The movement to change the name of the Washington Redskins now has support from a major mainstream conservative commentator. Charles Krauthammer argued against the football team's name out of "simple, elementary respect" on both Fox News and in a column on the National Review.
Until now, the Redskins name controversy had been delineated along partisan lines: conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh saw the issue as thought police run amok, while liberals saw the name as an offensive vestige of a racist past. Krauthammer says he's not like politically correct liberals, even if he's reached the same position they have:
"And here’s the key point: You would stop not because of the language police. Not because you might incur a Bob Costas harangue. Not because the president would wag a finger. But simply because the word was tainted, freighted with negative connotations with which you would not want to be associated."
Krauthammer attempts to cut through this partisan split by relying on simple analogies to other offensive words that have fallen out of appropriate use. On Fox News, he likened "redskins" to "gyp" and "negro," and in the National Review, he compared it to "retarded." "What’s at issue is not high principle but adaptation to a change in linguistic nuance," he writes. He doesn't use words like "gyp" anymore. "Why? Simple decency. I wouldn’t want to use a word that defines a people — living or dead, offended or not — in a most demeaning way," he writes. He does not say how this reasoning is different from the reasoning of Bob Costas.
Because of that, his anti-Redskins argument hasn't found much support from the right. The conservative blog Hot Air writes that Krauthammer made the case "as effectively and unsanctimoniously as anyone could," but lamented the expected critical onslaught from conservatives. "Krauthammer’s going to get accused here of selling out to political correctness even though he strains to make clear that he’s not accusing people who disagree him of bad motives." Negative comments on a related article in Glenn Beck's site The Blaze confirm those suspicions. Fox News talking head Bill O'Reilly, too, interrogated Krauthammer on his show. "If you do away with Redskins, you've got to do away with 'Hail to the Redskins' the song... It can't be hail to the butterflies," O'Reilly said.
Krauthammer is likely trying to drag conservatives into the future side of the coming wave, perhaps a reaction to the newest Redskins poll that shows that a majority of people see the name as offensive to Native Americans. To do so, though, he's had to rely on liberal arguments, making it less likely that the cause will be picked up anytime soon by the right.
(Photo: Fox News Insider.)