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Is This Goodbye, Harry? You Deserve a Plaque for Public Service

5 years ago
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I hope his prehistoric perspective and unfortunate choice of words regarding Mr. Obama's complexion and diction does not cost the majority leader his seat in the Senate. Despite a substantial war chest and significant pork power, the four-term lawmaker may not have another six-year tenure in his future. Nevadans are not wild about Harry in his current re-election campaign, and races are lost on far less than front-page indiscretions. The senator from Searchlight must wish he hadn't been so frank with reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann during the presidential election campaign.
Though he must certainly not think so, his gaffe did serve a higher social purpose. In the era of post-Obama racism, Mr. Reid's comments about "Negro dialect" gave a great many people in the country opportunity to again attempt a respectful and honest conversation about racial identity with members of races with whom they do not strictly identify.
In our sisterhood of uppity women, we've been chattering amongst ourselves for some time now about the difficulty good-hearted people have starting principled discussions about racial biases, stereotypes and misconceptions across ethnic lines. Lately, thanks to Reid's realpolitik summation of the then-candidate's minority cred, it's nice to see that a lot of other people are joining the discussion.
I'm not saying he deserves a medal (as Lynne Adrine noted, "Harry Reid did speak the truth, but inelegantly and incompletely."). Nevertheless he got people talking. With health care as its capstone, Senator Reid will surely have a respectable legislative legacy to validate whatever consultancies, lobbying contracts or board seats await him in retirement.
For my part, I appreciate at the sunset of his political career the flourish with which the majority leader once more demonstrated both the salutary effect of sunlight and the ever present reverberation of unintended consequences.

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