I kept wondering, as I watched news depictions of McCain rallies where angry people were referring to Obama with the N-word, saying to "kill him" or "off with his head", whether McCain supporters were going to spontaneously start singing the Horst-Wessel-Lied.
I couldn't tell if I was watching clips of modern day Republican rallies or trailers for Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will. Ultranationalism married with "Who is Obama (with the implication that he isn't 'one of us' ethnically as well as politically and nationally)", and "He is a socialist...kill him", and "Our opponents are the enemy and traitors to the country and its people" is right out of the most reactionary propaganda of the 1930's.
What kind of judgment does McCain have that he did not put a stop to this immediately? Did it really take two weeks to figure out that the rhetoric coming out of his and Palin's campaign rallies was dangerously inflammatory and divisive? Whipping up crowds (or allowing them to whip themselves up) with anger and hate is always a bad idea, but in a time of economic crisis and uncertainty and the fear associated with that, it is like playing with pure nitroglycerin near a bonfire. The situation can get out of control and blow up in your face at any moment.
The first time (and any subsequent times) McCain heard the use of the N-word, or suggestions of harm to Obama or "Socialism", he should have said "Look, we disagree vehemently with his policies, but he isn't a bad person or a Socialist (or an Arab or Muslim) and I will condemn anyone calling him anything racist or any suggestion that harm come to him. Moreover, the Secret Service, who protects both myself, and Obama, have no concept of irony or humor when it comes to threats against those whom they protect". That is all it would have taken and it would have put an end to this.
When I asked, "Is it too late" in the title to this article, the question is in three parts.
Part 1, Is it too late that McCain is doing this for someone who claims to have the leadership abilities to lead the country. Wouldn't a real leader have stopped this right away?
Part 2, Is it too late to stop the idea that now might be ingrained in hardcore Republicans that Obama is somehow the enemy? Thinking of him as the political opponent is one thing. The idea of him as the enemy means that they would need to continue fighting him post inauguration day if he is the winner of the election. It means a divided country with an angry and (at least verbally) combative opposition. This is the opposite of to what both Obama and McCain both agreed at the beginning of this campaign, that is to campaign with an eye to healing the rifts in the country.
Part 3, The most scary and hopefully least likely "Is it too late" question is "Could this be the beginning of a permanent inability for the country to remain united and/or did McCain enable a significant number of his supporters to embrace neo-fascism?" I don't think we are there yet, but we know that radical 'isms like Communism and Fascism/Nazism thrive in times of economic crisis. Thus, the fact that McCain allowed this to go on for as long as he did adds some small percentage chance of total disaster. Anyone wanting to be President of the United States has to be smarter than this.
McCain is now putting a stop to having hate in his rallies and late is better than never, but is it enough? See this video:
If the video embed doesnt work, click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kf6YKOkfFsE
McCain is still allowing the airing of ads portraying Obama as a bad person consorting with terrorists. Palin is still going around and saying that Obama is guilty of 'infanticide'. Is it not dishonest of McCain and a mixed message to his supporters to say one thing in person and then do the exact opposite by proxy? The results? See this thread on Free Republic, a good place to get the pulse of the conservative base, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2103102/posts where there are comments regarding Obama like:
"My respect can never be earned by criminal Muslim terrorists."
"this traitor is very very afraid that people are mad at him, pelosi, dodd, all these hooligan. These thugs need to be very worried, i tell you."
Based on this, I will give the answers to parts 1 and 2 above. It is too late for McCain to try to back away from the hostile rhetoric and be thought of as having the judgment and leadership to be President. It is also too late to keep the hardcore Republican conservative base from believing that Obama is the enemy. McCain has caused the election to become a negative and divisive instrument for the next several years and he deserves to pay the political price for that.