WashPo: The Power of Two Myths

Washington Post

The Power of Two Myths

As its days dwindle down to a precious few, the McCain campaign is giving new life to old myths. In an attempt to suppress minority voting, it has conjured up the specter of voter fraud, though there is no evidence that voter fraud exists. Even more impressive is its attempt to resurrect the welfare queens against whom Ronald Reagan used to fulminate, though the stories Reagan told about them had no basis in fact, either. Welfare was pretty much abolished in the mid-1990s, of course, but an increasingly desperate John McCain is transporting us back to the wedge issues of yesteryear.

To do so, he is accusing Barack Obama of bringing back the discarded policies of welfare by calling for a tax cut that will apply to all taxpayers, including workers who pay payroll but not income taxes because their earnings are too low. A tax break for the working poor — janitors, waitresses, employees of Wal-Mart and McDonald’s — becomes, in McCain’s telling, a subsidy from all the Joe the Plumbers to undeserving people who live off the dole.

Back in Reagan’s day, the whole point of attacking welfare recipients, of course, was to rally susceptible white voters to the Republican column by stoking their animus at African Americans whom they (wrongly) believed comprised the majority of welfare recipients. It enabled Reagan and his right-wing crew to play the race card without actually having to make racially specific characterizations. Which is precisely the tack McCain is taking as he makes a last-ditch attempt to pull every possible vote out of Appalachian Ohio and Pennsylvania.

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