Obama: Speaking the Unspeakable About Race

by Pam Spaulding. Crossposted from The Blend.

This country has so many issues ahead of us, the economy, Iraq, health care, our shredded civil liberties, yet the fact that we as a country still cannot discuss race; we deny the role it plays in the political discourse when discussing Obama. There isn't a discussion of the tried and true race-baiting tactics that have been used by both parties to stoke fear in the Base of The Black Man at the polls (remember the Harold Ford ads?). Will there be an honest discussion about these political tactics and how they will play out in 2008, or will pundits dance around it, making only veiled references because a frank discussion about race and its toxic role in political elections makes people uncomfortable.

After I ran that cowardly, vile Freeper post about Obama the night he won in Iowa, several people have posted about it. A recap of the filth:

Did the weakest Dem candidate for the general election won tonight? I think so.

By sending forth Hussein Osama out of Iowa, Democrats have unwittingly weakened their general election prospects.

Hussein's exotic mixture of radical liberalism, Kwanzaa Socialism, antipathy towards the unborn, and weakness against his jihadi brethren will all come back to destroy him against almost any Republican opponent, even the snake-grope from Hope.

I think we as Republicans should be celebrating tonight at the coronation of Hussein, in whose presence millions of Democrat women, from elementary school teachers to journalism majors to law school grads to dykes on bikes will go weak in their knees.

As defenders of this great Republic, and of the pinnacle of Western civilization that it represents, we should all come together tonight and agree on a common strategy that will keep the White House from becoming a madrassa.

God Bless America, Land of the Free.
Some thought that there's no point bringing attention to the bigoted fringe element, others thought this is the tip of the iceberg and it should not go unnoticed.

For me it's not about elevating these bottom-feeder attacks, per se, it's showing how raw people are willing to be under the cover of anonymity, and it gives license for other veiled attacks (remember, Hillary's supporters were caught with their pants down perpetuating the Muslim smear in Iowa). Hillary's supporters/camp has tried to "go there" with the casual raising of Obama's drug use as a teen to get that story back into media play.

Freepers may be fringe, but if you've got Dem supplicants willing to go there who aren't crazy, you can imagine the unending drumbeat of similar race-baiting that will go on in the mainstream GOP. And we all know what kind of third party Republican mailers end up in mailboxes not tied to the party. It's going to be toned down very little from what that Freeper said in that post, the GOP will decry the tactics, but the low-information voters can be swayed. The people who honestly don't think they are racist, but can be influenced by what we think is ridiculous propaganda.

Remember John Kerry and the Swift Boat attacks. He thought ignoring it and taking the high road would pass as a "response." How wrong he was. Rovian tactics of repeating lies so often that they become a truth to the target audience is time tested.

For every fringe element there will be less ham-handed but equally offensive tactics used by the GOP to race-bait and hide behind the cover of "I'm not racist look over there at the Free Republic." Note the community guidelines of the FR actually ban people for racist posts, so obviously this sort of thing passes muster as fair game. The key is to make the GOP answer for its Base. They court this vote, they own it.

Obama's success has again raised the issue of his safety, given the crazies out there. Chris Rabb of Afro-Netizen reacting to the Freeper post:

It would seem that Obama's that much more of a threat to these hateful hordes among us in blue and red states alike, as evinced in a recent racist blog post by anonymous coward hiding safely behind a computer somewhere between sea to shining sea. (Hat tip to über-blogger Pam Spaulding.)

I fear Obama's fate as a front-runner. I think about murdered politico Bobby Kennedy -- an ultra-wealthy White public servant, and the fear he instilled in an unknown mass of the White citizenry in 1968. And my concern heightens that much more for Senator Obama and his family amidst of his auspicious win this evening.
Andrew White, on his blog 10,000 Things, said this to say about what he feels the obligation is of the media, and the political community to address the issue of race head on:

We are ready to elect a black man President and if Obama wins the nomination we will elect him but his campaign, and everyone else on the Democratic side, is going to have to be ready to win a race war. Us white folks are mean sons of bitches when someone threatens OUR power.

I'm not talking about the KKK or Stormfront obvious nutcases but mainstream Mom and Pop white folks that don't think of themselves as racist but really don't want those people living in their neighborhoods or dating their daughters. The ones that live in towns across America that are 88% white and 12% other and really don't have much if any association with black society.

And make no mistake, electing a black man threatens white power, control, and dominance. Note also that Obama is a black man despite being 50% white. We have never claimed half-whites as white. They are black. We don't claim them as even half white. They are black.
Moving on to the other extreme, this image and message comes to us from The Dark Wraith, who puts a disclaimer on what can only be kindly be called a disturbing graphic. Oh, the times we are living in.

At the suggestion of Minstrel Boy of Harp and Sword, a graphic is herewith offered to Sen. Obama and his supporters.

Opinions, vows, or other declarations made in the graphic above do not in any way reflect an endorsement by Dark Wraith Publishing or its proprietor of a candidate or ways of showing support. In other words, for God's sake, don't blame me for this graphic: it was Minstrel Boy's idea; I just happen to be good at graphical artwork. For my own part, I am personally opposed to incendiary imagery and words.
I'd love to say we're more evolved in this country on race, but time and again, we've been been proven wrong.

The ray of hope that race didn't matter in Iowa, a 95% white state is heartening, but as we all know, it takes one crazed fool...

Inevitably, one of these campaigns will (or supporters with enough distance from the campaigns for plausible deniability) "go there" and use tactics meant to scare voters about their country being led by a black man. Everyone knows that fear works, particularly if it's done in a subtle way. We already know the fringe element will take care of doing the hardcore Stormfront-inspired dirty work.

Can you just imagine all the pundit apologists trying to explain it away if they even bother to acknowledge the problem. It will be like Imus all over again, the MSM racing to find some color to put on the air to discuss a third rail topic for fear of the usual talking heads appearing "racist" (as re-defined by current culture).

The other oft-cited defense for avoiding discussions about race is to make the claim that they are unqualified to discuss race matters because they aren't a person of color. This of course, is absurd, but the fear is well-founded because of the elements in the black and other minority communities that loose their cookies when anyone white makes a statement on race that remotely reflects a lack of knowledge about the issue. The blowback only drives whites further into the closet, and any opportunity for a teachable moment is lost because of defensiveness.

You all know it's true. It's why nearly all of my posts on tense race matters results in fewer comments, fewer attempts by readers to expose themselves, even anonymously, as potentially ignorant about one issue or another in regards to race, politics and how white privilege affects all of us.

It's all absurd, and in this case of discussing the situation of the literal health and well being of Obama, it's dangerous to continue dancing around these terribly difficult topics any longer and hope and pray our inattention to the issue will not result in violence, death and further misunderstandings.

That statement, btw, is no indication that I believe it's inevitable that some crackpot will do something or that the mere discussion of it will foment anything. I think this is a straw man people use to avoid the difficult discussions. The crackpots are already out there, folks. This post is about bringing the discussion out into the sunlight, which is the best disinfectant.

That is why there is hope in this call for change by (young) Iowa voters -- race discomfort is receding, and Obama has struck the right chord. Are the candidates, and the entrenched career consultants and the political machinery in both parties ready for a different kind of change -- to let go of the race-baiting tactics they don't want to admit to using to their advantage? That is the test of principle, and it might as well happen in open discussion, not behind closed doors.

What I'm reading so far doesn't sound promising. In fact, these folks are so addicted to fear and smear in the Democratic party that they beg for the ability to "go there" lest the GOP get to it first.

Melanie Levesque, a state representative in Brookline, New Hampshire and a member of African-Americans for Hillary, said Obama lacked the experience to win the presidential election, echoing the official Clinton spin. However, she went on to add a few thoughts of her own, which are not far from the surface of the Clinton campaign.

"I'm very concerned that you can't state [Barack Obama's] middle name, you can't state his record and you can't state his past life," she said. Asked if she was referring to Hussein, his Muslim middle name, and his admitted use of drugs, including cocaine, in his youth, she said, "Yes."
Obama wrote about it in his book, so what is there to discuss? He gave a more thorough disclosure than Big "I didn't inhale" Bill. And I'm sorry, if someone's middle name needs to be a campaign issue, then Hillary Clinton's campaign is worse off than I ever believed.

Two wrongs don't make a right -- Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the baiters who insist on invoking "Barack Hussein Obama" know exactly what they are doing. We all know what they are doing, and it's bush league (pun intended) pandering to the worst instincts in people. If Clinton and other Dems want to go there, please do so, but you're going to be called out on it -- and you're going to have to answer for the consequences of staying in the political gutter. Yes, the GOP will go after him on the most base level, and Obama will address the issues as they arise. Your "help" isn't required on that front to "vet" anything on this front. We all know what the game is, and it's killing them that going negative with race-baiting comes with a risk of serious blowback.

Obama's political record is relevant and fair game, but it sure sounds like making comparisons to Clinton's record isn't sexy or effective enough to work, so they are itching like they are infested with fleas to go negative.


Glenn Greenwald discussed the untethered fears and musings of the "intelligencia" on the Right -- witness Jonah Goldberg, who seems to think if Obama loses, there is going to be rioting in the streets (do you think he envisions a sea of Big Black Bucks terrorizing the masses, hmm?):

Over at National Review, Jonah Goldberg has a "theory" about what might help Obama win in the general election. After noting that Obama will be "the first serious mainstream black contender for the White House," Goldberg warns (emphasis added):

I think it's worth imagining a certain scenario. Imagine the Democrats do rally around Obama. Imagine the media invests as heavily in him as I think we all know they will if he's the nominee -- and then imagine he loses. I seriously think certain segments of American political life will become completely unhinged. I can imagine the fear of this social unraveling actually aiding Obama enormously in 2008.
I wonder: in Jonah Goldberg's "imagination," which (ahem) "certain segments" of the American population exactly will "become completely unhinged" if Obama loses and thereby spawn "social unraveling"? And who are the people who are going so deeply to fear this "social unraveling" that they vote for Obama just in order to keep those "certain segments" in line and well-behaved?
Yeah, we're all over that race thing. Racism is a thing of the past...right? That's what the right wing keeps telling us. They must have amnesia. What was Jena 6 about? Better yet, if that's simply too politically complicated a matter, what about the fallout from it -- some of your fellow Americans felt the license to do things like this...

* Man fired after reporting co-workers put a noose around his neck
* Arkansas pol's bigot eruption: we're 'overrun by immigrants and outpopulated by the blacks'
* Neo-Nazi group publishes addresses and phone numbers of Jena 6 families (urging "readers to 'Get in touch, and let them know justice is coming.'")
* Four nooses were found hung from a tree at a school in High Point, NC
* White Louisiana students re-enact 'Jena 6' in blackface

Glenn aptly notes that there was a segment of the population that became unhinged over a presidential election. Remember the incident in Miami in 2000 when a group of Republican thugs in shirtsleeves lost their cookies during the recount? (Village Voice):

The "bourgeois riot" celebrated by Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot helped stop the announced manual recount of the 10,750 undervote in Miami-Dade County. Instigated by an order from New York congressman John Sweeney to "shut it down," dozens of screaming GOP demonstrators pounded on doors and a picture window at elections headquarters. The canvassing board, which had already found a net Al Gore gain of 168 votes, reversed a decision it had made a couple of hours earlier to begin a tally of the undervote.

The mob gang-rushed a local Democrat carrying a blank sample ballot. They threatened that a thousand Cubans were on their way to the headquarters to stop the count. Several people were "trampled, punched or kicked," according to The New York Times. The canvassing board chair at first conceded that mob pressures played a role in the shutdown -- which cost Gore the 168 votes as well -- but later reversed his position...

...Instead of condemning the Dade tactics, W. himself called the victory party that night to praise them, and Republicans invoked the specter of Jesse Jackson, who'd merely led peaceful protests outside election offices.
Those folks weren't random GOP activists, these were aides to pols shipped down there to intimidate and affect the recount process. Glenn had me rolling with this:

The "certain segment" creating "social unraveling" and blocking vote-counting in 2000 with their thug tactics wasn't quite the same as the "certain segment" which Goldberg and Reynolds are ominously warning will riot in the event of an Obama loss:

Amanda's post on whether she should reconsider her endorsement of Edwards now because of the drivel on the right about Obama is an interesting exercise in musing aloud about the impact of "going there" (by the right, though as we've seen, when under the gun Dems don't mind going in the race gutter if it's expedient). I'm sure many people right now are wondering what the level of discourse will be should Obama continue to succeed.

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