Color of Law
By David A. Love
October 16, 2008
“Terrorist!” “Traitor!” “Kill Him!” “Bomb Obama!” “Obama Bin Lyin!”
Senator McCain was offended and outraged when Rep. John Lewis of Georgia compared McCain’s incendiary tactics to that of the late Alabama segregationist George Wallace. I conclude that had McCain’s race baiting succeeded, he would have found a way to get over his anger. After all, when you purposefully stoke the fires of hatred, you should expect that someone will call you out on it. Rather, it is likelier that the Manchurian candidate’s sense of indignation stems from the feeling that the time-tested Southern Strategy—the Republican Party’s dutiful use of the race card to scare the White electorate in national elections, with a bonus if the other candidate is actually Black—was supposed to work as it has always worked. It was supposed to work as it did eight years ago, when operatives for then-candidate Bush (who now work for McCain), smeared McCain in the South Carolina primary by claiming he had fathered a Black child. But apparently, in 2008 it did not work for McCain against Obama.
Stirring up disgruntled, frustrated and bitter White folk over fears of a Black planet, the Republicans borrowed their strategy from the segregationist Dixiecrats of the Jim Crow South. Back then, racist politicians, members of the White Citizens’ Council, the “white-collar” Klan, spewed invective when it came to verbal attacks on African Americans. While keeping their hands clean of any wrongdoing, these politicians stirred up the “unwashed masses,” their poorer, uneducated Klan brethren, who could be then counted on to respond to that rhetoric through assassinations and lynchings of civil rights workers, the bombing of Black churches, and other acts of physical violence and domestic terrorism. It was understood that the words of the politicians went hand in hand with the murderous crimes of the foot soldiers, cause and effect.
And color-coded character assassination is all you have left when you are a party bereft of any ideas and vision short of war profiteering, trickle-down economics, corporate welfare and tax cuts for the wealthy. And the self-proclaimed mavericks who would mis-lead this nation have been operating on smoke and mirrors. At the top of the ticket is a man whose only claim to fame was being in a country where he had no business, fighting people who meant him no harm (sounds familiar), then getting captured and refusing to leave when the “enemy” told him he could go. His running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, was sly and vindictive enough to unlawfully abuse her authority as governor of Alaska, and is dumb as bricks on any matter of domestic or foreign affairs. Palin—who has used hate speech to stir up crowds across the country, causing them to boo Obama in absentia—came into the national spotlight at the Republican convention by quoting an anti-Semite who had hoped for the assassination of President Franklin Roosevelt.
In past years, the race card might very well have worked even for this pair of untalented, mediocre individuals. Perhaps it is too early to write their political obituary, although many commentators across the political spectrum have already done so. And the fact that their campaign is fighting for dear life in bright-red Bush country may provide all the proof we need that it is done, time to stick a fork in it. Nevertheless, it appears that McPalin is a casualty of the changing times, changing demographics, an economic collapse, the youth vote, and an opponent who has excited a multiracial electorate like no other politician in generations. Has the Southern Strategy already made its last stand? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, Palin now has had the tables turned on her. This self-described “hockey mom” was booed while throwing out the puck at the opening game of the Philadelphia Flyers. Philly is Obama territory, to be sure, but the hockey fans? They were supposed to be her people, or so she thought. But even having her two daughters there could not save her. Perhaps some people are determined that they will not be fooled again, that the cost is simply too high for any of us to bear.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member David A. Love, JD is a lawyer and journalist based in Philadelphia, and a contributor to the Progressive Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media Center. He contributed to the book, States of Confinement: Policing, Detention, and Prisons (St. Martin's Press, 2000). Love is a former Amnesty International UK spokesperson, organized the first national police brutality conference as a staff member with the Center for Constitutional Rights, and served as a law clerk to two Black federal judges. His blog is davidalove.com. Click here to contact Mr. Love.