Monday, 29 September 2008

Making Race Campaign Issue



The issue of race, which hitherto, was muted, an aspect considered by many as the third-rail of American politics, has now surfaced front and center in Obama's presidential campaign. Obama has deftly run his campaign as a transcendental candidate who is summoning Americans to a higher purpose, one where race, creed, cultural and religious definitions would be de-emphasized and a new American purpose - one anchored on bipartisanship would be emphasized.

Republicans and their affiliates appeared to have largely kept the issue of race out of the campaign until now. In the past two weeks, fringe groups and other right wing organizations have flooded people's homes and airwaves at mostly white suburbs in the battle ground states like Michigan and Ohio with some of the most vile and despicable racially insensitive pamphlets and TV, ads.

In one of such pamphlets as reported by a New York based Metro News of September 24, 2008, the flier entitled “Do you Want a Black President?” and distributed in the affluent white suburb of Roxbury-New Jersey, the authors of the wicked materials depicted Obama as Osama Bin Laden, in a doctored picture, and went ahead to cite the poverty that has ravaged black run countries like Haiti and the AIDS epidemics in the Southern African hemisphere, and warned darkly “The United States of America will be next.” They went on to stoke the embers of race by asking: “Why should we seal our fate by allowing a black ruler to destroy us?”

According to a recent AP Poll, many blue collar democrats, those popularly called “Reagan Democrats” have said flat-out that though registered Democrats, they won't vote for Obama because of his race. There is also the widespread belief that many of the polls showing Obama to be leading John McCain, may be misleading, because many of the white respondents for fear of being seen as racist have said they would vote for Obama, while in their hearts, they intend to vote for McCain, purely on racial grounds. This development has generated fear in the Obama Campaign and among Democrats that if come Election Day, polls still have a sizeable number of undecided voters in the battle ground states, that those people would break for McCain, thus handing him victory in those crucial states.

The role of talk radio has been mostly vile. Talk radio hosts such as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Michael Savage and others; have been lobbing racial grenades at Obama. They have all chorused the same line that if voters want America destroyed and reduced to a Third World status, they should vote for Obama. Rush Limbaugh even went ahead to say that Obama would redistribute the wealth of America to Third World countries and in the process, impoverish the wealthy.

The question is: why have these Republican surrogates and hacks resorted to this vile tactics? The answer is simple. Obama has seized the economic crises now affecting the markets and steered the conversation and discourse to the serious issue as to who is seen as the better steward of the economy. Americans overwhelmingly by a ratio of 2-1 favor the Democrats. Now that substantial issues are discussed, as opposed to “Pigs on a Lipstick” and Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the momentum is on Obama's side. According to all the polls that came out this week, Obama was leading McCain outside of the margin of error. The ABC-Washington Post Poll had him leading McCain by 10 percentage points. The excitement of Sarah Palin's pick appeared to have worn out, and Americans are now more concerned with kitchen table issues, which the Republicans are in deficit.

In order to turn the debate back to the crass, inane and asinine level, these groups allied with the Republicans, have now brought the issue of race into the elections. Will they succeed? Or will they face a huge backlash from the public who do not sign on to those kinds of mean and vile tactics? We keep our fingers crossed.

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