By Bob Cesca: Ever since President Obama became a frontrunner in 2008, far-right conservatives, especially those tasked with feeding myths and propaganda into the atmosphere for politics and profit, have been exploiting the racial resentment among angry white Republican voters.
The goal is to tweak and motivate these voters to become even angrier. The angrier they become, the more activated they are when it comes time to donate money to Republican campaigns and, of course, to vote against pro-black Democrats.
It’s a process as old as the Civil War when southern “fire-eaters” insisted that candidate Abraham Lincoln would incite a slave revolt against whites. More than 100 years later, the “Southern Strategy” became the modern term for this process, and was coined by Nixon operatives including former-MSNBC talker Pat Buchanan. The goal at the time was to create a backlash against Democrats who voted for civil rights legislation by cleverly suggesting that white people were under threat of oppression by the rising fortunes of minority populations, mainly black people.
Since then, the strategy has been a staple of Republican campaigns. I’ve compiled various examples on my blog over the years, but the greatest hits include Jesse Helms’ “White Hands” commercial, formulated in part by CNN analyst Alex Castellanos, in which a white man loses his job due to affirmative action (subtle!); the criminally awful Willie Horton ads from George H.W. Bush’s 1988 campaign, describing how a black criminal furloughed by Michael Dukakis went on to rape a white woman; and, most recently, the Romney campaign’s “Obama Isn’t Working” slogan, which plays to the racist stereotype that blacks are lazy.
The Southern Strategy isn’t a liberal conspiracy theory. I’m not making this up. Chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele apologized to America for his party’s usage of the strategy, and it’s a documented and proven tactic. The Republican Party seeks out racist voters by engaging in racist tactics.
Throughout the last several years, the Republicans and their operatives have been trying to portray President Obama as a stereotypical “angry black man” who’s out for vengeance against oppressive whites. However, anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the president’s biography (he’s half-white and was raised by his white mother and grandparents) and personality (he’s from Hawaii and exudes the laid-back multiculturalism found there) knows this is ridiculous. But when it comes to the strategy, reality is irrelevant.
It all began with Rev. Wright and continued through Glenn Beck telling the world that the president is “a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people… This guy is, I believe, a racist.” The attacks escalated when the president remarked that Sgt. James Crowley acted stupidly when he invaded the home of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. There are countless attacks along these lines on AM talk radio every day. Rush Limbaugh thinks the president is shoving white people “to the back of the bus.” The First Lady was attacked when a tape surfaced of her using the word “whitey” — she didn’t.
The list goes on and on.
And yesterday, there was this item in the Washington Times:
“Hip-hop legend MCA passes on; Obama says not a word”
The obvious implication here is that the president hates white musicians because he hasn’t eulogized Adam “MCA” Yauch from the Beastie Boys who died last Friday. Yes, he totally hates white musicians — so I wonder how white musician Bob Dylan won the Medal of Freedom this year, the highest civilian honor granted by the president. Those of us who live in a reasonable universe realize that the president can’t talk about every celebrity death that happens along the way. The sad fact is that not all celebrities, no matter how great, are on the national radar quite enough for the president to mention.
Likewise, the president never mentioned the death of Junior Seau, so he must hate Samoans. And football players. In fact, the president never mentioned the deaths of black superstars like Gary Coleman (2010), Solomon Burke (2010), Heavy D (2011), Joe Frazier (2011), Patrice Oneal (2011) and Etta James (2012). Shock-horror! The president must hate black people, too.
The truth is there have probably been white presidents who hated white people more than President Obama. I suspect this president hates very few people, and the ones he hates, he hates for other reasons having nothing to do with their race or ethnicity. But unfortunately, the political advantages of portraying him as an anti-white racist far outweigh the truth that no other president in history has had a greater understanding of racial unity or has possessed a greater will for compromise (sometimes frustratingly so) than this one.