP presidential candidate


The article is called “George Allen’s Race Problem,” but it reveals a lot more than that. Allen’s not just an unapologetic racist (although, like all those like him, he won’t apologize for his racism, but he’ll certainly perform all sorts of contortions of logic to justify it); he’s also a sadistic bastard.

Allen is the oldest child of legendary football coach George Herbert Allen, and, when his father was on the road, young George often acted as a surrogate dad to his siblings. According to his sister Jennifer, he was particularly strict about bedtimes. One night, his brother Bruce stayed up past his bedtime. George threw him through a sliding glass door. For the same offense, on a different occasion, George tackled his brother Gregory and broke his collarbone. When Jennifer broke her bedtime curfew, George dragged her upstairs by her hair.

George tormented Jennifer enough that, when she grew up, she wrote a memoir of what it was like living in the Allen family. In one sense, the book, Fifth Quarter, from which these details are culled, is unprecedented. No modern presidential candidate has ever had such a harsh and personal account of his life delivered to the public by a close family member. The book paints Allen as a cartoonishly sadistic older brother who holds Jennifer by her feet over Niagara Falls on a family trip (instilling in her a lifelong fear of heights) and slams a pool cue into her new boyfriend's head. "George hoped someday to become a dentist," she writes. "George said he saw dentistry as a perfect profession--getting paid to make people suffer."
Allen dismissed his sister’s book by saying, “It's the perspective of the youngest child, who is a girl.” So, apparently we can add sexist to the list of his defining characteristics.

And as for the accusations of having a “race problem,” which seems an undeservedly nice way to describe these particular predilections, Allen—whose father was Midwestern, mother was French, and grew up himself all over the country as the fortunate son of a football coach—claims he simply has a fascination with the South and the West, which he uses to explain the Confederate flag he used to display in his living room (“part of a flag collection”), the Confederate flag pin he wore in a yearbook photo (“It could be some sort of prank, or one of our rebellious--we would do different things. But I remember we liked Texas.”), and the Confederate flag pinned to his Mustang as a young man, which he doesn’t remember but acknowledges “is possible.” You know, because he liked Texas—and “generally bucked authority and the rebel flag was just a way to express that attitude.”

Allen was also discovered, along with some of his friends, to have spray-painted graffiti on schoolgrounds the day before his “almost entirely white Palos Verdes High” was set to play “a major basketball game” against mostly-black Morningside High. The graffiti was “racially tinged and meant to look like the handiwork of the black Morningside students.” Clever Allen and his cohorts used phrases like “Die Whitey” and “Burn, Baby, Burn” to try to implicate Morningside students as racists. Allen recalls the incident differently and says it had nothing to do with race, but even a “school administrator, who says he is a Republican and would ‘seriously consider’ voting for Allen for president” describes the graffiti as racist.

His career as a legislator has been spotty as well.

In 1984, he was one of 27 House members to vote against a state holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, "Allen said the state shouldn't honor a non-Virginian with his own holiday." He was also bothered by the fact that the proposed holiday would fall on the day set aside in Virginia to honor Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. That same year, he did feel the urge to honor one of Virginia's own. He co-sponsored a resolution expressing "regret and sorrow upon the loss" of William Munford Tuck, a politician who opposed every piece of civil rights legislation while in Congress during the 1950s and 1960s and promised "massive resistance" to the Supreme Court's 1954 decision banning segregation.
Lizza says that “None of this means Allen is a racist, of course. He is certainly not the same guy today that he was in the '80s,” but in spite of his protestations that he is a changed man—going on a civil rights pilgrimage, championing anti-lynching legislation, visiting the Holocaust Museum, and bonding with a former Black Panther over football—what I never saw in the article was an apology.

On the Confederate flag in his living room: “I have a flag collection.” On the noose hanging in his office: “It had nothing to do with anything other than the Western motif in my office.” On his teenage “prank”: “It was something like ‘Eat Crap’ or something like that. ‘Your School Sucks’ and so forth. It wasn't racial.”

“Life is a learning experience,” Allen says. One would assume if he’s learned anything of real value, he’d stop making excuses for his racist past.

Is this really one of the best the GOP has to offer? Can we legitimately expect better from Allen than from the rest of the GOP, which has endeavored to inflame hatred throughout their tenure as the majority party? Mike the Mad Biologist, who gets the hat tip, asks, “Can we please have presidential candidates who are not psychological basketcases? … Is it possible for the Republicans to nominate someone who is not cracked in the head?”

And, you know, that’s a really good question.

Even the so-called maverick McCain is aligning himself with the likes of Jerry Falwell and George Wallace, Jr. Perhaps it really isn’t possible for the GOP to nominate someone who doesn’t have racist, sexist, and homophobic tendencies because they have become so reliant on racists, sexists, and homobigots to put them in office. Could the GOP win with a candidate who wasn’t “cracked in the head”? Probably not. What makes Allen our worst nightmare also makes him the perfect GOP candidate.

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