That didn't take long. An Illinois Republican party official made a racist and sexist attack against Erika Harold two weeks after she announced her Congressional primary campaign against a Republican incumbent. The ugly comments by the chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party have gotten plenty of coverage so I won't repeat them here. Conservative talk show hosts are advised to wait a week before going back to arguing that racism is no longer a problem in America.
Her opponent in the Republican primary, freshman incumbent Rodney Davis, did the right thing by removing the official's name from a list of supporters on his website and asking him to resign as party chair.
The episode reminded me about a piece of Davis campaign literature I wrote about last year as an example of "othering" or as I like to call it, fill-in-the-blank-prejudice. A Davis campaign representative handed it out during a 9-12 & Take Back America event in Montgomery county, which is now looking for a new Republican chair.
During campaign season, 9-12 groups were usually careful not to make overtly racist slurs, but the movement includes plenty of appeals to a vague sense of America as they know it being under attack by this new socialist black President and his scary allies. So, it's no wonder that the Davis campaign would give the group literature claiming that he's one of them. It says Davis will represent "Our America" where people put in an honest day's work.
The card doesn't need to tell a 9-12 group in an overwhelmingly white small town who those other people are from somewhere else where they don't put in an honest days work and who aren't part of "our america." They can fill in the blanks. This the same crowd who claim that most of their state tax dollars are being taken from rural downstate and spent in Chicago because that's where most of the welfare recipients live. Of course, that belief is absurd since much of rural Illinois is poor and most of the state's millionaires and Fortune 500 companies are located in the Chicago area.
Apart from the racist and sexist remarks, it's worth noting the point made in the offensive email about Harold. The author feels that Davis represents him and conservatives in the district, despite suggestions that Harold might be a more conservative alternative. The reason for those conflicting perceptions about Davis is the result of a campaign strategy that carefully presented two different images of himself.
Davis mostly avoided forums where the public could ask questions during his '12 campaign. He made an art of avoiding specifics about where he stands on nearly every controversial issue. He spent most of the campaign speaking at private events held by Republicans and conservative groups, and went out of his way to make sure his comments weren't recorded. He talks about bipartisanship and working with Democrats in press interviews. But, he has a much more conservative and partisan message for the closed-door events where he spent most of his time campaigning.
Davis continues to promote his image in the press as someone who can be bipartisan. He needs to since a majority of voters chose another candidate in the last election. But, despite her buzz in the national press, I don't believe Harold will gain much traction with conservative groups in the district. The 9-12 crowd in Montgomery county and other conservative groups who hear Davis talk in private still believe he's one of them. They believe he'll represent their America.