Jack and Jill Politics: Barack the Socialist = Obama the Uppity Elitist

Jack and Jill Politics (10/27/08)

Barack the Socialist = Obama the Uppity Elitist

My criteria for a racist attack during this long and arduous campaign season has been to pause when these three conditions are present and examine what message might actually be on the dogwhistling march:

1) Is it unique to Obama, i.e. is it a phrase we’ve never heard before applied to any other presidential candidate ever or is it something we haven’t heard in recent memory? For example: elitist or drug seller.

2) Is it illogical or impossible – does the assertion plainly contradict the facts? For example: elitist, drug seller or tax raiser.

3) Is it repeated, over and over, by a desperate person whose team is falling in the polls & who adopts a wide-eyed, credulous, nodding stare pronouncing the lie slowly and precisely with a watchful eye to see if the listeners are buying it. For example: elitist, drug seller, tax raiser or terrorist.

Does the assertion cause nervousness, embarrassment or confusion among non-blacks? When other white people such as Tom Brokaw sense something wrong and start to ask questions like “Do you really believe that?”, you know you’re in the racist attack zone.

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TPM Election Central: AP: Analysis: Sarah Palin, propping up sagging campaign, uses words that could backfire on ticket

Associated Press (10/5/08)

Analysis: Sarah Palin, propping up sagging campaign, uses words that could backfire on ticket

Palin’s words avoid repulsing voters with overt racism. But is there another subtext for creating the false image of a black presidential nominee “palling around” with terrorists while assuring a predominantly white audience that he doesn’t see their America?

In a post-Sept. 11 America, terrorists are envisioned as dark-skinned radical Muslims, not the homegrown anarchists of Ayers’ day 40 years ago. With Obama a relative unknown when he began his campaign, the Internet hummed with false e-mails about ties to radical Islam of a foreign-born candidate.

Whether intended or not by the McCain campaign, portraying Obama as “not like us” is another potential appeal to racism. It suggests that the Hawaiian-born Christian is, at heart, un-American.

The fact is that when racism creeps into the discussion, it serves a purpose for McCain. As the fallout from Wright’s sermons showed earlier this year, forcing Obama to abandon issues to talk about race leads to unresolved arguments about America’s promise to treat all people equally.

The Roots of Symbolic Racism III: Ronald Reagan, 1976

New York Times (1/9/77)

Follow-Up on the News: ‘Welfare Queen’

Ronald Reagan, from his stump speech in the 1976 presidential election:

There’s a woman in Chicago.  She has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veterans benefits on four nonexisting deceased husbands.  And she’s collecting Social Security on her cards.  She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps and she is collecting welfare under each of her names.  Her tax-free cash income alone is over $150,000.

The Roots of Symbolic Racism II: Lee Atwater, 1981

Bob Herbert (9/25/07)

The Ugly Side of the GOP

Quoting Lee Atwater from an interview with Alexander Lamis given in 1981:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

The Roots of Symbolic Racism I: Kevin Phillips, 1970

New York Times (5/17/70)

Nixon’s Southern Strategy ‘It’s All in the Charts’

From a profile of political strategist Kevin Phillips”

“The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are.”