The GOP, Race and Ted Nugent: If you won’t Denounce Nazi Insults, What does that Say about You?

(By Juan Cole)

Musician Ted Nugent called President Barack Obama a ‘subhuman mongrel.’ He has not been denounced for this language by Greg Abbott, the Republican who wants to be the next governor of Texas, though Abbott brought Nugent along on two campaign appearances.

On Friday, Nugent “apologized” (though “not to president Obama”) for using the language insofar as it embarrassed other Republicans associated with him. That is, he did not actually apologize at all.

Sarah Palin said of Abbott, “if he’s good enough for Ted Nugent, he’s good enough for me!” Sen. Ted Cruz, quizzed on Nugent’s language, replied that he was sure that President Obama’s Hollywood friends had also said some extreme things.

Really, Ted? This comment is just “extreme”? And which liberal in the film industry has said anything like that?

The fact is that the Republican Party today has a problem with race. Not across the board, but it is there. The Party is is disproportionately made up of self-conceived white southerners with some white Midwesterners and westerners, allied with Wall Street big money. It has even lost the majority of Asian-Americans and Arab-Americans, and can’t get even a plurality of Latinos or more than a handful of African-Americans (traditionally Republicans before the 1970s) to vote for it. The Tea Party and other currents in the party often express white male rage about the rise of the minorities, and the party’s refusal to consider immigration reform is rooted in that rage.

Although a few Republican figures such as John McCain and Rand Paul have condemned Nugent, most have kept quiet, as has Abbott himself.

Mostly it is bad form to bring up the German National Socialists in contemporary political debate, to the point where there is a rule, “Godwin’s law,” that mentioning Nazism is a sign that an internet dispute has gone on too long. Godwin’s law did not specify that mentioning Nazism causes the mentioner to lose the debate; that was a principle put forward in 2007 by The Economist. In general, I agree, and discourage my commenters from resorting to Nazi analogies.

But in rare cases someone does or says something that is clearly Nazi in character (e.g. the Neo-Nazis themselves).

Calling an African-American politician “subhuman” and a “mongrel” is not ordinary everyday garden variety racism. Deploying stereotypes would be racism. As CNN’s Wolf Blitzer observed, this is Nazi terminology, and was applied by the Nazis to Jews.

The word “mongrel” (German ‘Mischling’) implies that there is something wrong with someone being of a mixed racial heritage. The Nazis believed that there are “races” (there aren’t), that races can be more or less “pure,” that some races are better than others (Teutons better than Slavs, e.g., with Africans and Semites at the bottom of the heap). They believed that there were some subhuman races, “Untermenschen.” They therefore held that it is wrong to allow a mixing of races. Hitler believed that Americans would be easy to defeat because we are a “mongrel people.”

Nugent’s phrase is straight from Mein Kampf. If Republicans such as Abbott and Palin won’t denounce this language, then the GOP has a much bigger race problem than even its most trenchant critics could have imagined.

Not only are people actually all mixed up, 5% of our genes are from the Neanderthals, a different species of the human genus! (Most Africans lack this heritage, since the mixing with Neanderthals happened in Eurasia after some homo sapiens sapiens left Africa around 70,000 years ago; but since some Eurasians wandered back down into Africa, some Africans do have Neanderthal heritage as well as Eurasian heritage). Since all contemporary human beings are descended from African progenitors who lived 120,000 to 200,000 years ago in South Africa, all of us have black ancestors. White skin is an adaptation to low ultraviolet ray levels in northern climes, since it produces vitamin D deficiency. (In South Africa, black skin protects against too high UV ray levels, which can damage fetuses). But humans couldn’t live up in northern Europe during the last glacial maximum, roughly the period 40,000 to 13,000 years ago. So the humans who went back into Europe at the end of the last big glaciation were black, and the desirability of lighter skin to let the UV rays through to fetuses for vitamin D production gradually selected for lighter and lighter skin. But as recently as 7,000 years ago, humans inhabiting Spain had black skin along with, sometimes, blue eyes.

Get over it, white supremacists. Great-grandma was African.

All Europeans probably have a common ancestor as recently as a thousand years ago. All Europeans have some recent Near Eastern and black African inheritance via Umayyad Spain, with its Berbers, Arabic-speakers, and soldiers and slaves from West Africa, not to mention an older inheritance from the Phoenicians. Archeologists found Chinese laborers in Rome 2000 years ago, and I guarantee you that all Europeans have some genetic inheritance from those guys, assuming they had children with other slaves. As genetic history develops as a discipline, we are finding people of African heritage in England, of European heritage in China, etc., etc.

Even Hitler had Sephardic Jewish ancestry from North Africa.

Americans don’t think that different peoples are better or worse one than the other. We don’t have a racial hierarchy. For one thing, we are too mixed up to understand ourselves as “racial” in the Nazi way. Our “Slavs” intermarried with our Teutons. None of them is more or less human, they’re all human at the same level. If we can only finally get rid of the stupid, invented category of “white” (pushed by Catholic Europeans who wanted to join the Protestant elite), we’ll be much better off.

President Obama is a typical American, not exceptional. But more, he is a typical human being.

Fox Cable News, a.k.a Republican Party Central, has largely declined to cover the Nugent scandal, and only Bernard Goldman has denounced the language he used.

If Greg Abbott won’t explicitly dissociate himself from Nugent, after publicly campaigning with him, then he doesn’t deserve to be governor of Texas, because he is behaving in an un-American way.

Nugent wraps himself in the flag, but lifting language from America’s greatest enemy is not patriotism. Millions of Americans risked their lives to fight this ideology. One of my uncles was at the Battle of the Bulge. This is not a case of a rocker acting out. It is treasonous.
Related video

CNN discusses Ted Nugent’s non-apology, and the Republican flack declines to denounce Nazi language, nor do any of them call it that

21 Responses

  1. Ted Nugent’s fried-brain logic apparently has its roots in some excessive consumption of illicit substances in the late 60’s. Check out his then group’s lyrics in Journey to the Center of the Mind, which feature theses pearls of wisdom:

    Take a ride to the land inside of your mind

    Beyond the seas of thought beyond the realm of what
    Across the streams of hopes and dreams where things are really not

    Come along if you care…

    But please realize you’ll probably be surprised
    For it’s the land unknown to man
    Where fantasy is fact
    So if you can, please understand
    You might not come back

    Come along if you care
    Come along if you dare
    Take a ride to the land inside and you’ll see

    How happy life could be if all of mankind
    Would take the time to journey to the center of the mind


    Clearly Ted has been living in a fantasy world of his own construction for a very long time. His willful departure from reality is consistent with the right’s approach to things over the last generation. Recall, for example, Reagan’s repeated characterization of the Contras as the “moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers,” the bogus link between Saddam and bin-Laden, the Bushies’ claim, regarding Iraq, that reality was what they said it was, and Cheney’s assertion that real men go to Teheran. All on journeys to the center of their minds.

    • I have come to think of Ted Nugent as another version of Ann Coulter, somebody who realizes that the only thing that separates him from fading completely into obscurity is the media frenzy that will be generated by his next outrageous, over-the-top comment.

  2. The upside of the re-emergence of racist talk in American discourse post 2008 is its unashamed explicitness. The foghorn not the dogwhistle is the political instrument of the 21st century.

    “Hitler gave racism a bad name: before Hitler everyone was a racist.” So a sardonic friend once remarked. We’re now very much post-post-Hitler. This is all part of the Great Transition, getting over the liberal oddities of the period 1930-1980 in US history.

  3. Hmmm, let’s see. We had the be-sainted Ronald Reagan coining the racist code word “Welfare Queen” in 1976. We had the toxic Lee Atwater exploit Willy Horton and the fear of black men raping white women in Bush’s 1988 campaign. This has been and continues to be followed by a myriad of efforts on the right to keep people of color from voting. Then there is the general hatred in the GOP of the Other – GBLTs, women, and anyone from the global south – and their sustained efforts to block full civil, economic, and political rights for anyone who doesn’t look or act quite right or in accordance to their extremely narrow interpretation of scripture.

    Ted Nugent is not an aberration; he is, rather, the product of the natural historic trajectory of the modern GOP. Ugly, no?

  4. You hobble a very good essay with your concluding accusation of treason. As soon as you start characterizing public speech acts of this sort as having the potential to seriously injure national interests (Wikipedia, Oran’s Dictionary of Law) you’re inviting repression of free speech. I’m sure you’re aware of this possibility, so why take the risk of aligning yourself with the right in this way, which has historically been so prone to magnify the country’s vulnerability to speech in order to resort to repression? The best way of protecting national interests — I’d prefer the interest of humanity as a regulatory idea, actually — is to do what you were doing in your essay prior to your accusation.

    • I agree with you, but in this case the author is using their free speech to critise Nugents racist or what ever you call it insane rant. Our freedoms are working rather well. Yes, we should not make it unlawful for people to make asses out of them selves…just write articles condemning them when they do!

      • I don’t think “Well, Basically” was criticizing the author’s free speech right to criticize Nugent. What he criticizes is the charge of “treason,” which is a very well-defined term under the Constitution and law, and which Nugent clearly has not committed.

  5. Ted Nugent loves guns and Texas Republicans love him. I can’t help but wonder if Nugent would call Jeb’s kid, George P. Bush, a “subhuman mongrel” because he’s of mixed heritage. George P. is the latest of the Bush family to enter politics. He’s campaigning to become the next Texas Land Commissioner.

    George P. don’t look a Bush family member and he sure don’t look like a typical white Texas Republican. Even if he wins, George P. ain’t never gonna be in the good ‘ol boy club deep in the heart of.

    George P. ought to invite “Ted” out for some Tex-Mex food and see if they’ll make it HOT enough to melt his eyeballs. “Ted” is a yankee and they can’t eat that kinda food.

  6. A long time ago I was a musician and although I didn’t hate Nugent’s music I thought he was too much in one grove. It appears that Ted is a one grove person. There is nothing smart about this man. His biggest thing is gun ownership, and he dislikes President Obama. This is it. That’s all he’s got.

  7. “Sarah Palin said of Abbott, “if he’s good enough for Ted Nugent, he’s good enough for me!” ”

    Ted Nugent is just part, probably a small part, of the problem. The real problem is the many people who go along with his appalling claptrap or lack the integrity and moral courage to take a stand against it. At one time Hitler was considered something of a crackpot with his rants in Vienna. It wasn’t until he acquired a following of large groups of intellectual and physical thugs that he became a threat.

  8. “If Greg Abbott won’t explicitly dissociate himself from Nugent, after publicly campaigning with him, then he doesn’t deserve to be governor of Texas, because he is behaving in an un-American way.”

    If Abbott wins this election it will say a lot about the majority of Texas voters and none of it will be nice. I had hopes for Rick Perry when he proposed Texas seceding from the Union and also hoped that the rest of the Bible belt would join him, but apparently that was typical Perry – all talk and nothing of substance.

    As for the “un-American way” I’m not so sure that the Nugent/Abbott relationship is that un-American. There are still lots of racists and bigots and politicians who will use them out there.

  9. It is worth noting Nugent has admitted dodging the draft during the Vietnam War and is linked to sex with underage females. So apparently Sarah Palin, Greg Abbott and others are ok with unpatriotic stances from someone who explicitly rejects “family values”. Couple that with the subhuman mongrel talk and you have Republican embrace of a particularly unsavory individual.

  10. Ted Nugent is a legend in his own mind. Let’s not encourage him by added digital attention. With Mr. Nugent WYSIWYG. Lovely.

  11. Just want to add that Darwin wrote in his diary, after seeing abuse of slaves in south america, and having been exposed to anti slavery ideas in Cambridge and evolution ideas in Edinburgh, that he now wanted to devote his life to proving that all human beings have a common ancestor. Mr Coles essay has a very similar flavour. This unity of all men is apparently also a key reason why parts of the south have so resisted Darwin’s ideas.

  12. We do need to hold the “treason” word, just as “terror” would benefit from some definitional rigor.

    Unfortunately, it’s built into the national DNA to define certain people as subhuman – notably Indians and black people -so as to justify robbing or killing them, so Nugent is being very American indeed. This heritage won’t be fixed by denying or minimizing it.

  13. It’s the people who know Nugent is a racist, yet say nothing against him for fear of being excluded from their social group; they are the cowards who enable racism to continue and flourish.
    The clubs, the congregations, the social organizations where people go to relax or worship or do community service, those are the places where Nugent’s remarks should be condemned as racist and un-American. The good people of the South, the good politicans of the South, the good churches of the South(leaders and congregation members) need to stand up and be counted.

  14. Iam late in commenting, but I just wanted to mention that the local Dallas TV news “reported” tonight that Nugent “apologized” intimating that the apology extended to President Obama.

    This is what passes for “news” today!

  15. When asked today by our local news to comment on Nugent, Greg Abbott said that he ‘learned early in life to never look back.’ That is nothing short of coward’s answer! If Abbott thinks that is ‘acceptable’ he is grossly mistaken!

    I get that Abbott’s refusal to condemn or criticize Nugent’s hateful racist characterization of President Obama is a political decision. But he could not muster even the slightest protest. Instead he just avoided answering the question altogether. In doing so, Abbott revealed a lot more about himself than he intended or realizes. Suffice to say, he is not exactly self-aware anyhow.

    Furthermore Abbott had an opportunity to call for civility in our public dialogue or any number of things without mentioning Nugent’s name. Then again, Abbott doesn’t look “back.” He doesn’t think either!

    All of which speaks volumes about the man’s character or rather lack thereof.

    An individual who is incapable of standing on the courage of his/her convictions or exhibiting at least an ounce of decency is not fit for public office. So yes, Greg Abbott, Iam talking to you!

    “To sit in silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men.” ~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    BTW: The most recent polling taken in Texas, prior to Nugent accompanying Abbott on the campaign trail, shows Abbott 10 or 12 percentage points ahead of Sen Wendy Davis.

    What it will show after this latest kerfuffle is anyone’s guess, however, I suspect Abbott’s numbers will take some sort of hit — how much will not be enough as far as Iam concerned.

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