In the 1960s, Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater developed the Southern Strategy. This divisive campaign strategy attempted to pit Americans against other Americans. It was a strategy that exploited racist sentiments in the south, and corralled southerners that harbored resentment after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The strategy has worked for the GOP, and they seek to actively utilize it every presidential election cycle. This year the GOP has chosen to go full bore with the Southern Strategy, demolishing any sense of inclusiveness in the Republican party, and fully ignoring African-Americans. More on this subject to be found south of the Mason-Dixon squiggle.
Mitt Romney has chosen to run a divisive campaign, seeking to cast the African-American community as the antagonist to "real Americans." He is currently polling at 0% with African-Americans, and this should come as no surprise to anyone that has been following his campaign. The Romney campaign has tacitly acknowledged that they are not even going to attempt to capture a part of the African-American vote. If you go to Romney's website, and scroll over "Communities" you will find a plethora of "Identifier" for Romney communities. These identifiers fall under the categories of age, gender, employment, and race. However, there is one race that is absent, an absence that cannot be accidental considering they constitute more than 12% of the American demographics. There is no "African Americans for Romney" on his website. While there are African-Americans that are Republican (notably Allen West, Condoleeza Rice, and Micheal Steele) the Romney campaign has chosen to neither acknowledge their existence nor give them a platform in his campaign. Sure, he had Condoleeza Rice speak at the convention, but that now seems to have only been to keep up appearances.
Romney has chosen to cater to the angry, white male demographic, and has actively sought their support. He has been unabashed to blow the racial dog whistle whenever the time seemed right. These dog whistle statements are some of the most insidious types of rhetoric, used to address the unpopular thoughts of one group while simultaneously allowing them to deny any wrongdoing. His patently false statements about President Obama repealing Welfare-to-Work, and returning it to just welfare, appeal to a certain segment of Americans that believe that only lazy black people use welfare. Romney's Welfare Reform ad was designed to boil the blood of those that harbor racist feelings, it stated:
Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you a welfare check. And welfare-to-work goes back to being plain old welfare.It was an implicit attempt to cast Obama as a black man that wants to steal from white people and give the pilfered money to his black friends. This same line of thought was subtly suggested in his Medicare ad as well, which states:
You paid into Medicare for years — every paycheck. Now when you need it, Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare, Why? To pay for Obamacare. The money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that is not for you.Both ads allow the Romney campaign to deny racism, as neither ad mentions race, and most Americans would agree that racism is absent from those ads. However, Romney is not speaking to those Americans, he is speaking directly to those that "get it." Not all of Romney's statements have been implicit, at a campaign stop in Michigan, he attempted to appeal to the birther segment of the Republican party by saying:
No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.Romney later attempted to spin it as a joke, and not a direct swipe at Obama's "Americanism." The only problem with that is usually people laugh at jokes, not cheer and applaud raucously as did the crowd in Michigan that day.
The GOP has claimed that Obama is the most divisive president in modern American history. They say that he is inciting class warfare, pitting Americans against Americans. Meanwhile, they attempt to do the very same thing along racial lines. This rhetoric is not only bad for America as a whole, but it is dangerous. We have already began to experience the types of outbursts that is fomented by this subterfuge; shortly before Ann Romney took the stage at the RNC convention, two attendees were ejected for throwing nuts at an African-American camerawoman from CNN and yelling "This is how we feed animals." This deplorable act has hardly been acknowledged by those at the convention, and will probably continue to be ignored. It would show great leadership if Romney (which he is supposedly full of) were to openly condemn this act, but he will not and cannot do so, to castigate those two attendees would be akin to castigating much of the Republican base that they so desperately need in November. Stoking these racial fires is incredibly irresponsible during America's first African-American presidency, it poses great risks to the Obamas, as well as to the African-American community. Scapegoating has become a useful political tactic in tough economic times, and is used to unite the base but divide the country. Do not expect the Romney campaign to change its tune; they understand that they have a deficiency with the African-American vote, and have chosen to cast African-Americans as a problem "true Americans" must solve, instead of attempting to lure them to their side of the aisle. The inherent weakness of extreme ideologies is that they must continue to alienate and ever increasing percentage of the electorate in order to cater to the extremists in your base.
Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 7:58 PM PT: I never realized how much I underestimated Romney. I thought he had written of 12% of Americans, I guess the real number is closer to 47%.