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Do you want to know why the race card—or at least the 21st century manifestation of it—is the most powerful, most effective political weapon in America?
There is no response possible. There is no answer to an African-American’s charge that what you are saying, or hinting, or thinking, or wishing, or unconsciously dreaming is racist.
Any attempt to defend yourself gives credence to the charge. Ignoring the smear is tantamount to an acknowledgement of guilt.
One may ask why all of a sudden Obama himself, his campaign, his surrogates, and his sycophants in the press are throwing the race card around with such abandon? Why the speeches, statements, editorials, op-eds, columns, and blog posts taking McCain to task for “allowing” or “enabling” or “causing” or “encouraging” racism to rear its ugly head at political rallies?
The answer is simple; use it or lose it when it comes to the race card. Short on specific charges of mass hate being whipped up at McCain political events while long on scurrilous, baseless, smears, Black legislators, columnists, and luminaries have taken up the tactics of the Night Rider in order to terrorize people into keeping their mouths shut while casting nauseating aspersions on the GOP candidate for president and his supporters.
Yeah, I know exactly what I’m saying. And the people I’m saying it to royally deserve it. I am fully aware of the history involved. I am using the term “Night Rider” deliberately and for full, unmitigated effect. For if we cannot call out these besmirches of the democratic process and put them in their place (another loaded phrase that I am fully cognizant of its history and meaning and am using deliberately), then they will have been allowed to get away with a smear so calumnious in its form and implication that the very nature of American elections will be altered and free speech as we know it and understand it will be gone.
I am not going to let that happen without a fight. And if I have to throw political correctness to the winds and compare the tactics of African Americans who play the race card with those of their mortal enemies, then so be it.
Congressman John Lewis – perhaps at the behest of Obama himself – donned the white robes and hood in order to let loose this, the most vicious and unprincipled attack on an American politician I have seen in quite a while:
“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,” said Lewis, who is black. “Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.”
At bottom, it is not credible to believe that John Lewis thinks for one second that John McCain’s tactics ape those of George Wallace and could lead to the deaths of innocents. If he does, then he makes himself out to be an idiot. And John Lewis is no fool. He is not only a man who fought for civil rights (and has the physical scars to prove it) but he was a savvy enough pol to advance the cause in the face of the most stringent and violent opposition.
Since Lewis can no more believe that McCain is using the tactics of Wallace than I believe in a flat earth, that makes his “critique” of the McCain campaign a lie – a deliberate, careful, decision by Lewis to bear false witness. And he has done it knowing full well the effect it will have on decent people everywhere.
Even Obama found Lewis’s lies too much and distanced himself – slightly- from the implication that McCain was the reincarnation of Wallace. In effect, Obama embraced Lewis’s lie while separating himself from the Wallace implication. He did it by agreeing with Lewis’s critique but piously giving McCain the benefit of the doubt that he was not possessed by the spirit of George Wallace.
“Sen. Obama does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies,” said the campaign statement.”
“John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night.”
Right? Wrong? Which is it Obama? It certainly appears that Obama wants the benefits accrued by Lewis smearing McCain and his supporters without the baggage associated with its more problematic implications.
Lewis himself backtracked slightly from his original statement but still lied through his teeth:
“My statement was a reminder to all Americans that toxic language can lead to destructive behavior,” he said. “I am glad that Sen. McCain has taken some steps to correct divisive speech at his rallies. I believe we need to return to civil discourse in this election about the pressing economic issues that are affecting our nation.”
I guess there’s “toxic language” and then there’s the race card. No double standard there, Congressman.
If it were only Lewis advancing this meme of McCain and his supporters being racist pigs, one might conclude that the Congressman was some kind of loose cannon, firing off on his own accord and not part of any concerted effort to outrageously brand the Democrat’s political opponents as Kluxers.
Ah, but the sheets that terrorize need not only be hiding white faces. Here’s Adam Sewrer writing in The American Prospect, equating calling Obama a “socialist” with racism:
The hysterical accusations of socialism from conservatives echo similar accusations leveled at black leaders in the past, as though the quest for racial parity were simply a left-wing plot. Obama may not actually be a socialist or communist, but his election would strike another powerful blow to the informal racial hierarchy that has existed in America since the 1960s, when it ceased being enforced by law. This hierarchy, which holds that whiteness is synonymous with American-ness, is one conservatives are now instinctively trying to preserve. Like black civil-rights activists of the 1960s, Obama symbolizes the destruction of a social order they see as fundamentally American, which is why terms like “socialism” are used to describe the threat.
This phenomenon extends beyond Obama’s candidacy. The conservative explanation for the mortgage crisis falls neatly into this narrative, too; the country is at risk because Democrats allowed minorities to disrupt the natural social order by becoming homeowners. Never mind that this defies all data, logic, and history, the narrative resonates because it allows Obama, a living symbol of black folks rising above “their station,” to become a focus for conservative economic anxieties.
At least this guy comes by his blithering ignorance honestly. Unlike Lewis whose calculated smear was meant to damage the McCain campaign with moderates and more conservative Democrats, Sewrer’s twisted, tortured analysis starts from the bogus premise that “hysterical” accusations of socialism against Obama are rooted in a historical narrative that has white people denigrating “the otherness” of Blacks who dare to seek power and influence and that when the crowds shout “socialist” they really mean “n***er!”
I have made it clear that I do not believe Obama is a socialist. Others, either because they don’t understand the term or because they see Obama’s far left redistributive ideas and efforts at reform as “creeping socialism” disagree with me.
Whatever epithets hurled at Malcolm X or Dr. King in the past—however people viewed their problematic associations with individuals who were committed to overthrowing the government of the United States—have nothing to do with Republicans today trying to keep America “white.” It is a baseless, thoughtless, ignorant charge made by someone so intellectually besotted with identity politics that history itself gets turned on its head in service to this false and capricious theme. Did Mr. Sewrer ever dream for one moment that people might actually be sincere in their belief that Obama’s stated policies (not to mention his past and present associations with true radicals and communists) are a indicative of a form of “stealth socialism?”
People of good faith – an animal rare indeed in this race – can argue the merits of such a position. But Sewrer isn’t interested in good faith, he is interested in advancing his racialist worldview where nothing else matters save a reading of history and our present politics through the broken kaleidoscope of his own black bigotry. It is probably emotionally satisfying but as a talisman of truth, it hardly stands up to rigorous scrutiny.
The thought that there are some people who might actually believe Obama is a socialist never crossed his mind because in his narrow, intellectual construct there is race, and then there is race, and if you run out of those, you always have race to fall back on. There is no history, only race. There is no American narrative that doesn’t place race front and center. This is where our obsession with identity politics has led us: A skewing of history and politics so profound that playing the race card becomes an easy shortcut to silencing one’s opponents no matter what argument they advance.
If you can’t beat ‘em, gag ‘em.
So when Mr. Sewrer plays the race card – as he does in his article – he does it with a clear conscience. Put simply, the fool doesn’t know any better. But there are fools, and then there are coldly calculating bigots who take more pleasure than people like Lewis in throwing race in our faces (Lewis, after all, was only playing dirty politics) while gleefully setting crosses afire all across the political landscape.
There is no other way to describe this Les Payne column in Newsday except political terrorism:
Palin’s bland ferocity lends itself easily to vitriol of the type that inflames half-wits. A bald-pated Florida sheriff, one Mike Scott, got carried away under the swoon last week in Estero, Fla., in introducing Palin. Stressing Obama’s middle name, Sheriff Scott paced the stage, in violation of police rules, while inciting the crowd in his full uniform adorned with colorful patches, stars and medals befitting a grand wizard of some mystic order of white knights.
At Clearwater, Gov. Palin lathered up the crowd herself. “You’re going to have to hang on to your hats,” Palin told the rally, according to The Washington Post, “because from now until Election Day it may get kind of rough.” Linking Sen. Obama to a reformed radical of the ‘60s, Palin shrieked her signature smut line, “he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”
“Kill him!” a man in the crowd reportedly responded to Palin’s rabble-rousing. Her related attacks on the media had already whipped a frenzy among the crowd of about 3,000. Tempers rose to a boil when she blamed Katie Couric’s questions for tripping her up as a seeming dimwit. The Post wrote, “Palin supporters turned on reporters … waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. ... One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African-American sound man for a network and told him, “Sit down, boy.”
I have written twice about the incredibly exaggerated reports of “rage” at McCain campaign events. Payne goes a step further by equating a sheriff uttering the sacrilege of Obama’s middle name with a Kluxer.
Who’s the ignoramus here? A sheriff (who was fully within his rights to be at a political rally dressed as he was despite what Payne infers) who dared mention The Messiah’s middle name while introducing Palin to the crowd? I’ve seen the video of this event and the use of “Hussein” got a roar from those assembled. But was it because he used the candidate’s middle name or was it because of the context he used it in?
After saying that “there were three kinds of people in the world; those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happen, Sheriff Scott threw the crowd a piece of raw meat when he said “On election day, let’s leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened.”
Was the crowd roaring because of the use of “Hussein” or was it due to the punchline – a pretty damned effective one if you ask me.? Only your psychic knows for sure. If the crowd roared because of Scott’s allusion to victory on election day, it destroys Payne’s entire narrative of the event – including Scott as another Republican closet Kluxer. (What an extraordinary personal smear by Payne).
No matter. Never stop a bigot when they’re on a roll. Scott’s use of “Hussein” was out of line because John McCain believes that saying Obama’s real name is wrong. I agree.
But the implication is that he is Muslim not that he is black so how Payne and his racialist cohorts can twist what is clearly a tweak at Obama’s father and the idea that Obama is a closet Muslim is a mystery. Except that when you are playing the race card, even giving a weather report can be construed as racist.
I think it a smear to use Obama’s middle name and I wish Scott and other McCain supporters would realize it and stop it. It is questionable hardball politics not racial bigotry. And Payne mindlessly repeats the false notion that the crowd at the event and other McCain/Palin rallies was “angry” or hateful. Payne was obviously too lazy to watch the videos himself. They were happy. They were excited. And for people like Payne to take out of context the mouthings of one or two idiots at a rally attended by thousands is absolute lunacy.
I see absolutely no difference at Obama rallies when he or Biden tosses the rhetorical red meat out into the crowd. The roar becomes deafening. People are laughing and whooping it up. When Bush or McCain is mentioned, they are booed. This is politics. And anyone who would deliberately construe malice or unreasonable emotions by referring to Bush/Palin gatherings as “angry mobs” or intimate anything unusual at all is a liar – or a simple minded fool.
These hooded riders of the night might obscure their false, misleading, and vile calumnious rhetoric with pious words designed to horrify decent Americans and equate voting for John McCain with voting for a racist. But they are trying to terrorize voters into supporting Obama by smearing his opponent with the most nauseating, the stickiest label one can slap on to a candidate in American politics.
Take off your hoods and look in the mirror, those of you – all of you – who are shamelessly and so easily playing the race card. It is all of you who are playing with fire, not McCain. By your words, you are stifling free expression by trying to intimidate people you disagree with through a false and wholly misleading narrative.
And I submit that this is infinitely more dangerous than your fantasies and lies about McCain whipping up a racist mob.