As America and the world was glued, no, transfixed, to the political drama being played out in the state of Iowa, many people, caught up in the moment, failed to really zero in on the underlying political assumptions of the Republican/Tea Party Caucus. From a field of mediocre, ignorant, and race-baiting self-destructive group, the national media ratcheted up the ante by spending an unbelievable amount of time on a set of vapid, uninspiring people. Fresh from the unending string of question and answer sessions erroneously billed as "debates," the Republican presidential wannabes bloodied themselves in shameless pandering and political groveling.
And away from the intellectual analyses of CNN, Fox 5 et al, the underlying fact is this: while the Republican/Tea Party candidates for president went at each other's throats, something that underscores the internal divisions and contradictions of this fusion party, all of the candidates were united in their contempt, even hatred, of Black people, especially President Barack Obama. For them it makes great politics and it energizes the legion of unwashed, ignorant white masses to a near feeding frenzy.
Let me explain. Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the US House of Representatives, quipped before the caucus that lazy black and brown kids were yearning to pick up mops and brooms as janitors. As reported on the website Human Events , Gingrich is apparently wedded to the idea that young Black and brown kids should have the "privilege" of becoming janitors in their schools in order to learn about the value of "hard work." Primarily, Gingrich is recycling the ugly and deeply racist belief that ALL Black people are inherently lazy. Hence his racist characterization of President Barack Obama as a "Food Stamp president."
Not to be outdone is multi-millionaire candidate Mitt Romney who keeps bleating that he wants to "keep America, America." And Rick Santorum's belief that "African Americans (Black People) find sustenance by stealing from hardworking white people." Finally, Ron Paul's assertion that the Civil Rights Act was an unfair intrusion on white people's liberty and freedom. Indeed, the point of reference here is most important: besides minute differences on tactics ALL of the Republican/Tea Party candidates are ultra-right conservatives who believe that the old Southern Strategy of demagoguing Black people will make for strong support among white people.
I hasten to add this one caveat: Not all conservatives are racist. But racists are more likely to be conservatives -- and Republican to boot.
But there is a serious sociological issue here. There is a seemingly innocent political bantering by conservatives that from the onlooker's perspective is not racist at all. So that for people living in, say Europe, the behavior of Gingrich, Romney, Santorum, Paul and other conservatives, while shocking and borderline offensive, to ordinary mainstream (read white) Americans, their arguments make perfect sense. I contend that this behavior goes directly to the issue of making sense of race relationships in America today.
For example, those cheering Iowa audiences, mainly white, that enthusiastically embraced Newt Gingrich's ignorant chatter and negative stereotyping of inner city Black people as lazy, unmotivated and predisposed and prone to criminality, proudly claim to be conservatives, Christian and good people. To them, "everyone knows" that these observations about Black and brown people are "true." Especially coming from a noted historian whose ignorance is unchallenged and has the ring of truthfulness.
And Mitt Romney's constant utterances of the Tea Party mantra of "taking back America" and peddling the untruth about America now being "lost," obliquely posits coded references that appeal to the most uninformed, rabid sections of the American population that unabashedly identify themselves as Republican. What Romney really means is that today America is led by an anti-American Black usurper who somehow broke away from white control of "those others" and stole the bastion of white entitlement -- the White House.
For most white Americans the oft-repeated claims of "American Exceptionalism" made by Romney and company, and their veiled statements that ALL Americans -- Black, white and "others" -- can achieve the American Dream by hard work, is undisputed gospel. But little do they know that poverty in America is radicalized. First, the public image of poverty is Black. This is underscored by the racist language of black welfare queens, illegal aliens stealing jobs (white jobs of course) and others birthing "anchor babies" that keep sucking the government's t*ts bone dry. To many of those listening to the Republican/Tea Party candidates in Iowa, food stamps are what Black people do. Never mind that there are more poor white people than Black poor people, and more white people on food stamps than Black people.
When Romney, Gingrich et al use this coded language and messages, the presence of and the reality of the white poor never ever surfaces. Whites are not poor -- just struggling. So their white supporters are left to foster a deep resentment for Black people (and Latinos and others) supposedly in a parasitic relationship with white people: They (white people) work hard and Black people live off of them. This flawed and deeply racist ideology drives the pervasive view by a majority of white people that Black people are lazy, a class of leeches, unable to care for themselves and their families -- except for the unending generosity and benevolence of white people. This kind of construct is what helps fuel white racism and feelings of superiority in relation to Black people.
As Iowa demonstrated so clearly the stump speeches about evil liberals who hate America, the cheering of dying cancer patients who lack insurance, the booing of gay soldiers, and the numerous fictions about the economy, science, the Constitution, and public policy more generally are taken as divine gospel. White Republican/Tea Party candidates speak the truth. Black President Barack Obama is a liar. These fictions are standing priors for contemporary conservatives which help to mark out the boundaries of their political world. It is a doggone slick hustle by representatives of the "one percenters" that keeps white people suspicious and angry and Black people feeling alienated and inferior.
This political vitriol, even by American standards, has poisoned the climate of the upcoming United States Presidential Elections. From the uncouth, insulting "you lie" shouted by a white junior congressman in the hallowed halls of the US Congress, to the deep present polarization of the environment rubbed red by the incessant negative news cycle, this is going to be an intensely hateful presidential elections. And while it is generally accepted that the incumbent president will bear the brunt of criticisms and attacks by the out of power party, the attacks on America's first Black president are so vicious as to turn off many hardcore voters.
Indeed, Barack Obama has amplified and caused to come to the surface long-held negative and racist attitudes and stereotypes by white people in high places. Race and class tensions have been aggravated to an unbelievable level. That is because the election of a member of the "others, minority out-group" threatens the very foundation of white (and ultra-white) conservatism and control. Here are the facts: Barack Obama is the unadulterated quintessence of the anti-Republican/Tea Party nemesis and the living embodiment of an America, in Romney's words, that has "lost its way." ALL of the Republican/Tea Party candidates have been constantly bleating and calling out the president for "failed leadership." What they are really saying in unison is that "a man who looks like Barack Obama could never be the leader of the so-called "free world" because that is the franchise and entitlement of white people. And "whiteness" is quintessentially "ordained" and inseparable from what is "American."
So white conservatives, now running to take Obama's job in 2012, have chosen to embark on the well-honed and tested Southern Strategy of demonizing Black people. President Obama has been called "the food stamp president," depicted as an ape, likened to Adolf Hitler, and a "ghetto crackhead." His wife and children have been subjected to every form of verbal racism by white commentators on Fox 5 news. Ignoramuses in the "Birther Movement" have even questioned his American citizenship. All this time the entire present crop of Republican/Tea Party candidates remained deafeningly silent and gleefully wringing their hands in barely concealed delight.
Mitt Romney and the other candidates appeal to "American exceptionalism" are naked and flawed arguments that a Black man, like Obama, cannot help but be outside of the "normal" political (white) culture of the United States. It has also been implied that President Obama is a perpetual "they," a member of a marginalized group who by association is lazy, anti-white, unqualified, and an "affirmative action baby" that somehow managed to steal a presidential election and win the popular vote.
Here's the take away: For Black, brown, yellow and "other people" in America today they will always be seen as the "others." No matter how they try to assimilate into the American mainstream they will always be a member of the "others" not really American. That's why President Barack Obama had to "prove his authenticity" when challenged by white crack-pot fringe elements. In the eyes of people like Romney, Paul, Santorum and Gingrich this is not his country.