During the last debate, Republican Senator John McCain took offense at Georgia Representative John Lewis' assertion that the climate created by McCain and his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, was the most provocatively racially incendiary since the days of George Wallace. McCain complained to Senator Obama that, "You still haven't repudiated John Lewis' suggestion that I am somehow associated with the killing of three little girls."
For starters, Representative Lewis never intimated that either McCain or Palin were in any way connected to the reprehensible acts that occurred 40-some years ago. What Lewis said was that the taut, racially charged atmosphere McCain and Palin had created, via political ads and rhetorical rally questions to the crowds, was a highly dangerous one. And Lewis was 100% right.
McCain then went on to defend those attending the rallies as "dedicated, highly patriotic citizens."
Most may well be that. However, the annals of history are replete with anecdotes where such "dedicated, highly patriotic citizens" got caught up in a mob mentality that resulted in the most barbarous of group behaviors. And at those rallies the nation, via YouTube videos of them and of those waiting in line to enter them, has irrefutable evidence of the atmosphere Lewis was referring to: folks with stuffed monkey toys with "Obama" across the forehead, racial and ethnic slurs referring to the Illinois senator as a Muslim, a terrorist, a traitor, and calls for Obama to be killed.
McCain then went on to say two more things on the topic. He claimed that he reputed each and all such incidents, and that he had heard a "lot of things I don't like at your rallies."
As to the first, while it is true that the Arizona senator did take the microphone from a barely coherent woman who claimed Obama was an Arab, and that he did tell the woman "No he is not." It is also true that at a rally, McCain told his crowd that "Senator Obama is a decent family man." But the truth of the matter is, those are extremely recent responses to an environment he and Govern Palin had been cultivating for the past few months, and that the Republican power base has found repellent, repellent because they feared the extraordinary publicity the manifestations were generating might backfire against the larger Republican Party.
The truth, furthermore, is that McCain never once stepped forward to call the miscreants in the crowd on what can only be described as abhorrent conduct, until that power base put their concerns front and center. McCain's eventual, reactive responses I call, "Too little, too late Senator."
I attended the Obama rally here in Reno, at the University of Nevada, Reno campus' quad recently. Estimates place the size of the gathering at around 12,000 to 15,000. I waited in the well organized, wholly respectful line for more than an hour. Once within the secured area, the wait for the appearance of Obama was another hour. Then, when Obama took the stage another 30 minutes elapsed. For the entire two and one-half hours, not one epithet or insulting mischaracterization of McCain could be heard. It was all about Obama!
To set the record, I have on many occasions called McCain a liar. I have said he is emotionally unstable. I've also said he has demonstrated a total lack of the necessary international and constitutional competence we must have in our president.
What else is true is that I'm preparing this post on what I call a "computer." I call it that because that is what it is.
But what really lodges in much of Republican hearts is the bigotry that formed the impetus behind the GOP's Southern strategy. A couple examples how virulent the bigotry remains follows immediately.
Southern California east of San Diego to the Colorado River state line is nicknamed the "Inland Empire." It is overwhelmingly GOP-conservative. One of the most influential political groups is known as Chaffey Community Republican Federated, and its monthly newsletter is called the Trumpeter. The organization's president is a woman by the name of Diane Fedele.
The newsletter recently included a crude replication of a ten dollar food stamp coupon the letter referred to as "Obama Bucks." It featured the head of Senator Obama on the body of a donkey. At the lower left was a bucket of KFC fried chicken. On the lower right was a slice of watermelon. Between the KFC bucket and Obama's head was a slab of barbecue ribs and between the watermelon and his head, on the other side, was the logo of a pitcher of Kool-Aid. The introductory text to the illustration read: "Obama talks about all those presidents that got their names on bills. If elected, what bill would he be on????? Food Stamps, what else!" (An unmistakable retrospective on Lee Atwater/Reagan's "Food-stamp queens" Southern strategy campaign that opened in Neshoba County, Mississippi; the county immortalized in the movie Mississippi Burning, and that concerned the three civil rights workers who were murdered there by the KKK. That's the exact spot Reagan first orated his intentionally racially bigoted offering, "The nine most feared words in the American language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.")