In October, 1974, Willie Horton and two other upstanding community leaders in Lawrence, Mass, robbed a 17-year old gas station attendant, stabbed the boy 19 times, and left him to bleed to death in a trash can. Horton was convicted of murder by a jury of his “peers” and sentenced to life in prison.
After being in prison for a little over 10 years, the governor of Massachusetts, believing that even prisoners deserve a vacation, allowed Mr. Horton out on a weekend furlough. Mr. Horton, never the one to let bleeding heart good deeds go unpunished, neglected to return from said furlough. He remained at large for almost a year until, in April, 1987, he robbed a couple in Maryland, stabbing (old habits die hard), pistol whipping, binding and gagging the man so that he could, not once, but twice, rape the woman in front of her boyfriend. In sentencing Horton for his crimes in Maryland, the judge refused to return Horton to Massachusetts saying, “I’m not prepared to take the chance that Mr. Horton might again be furloughed or otherwise released,” by the liberal Mecca on the Bay.
All of this may have been a sad (pathetic, perhaps) footnote in the anals of liberal idiocy, except for the fact that the governor who furloughed Willie Horton, and allowed him to rape and brutalize the population at large, was Michael Dukakis, and Michael Dukakis ran for President in 1988.
During the Democratic primaries (sorry to let the cat out of the bag, but, yes, it was a democrat who came up with the idea of giving people with lifetime prison sentences a “break”), one of Dukakis’s opponents (none other than Al Gore) raised the issue during a debate, without naming Willie Horton. Notwithstanding the soft-on-crime liability (and the fact that Senator Gore had just recently invented the internet), the Democrats nominated Mr. Dukakis as their candidate for president against then Vice President George H. W. Bush.
Here is where the saga takes a turn that could only be explained by a firm understanding of race and the media in America. A Republican group ran an ad informing the public of Dukakis’s disgusting history with Mr. Horton. The ad, which named Horton, included a photo of him. He’s Black. This, of course, means that Republicans are racists.
Wait, what? Republicans didn’t hand pick Willie Horton. Out of all the furloughed prisoners, his story was the worst. Republicans didn’t make him Black. Republicans didn’t encourage Dukakis to only release violent Black criminals. Republicans had absolutely nothing to do with (i) Willie Horton being Black; (ii) Willie Horton killing, raping and brutalizing three people or (iii) Willie Horton being released from prison. This entire episode was hand crafted by Mike Dukakis, not some Republican attack machine. All that the Republican ad did was to tell the story. Is that racist?
So why, then, do Republicans not cry foul when some dim witted political operative (by the way Susan, “escapade” is not the proper term when describing the violent rape of a woman and the beating and stabbing of her boyfriend) blames the Republicans for “negative” ads like “Willie Horton?”
What, exactly, is racist about showing the face of Willie Horton, or even mentioning him by name? Visual aids are key to advertising (whether they are political or otherwise). Are Republicans required to forgo visual aids because Willie Horton is Black? What’s more, isn’t it more racist to assume that showing the photo is racist? The liberal’s objection is that, by showing Willie Horton, the ad plays on America’s fear of Black men. Come again? Who says America is afraid of all Black men? I’m not. I am, however, wary of anyone who has stabbed a 17-year old 19 times, pistol-whipped, stabbed, bound and gagged another man while he rapes (twice) that man’s girlfriend. I don’t care if he’s Black, White, red, orange, blue or green, I give the fucker a wide berth.
The point here is that Democrats are able, because Republicans are scared of being called racists (or greedy, or polluters, etc.), to reframe the issue from one of cause and effect of bad policies to one of politics-as-usual, Republican-attack-machine, negative campaigning. We can no longer allow them to do this. We have to take back the dialogue from the scare-mongers and race-baiters. Willie Horton was a clean ad on the failed liberal policies of Mike Dukakis.