"Harpootle" is a word I just invented. Its rough definition is "to
attack someone in a way that reveals the attacker as foolish, petty,
vile, and/or stupid."
It's named after Dick Harpootlian, whose previous claim to fame was
having his name relentlessly mentioned
by professional humorist Dave Barry during the 2008 New Hampshire
Dick (or as his friends call him, "Dick") has since become chairman of
South Carolina's Democratic Party.
The SC Dems are in pretty sad shape:
they are a solid minority in both houses of the state's legislature;
both of the state's US senators are Republicans; Democrats
hold only one of SC's
US House seats. They nominated last year's most (um)
unusual candidate to run against Senator Jim DeMint, Mr. Alvin
And, despite the previous GOP governor having spectacularly
Democrats also failed to win the state's gubernatorial election last
year. The current governor is Nimrata "Nikki" Randhawa
with considerable help from Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.
Which makes her a target for Dick Harpootlian.
"Well," I hear you saying, "that's his job, right?" Sure, but Dick has a
history of going well beyond normal interparty bickering and cheap
He's flung the word "retard"
at his political opponents; he called SC Senator Lindsay Graham "light
in the loafers"; when he ran for office
decades back he famously said: "I don't want to buy the black vote. I
just want to rent it for a day."
But his most recent harpootling (last week, when everyone
else was concentrating on how fast the US should be going broke)
was aimed at Governor Haley. Some
enterprising Democrat snoops were able to pry out her 2001 voter
registration application from the state. And—omigod—it lists
her race as W! As in White!
And as you can tell from her picture up there,… Um, well, as you
can probably tell from her full name, Governor Haley is of Indian
origin. (Specifically, both her parents are immigrants from India.)
Dick harpootled Nikki in the pages of USA Today:
South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said the 2001
document the party unearthed shows the 39-year-old Haley plays on her
race for political convenience.
"She can't even tell the truth about her racial heritage," Harpootlian
Now, how bad does it look to have an old white Southern Democrat pol outraged
because he thinks someone with other than a pure European bloodline
is trying to "pass"?
Dick was also quoted in Charleston's Post and Courier:
"Haley has been appearing on television interviews where she calls
herself a minority -- when it suits her," Harpootlian said. "When she
registers to vote, she says she is white. She has developed a pattern of
saying whatever is beneficial to her at the moment."
Harpootlian, on the other hand, has developed a pattern of saying
whatever pops into his head at the moment, no matter how silly.
It was not "beneficial" to Nikki Haley to have that "W" appear on her
voter registration. It didn't get her a free ride to the polls or
a coupon for a Big Mac. South Carolina is simply one
of those states which, due to previous bad behavior, has to
report racial classifications under the Voting
Rights Act. Her "W" was just fed with millions of
others into a statistical stream
analyzed by Your Federal Government to
somehow guarantee there was no race-based vote-denying going on.
There are some details at the linked stories about the uncertain
provenance of that "W": Was it automatically fed from Haley's
driver's license data? Did she answer that question differently
in the past?
Curious, race-obsessed minds want to know!
But I don't need to know.
Odious as it is, Your Federal Government has an official
document on racial classification. It recognizes five Official Races
that must appear on any categorization: " American Indian or
Alaska Native,  Asian,  Black or African American,  Native Hawaiian or
Other Pacific Islander, and  White." There are two Official
Ethnicities:  "Hispanic or Latino" and  "Not Hispanic or Latino."
These categories were derived not from DNA analysis or rigorous social
science, but intensive political negotiations.
The "Asian race" category is pretty much a catch-all, roughly "descended
from anyone on that end of the world". ("A person having origins in any
of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian
subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan,
Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and
Vietnam.") So, it would have been technically OK with the Feds
if Haley wanted to pick that "race" for herself.
But she (apparently) didn't, and (most importantly) didn't have to.
Because even the official document says:
[S]elf-identification is the preferred means of obtaining information
about an individual's race and ethnicity, except in instances where
observer identification is more practical (e.g., completing a death
Get that, Harpootlian? Governor Haley is free to classify
herself anyway she wants
I found this New York Times anecdote
about Nikki's early life in Bamberg, SC kind of touching:
As a girl, her parents -- the first Indian immigrants this small,
working-class town had ever seen -- entered Nikki and her sister in the
Little Miss Bamberg pageant. The judges of the contest, one that crowned
one black queen and one white queen, were so flummoxed that they simply
disqualified Nikki and her sister, Simran -- but not before Nikki, about
5, sang "This Land Is Your Land."
That was over 30 years ago. Then as now, people seem a lot more
concerned with Nikki Haley's "racial heritage" than she is.