Sunday, August 26, 2012


One portion of a New York Times story about the Mitt Romney campaign is drawing blog attention. Dennis G. at Balloon Juice publishes the excerpt with emphasis and annotation:
Mr. Romney's chances hinge to a large degree on running up his advantage among white voters in swing states who show deep strains of opposition to Mr. Obama [because he's black] but do not yet trust Mr. Romney to look out for their interests, Republican strategists say.

Many of those voters are economically disaffected, and the Romney campaign has been trying to reach them with appeals built around an assertion that Mr. Obama is making it easier for welfare recipients to avoid work. The Romney campaign is airing an advertisement falsely charging that Mr. Obama has "quietly announced" plans to eliminate work and job training requirements for welfare beneficiaries, a message Mr. Romney's aides said resonates with working-class voters who see government as doing nothing for them.

The moves reflect a campaign infused with a sharper edge and overtones of class and race. On Friday, Mr. Romney said at a rally that no one had ever had to ask him about his birth certificate, and Mr. Ryan invoked his Catholicism and love of hunting. Democrats angrily said Mr. Romney's remark associated him with the fringe "birther" camp seeking falsely to portray Mr. Obama as not American.
Dennis writes:
The GOP convention is going to be three days of code-talking and race baiting dog-whistles. Any lie will be fine if it promotes white fear. And the lies that test best to cause white voters to vote based on race will be repeated over and over and over again by team wingnut.
Similarly, BooMan writes:
So, the New York Times is basically reporting that Team Romney has concluded that the only way to get white working class folks to overlook their candidates' policies, religion, and elitism is to make racist attacks against the president.
I see the point. But I think there's more going on than an appeal to racism.

Republicans seize on anything available to turn the Democrat -- whatever Democrat it may be -- into a freak, a foreigner, a libertine, a heretic, a wuss, a hermaphrodite, an effete snob, a low-life, or whatever will make Real Americans despise that Democrat. Playing the race card is easy in Obama's case; so is his status as a foreigner's child who lived overseas as a boy.

But Republicans also attack him for his (real or imagined) foreign policy (drone strikes and the killing of Osama bin Laden notwithstanding). The right regularly tells us that Obama bows to foreign leaders and apologizes for America. The right claims to have evidence that an adviser (a woman!) talked Obama into delaying the bin Laden raid, which went forward only because the secretary of state (another woman!) had the real backbone, and urged the president to proceed. This is about race to some extent, admittedly (Valerie Jarrett, the allegedly reluctant adviser, is, like Obama, black), but it's also about sex and manliness. Obama wears mom jeans and can't throw a baseball and he didn't really have the guts to kill bin Laden! And the attacks on Obama as a religion-basher (hello, Cardinal Dolan) are primarily about the notion that urban sophisticates hate God.

This is about "whiteness," I suppose -- but it's never merely about skin color with Democrats. Michael Dukakis was white, but apparently not white enough -- remember what Loretta Lynn said about him at a rally for George H.W. Bush?
"Why, I can't even pronounce his name."
I got that from a Washington Post story, which also quotes Bush himself during that campaign:
George H.W. Bush, running that year, described his rival as "guided more by abstract theories and grids and graphs and computer printouts and the history of Swedish social planning."
The story was written in 2004, and also described how a very different Massachusetts Democrat was portrayed as not a real American:
There has been an echo of this kind of down-home invective in the controversy over [John] Kerry's statement that foreign leaders secretly back his candidacy. Pressed last Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" on where and when the leaders told him this, Kerry declined to say, but he noted: "You can go to New York City and you can be in a restaurant and you can meet a foreign leader."

This prompted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) on Monday to sneer: "I don't know where John Kerry eats, or what restaurants he attends in New York City. But I tell you, at the Taste of Texas restaurant -- it's this great steakhouse in Houston, Texas -- the only foreign leader you meet there is called filet mignon."
If you've got a guy like Bill Clinton, you go the other way: you call him white trash (even if you're in the habit of denouncing Democrats for holding rural whites in contempt) and you denounce him for sexual libertinism (even if your party embraces the likes of Ted Nugent and Kid Rock).

The Democrat is always The Other. The opposite of pure-blooded Americanism is whatever the Democrat seems to represent.


Victor said...

Ah, yes, Kerry was too French!

Now, if Mitt, who spent 3 years in France as a missionary during the Vietnam War, (so as to not have his precious elitist Mormon nuts shot off), and who speaks French pretty well, if not fluently, got caught naked and fully erect in a Parisian male bordello, eating vichyssoise, escargot, and a pre-teen boy named Pierre, that would be held up as Romney showing his foreign policy chops.

But let Obama pick out an eclair for dessert at breakfast after an omlette at a donut shop, or French dressing for his salad at Applebee's, and HE'S SOME KIND OF FRENCH SOCIALIST! CAN'T YOU SEE THAT HE'S SOME KIND OF A FRENCH SOCIALIST?
And I'd hate to see what would happen if they ever show him eating caviar at a State Dinner with Putin, or Peking Duck with the Chinese Ambassador.

Thank goodness we've got a highly functioning "Fourth Estate" to help people to sort out the propagandistic and divisive chaff, from the the all important wheat, needed to make intelligent decisions when voting.*

*If you've never read sarcasm before, you've just read it now!

Chris Andersen said...

I've been trying to get this message through to democrats for years. I remember 2000 when Gore ran on an implicit "I'm not a horndog like Clinton" under the mistaken impression that they attacked Clinton because he was a horndog.

I remember 2004 when Kerry ran on an implicit "I'm not a wonky robot like Gore" under the mistaken impression that they attacked Gore because he was a wonky robot.

What neither Gore or Kerry understood was that they were being attacked because they were Democrats. Any Democrat who runs will always get attacked on the most unreasonable of grounds because, to the opposition, being a Democratic President is inherently unreasonable.

I think both Clinton and Obama understood this, which is why they ran so much better than the others. They didn't try to find the thing that made other democrats unpopular and run against that. They understood, at its core, that they were attacked BECAUSE they were Democrats, so trying to immunize themselves against that attack.