With the party’s back against the wall, the Republican sleaze machine went into high gear this past week, appealing to the inherent racism, bigotry and homophobia that lie within GOP extremist, hoping that fear and ignorance will turn the tide in an election they can’t win on truth or the issues.

The Republican National Committee paid for a television ad in the Tennessee Senate Race, hoping that racial overtones can derail Democratic candidate Harold Ford by suggesting he chases white women and parties with Playboy centerfolds.

Even the executives of Wal-Mart, hardly a bastion of liberalism, found the Tennessee ad so despicable that it severed its relationship with media producer Terry Nelson, who created the ad for the GOP.

“We believe this is the right course of action,” Wal-Mart spokesman Dave Tovar said.

But in the bowels of the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, the sleaze merchants rubbed their hands in glee and patted each other on the back.

“We made race an issue in Tennessee,” bragged one GOP political operative. “That always plays in our favor.”

Yes, it does. The Republican Party is so overrun with racists, bigots and homophobes that appealing to such stupidity always plays in their favor.

That’s why President George W. Bush, the bigot-in-chief, turned away from the taxes and terrorism issues he has trumpeted for the past several weeks and unleashed a homophobic tirade against gay marriage while campaigning among Southern rednecks.

“For decades, activist judges have tried to redefine America by court order,” Bush said Monday while campaigning in the backwoods of Georgia. “Just this last week in New Jersey, another activist court issued a ruling that raises doubt about the institution of marriage. We believe marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and should be defended.”

But Bush’s remarks are just the tip of the GOP’s homophobia. In Indiana, rabid right-wing Republican incumbent John Hostettler is running a 60-second radio ad that claims Democrats and San Francisco Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi will pursue a “homosexual agenda” if they win control of the House in next week’s November mid-term elections.

“Pelosi will then put in motion her radical plan to advance the homosexual agenda, led by Barney Frank, reprimanded by the House after paying for sex with a man who ran a gay brothel out of Congressman Frank’s home,” says the ad. “Go ahead, vote for Brad Ellsworth. Make Nancy Pelosi’s day.”

This is typical Republican gay-bashing. A few years ago, Republicans tried to win control of the Vermont legislature with a campaign that said Democrats favored programs that urged elementary school children to experiment with gay and lesbian sex.

Equally appalling is the Republican hypocrisy on gay issues. It is, after all, one of their own – former Congressman Mark Foley of Florida – who is caught up in a scandal for pursuing young male pages. The Republican leadership of Congress ignored Foley’s antics for years because they considered it more important to hold on to his seat.

Such antics provide more justification for why the party of the elephant must be driven from the halls of power in Congress. Homophobia, racism and bigotry have no place in our society. Unfortunately, these outdated fears, driven by ignorance and stupidity, still exist and they will continue to exist as long as the Republican Party draws its strength from fear and intolerance.

Doug Thompson published his first story and photo at age 11 -- a newspaper article about racism and the Klan in Prince Edward County, VA, in 1958. From that point on, he decided to become a newspaperman and did just that -- reporting news and taking photos full-time at his hometown paper, becoming the youngest full-time reporter at The Roanoke Times in Virginia in 1965 and spent most of the past 55+ years covering news around the country and the globe. After a short sabbatical as a political operative in Washington in the 1980s, he returned to the news profession in 1992. Today, he is a contract reporter/photojournalist for BHMedia and owns Capitol Hill Blue and other news websites.