With less than three weeks to go before Election Day, time is running out on the rightwing effort to delegitimize Barack Obama. At the last debate between John McCain and Obama, McCain finally confronted his opponent directly with the Bill Ayers charge. It was a half-hearted effort: he noted that he didn’t “care about an old washed-up terrorist” but insisted that “we need to know the full extent” of Obama’s relationship with the former Weather Underground radical, who has since become an education expert. Though McCain succeeded in appeasing conservatives who demanded he pounce on the Ayers matter, the polling evidence has indicated that whining about Obama’s casual association with Ayers has not yet become a winning tactic for McCain and Republicans trying to depict Obama as an untrustworthy pol outside the American mainstream. But Ayers is not the only ammo for rightwingers striving to brand Obama as anti-American. Various conservatives are pushing other lines of attack to achieve this goal. And as they mount various ploys, their desperation is showing.
For months, the McCain camp and conservatives have attempted to persuade voters that Obama is not one of them, not a truly loyal American–that, for instance, he pals around with domestic terrorists, as Governor Sarah Palin put it. (And the McCain campaign and the Republican Party this week launched a robocall operation that tells potential voters that they “need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the US Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home, and killed Americans.”) If the recent polling is accurate, this anti-Obama crusade has not tilted the electorate toward McCain. But one final push–with or without references to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright–will be coming from rightwingers anxious to prevent an Obama win. In a letter sent to supporters, Donald Wildmon, chairman of the American Family Association, declares, “If the liberals win the upcoming election, America as we have known it will no longer exist. This country that we love, founded on Judeo-Christian values, will cease to exist and will be replaced by a secular state hostile to Christianity.”
Some of these attacks do seem silly and are probably designed more to squeeze money out of paranoid rightwing contributors than to sway swing voters. (Don’t vote for Obama because he will let Soros loot the US treasury?) But they are something of a warning: if Obama wins, this is the tenor of the conservative opposition he will face right out of the box: sensationalized, racialized, apocalyptic, and crazy.