A decent person would have guessed that America would be beyond the notion that skin color should be a consideration when selecting a president. Many of us counted on the hope that the US was moving beyond its irrational prejudices. The 2008 Republican campaign has disabused us of that idea. It has been quite the crushing blow to hear the cries of our fellow citizens at McCain/Palin rallies: “Kill him!” “Traitor!” It causes pain to hear our neighbors say they can’t trust a decent, intelligent family man simply because his skin is brown or buy into the lie that he is Arab and a terrorist. To see so clearly that the McCain/Palin campaign — which should know better — is all too happy to capitalize on the hatred bubbling beneath the bland-faced American exterior is simply shattering.
[H]ere was Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, on Sunday, taking a bus tour along the Ohio-West Virginia border — a white, economically depressed region where the Republican ticket, it turns out, is now struggling to prevail. And on a weekend when racial issues flared once more in the presidential campaign, race was also on the minds of many voters here, who said they were wary of a black president even if he might be better for them economically.
“What you hear around here is, would you rather have a black friend in the White House, or a white enemy?” said John Schuster, a Republican from Wheeling, W.Va., who joined several thousand people here for a twilight rally led by Ms. Palin.
“Most guys I know are for McCain, and a lot of it’s because of race,” Mr. Schuster continued. “Obama doesn’t have the right friends — that Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers the terrorist. The thing is, Obama may be better for jobs. But a lot of us don’t trust him.”
The candidacy of Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, once seemed to promise a new national conversation about race, an open dialogue about historical animosities and prejudices and the ways in which Americans have and have not moved beyond them. Yet for the most part, race has remained submerged as an issue, and the Obama campaign never dealt with it directly or in a full-throated way.
Instead, race has erupted as an issue mostly in ways that seem to confirm how deep the divide remains for some voters — those expressing mistrust over Mr. Obama’s ties to his controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., or those describing Mr. Obama as “uppity” or “elitist.” While Mr. Obama’s advisers say they do not think race will be a factor in the election, the actual extent of the racial divide is likely to become clear only on Nov. 4.
“Obama has been running as a post-racial candidate from the start, and he has been doing it very well,” said Douglas Brinkley, the presidential historian, “but the fact of the matter is that some voters — we can’t know yet how many — will not get past his race. And I very much believe that the McCain-Palin ticket is tapping into that.”
It’s a fact: The Republican presidential ticket is tapping into and taking advantage of the worst part of the American psyche and doing so deliberately. That is clear. Making the situation worse, it is obvious that John McCain, long on the record as a backward thinker of the worst sort, is sophisticated enough to be aware of the hideous sins his campaign is committing. And demonstrating that the ever-boastful former prisoner of war has no courage, he dodges the charge and points fingers at those who would dare call him on his craven, ought-to-be-criminal campaigning.
Sen. John McCain called a statement by a Georgia
congressman Saturday, which compared the feeling at recent Republican rallies to those of segregationist George Wallace, “a brazen and baseless attack.”
Rep. John Lewis, D-GA, who has been praised by McCain in the past, issued his statement after several days of headline-grabbing anger aimed at Democratic nominee Barack Obama from some attendees at campaign rallies of
McCain and running mate Gov. Sarah Palin.
“What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse,” Lewis said in a statement.
“George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama,” wrote the Democrat.
Forget the Republican’s unforgivable attempt to draw attention away from his callous exploitation of the worst in human nature. John Lewis is absolutely correct. Americams, if smart, will take heed of the congressperson’s wise words and justifiable admonotion of McCain and Palin. An Armchair Activist member was outraged at what he saw as McCain’s hypocrisy:
McCain has truly lost his way.
He’d dig up his own grandmother and sell her gold teeth if it’d win him the presidency.
He wants it so bad he can TASTE it, and he’ll do ANYTHING (literally!) to GET it.
Allowing the audience to yell “traitor!” and “kill him!” at the mention of Obama’s name in a Republican political rally without rebuking them is NOT racist exactly HOW?
MY grandmother called THAT “lying down with dogs and getting up with fleas.”
At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!” as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are actually something new in a campaign that has seen almost every conceivable twist. They are alarms. Doing nothing is not an option.
…[W]hat has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by Palin. Obama “launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist.” He is “palling around with terrorists” (note the plural noun). Obama is “not a man who sees America the way you and I see America.” Wielding a wildly out-of-context Obama quote, Palin slurs him as an enemy of American troops.
By the time McCain asks the crowd “Who is the real Barack Obama?” … Obama is being branded as a potential killer and an accessory to past attempts at murder. “Barack Obama’s friend tried to kill my family” was how a McCain press release last week packaged the remembrance of a Weather Underground incident from 1970 — when Obama was 8.
We all know what punishment fits the crime of murder, or even potential murder, if the security of post-9/11 America is at stake. We all know how self-appointed “patriotic” martyrs always justify taking the law into their own hands.
… What’s troubling here is not only the candidates’ loose inflammatory talk but also their refusal to step in promptly and strongly when someone responds to it with bloodthirsty threats in a crowded arena.
… From the start, there have always been two separate but equal questions about race in this election. Is there still enough racism in America to prevent a black man from being elected president no matter what? And, will Republicans play the race card? The jury is out on the first question until Nov. 4. But we now have the unambiguous answer to the second: Yes.
McCain, who is no racist, turned to this desperate strategy only as Obama started to pull ahead. … No less disconcerting was a still-unexplained passage of Palin’s convention speech: Her use of an unattributed quote praising small-town America (as opposed to, say, Chicago and its community organizers) from Westbrook Pegler, the mid-century Hearst columnist famous for his anti-Semitism, racism and violent rhetorical excess. After an assassin tried to kill F.D.R. at a Florida rally and murdered Chicago’s mayor instead in 1933, Pegler wrote that it was “regrettable that Giuseppe Zangara shot the wrong man.” In the ’60s, Pegler had a wish for Bobby Kennedy: “Some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow falls.”
This is the writer who found his way into a speech by a potential vice president at a national political convention. It’s astonishing there’s been no demand for a public accounting from the McCain campaign. Imagine if Obama had quoted a Black Panther or Louis Farrakhan — or William Ayers — in Denver.
Does the McCain/Palin team really believe people don’t know exactly what they are doing and what they intend to do? And will a sad subsection of the American electorate fall for the Republicans’ racist red meat on Nov. 4? For the nation’s future, let’s hope not.