The Republicans have recently unleashed an all out assault on President Obama and Attorney General Holder, accusing them of racism for having had the audacity to accuse the Republican of whining and sniveling about various and sundry perceived failings of Obama and Holder.
This is distinctly odd given the record of individual and institutionalized racism in this country. Consider:
–Almost three hundred years of slavery, beginning in the Colonies and extending until 1865, concluding only after a merciless Civil War which cost the lives of almost 600,000 Americans from both the North and the South.
–Followed by a hundred years of institutionalized segregation and mass murder of Blacks by Whites with virtual impunity. For example, from 1885 until 1945, about 5,000 Blacks were hanged, beaten, burned to death, and otherwise put to death by a variety of means with not a single White called to account.
–A six-year never-ending crescendo of accusations and racial epithets hurled at America’s first twice overwhelmingly elected Black President, ranging from code words such as lazy, haughty, and un-American punctuated by accusations that Obama was born in Kenya, Indonesia, or whatever other blatantly false birthplace came to mind.
–In this era of our first Black President, the Supreme Court has ruled twice on matters that an outside observer could only conclude were meant to suppress the votes of Blacks and elevate the ability of rich Whites to buy elections.
The current Republican race-tinged tactics are thus not surprising given the party’s weak to nonexistent appeal to Black voters and its outright opposition to any and all things Obama. The Party’s blatant antipathy to America’s Black voters reached a sustained crescendo several years ago when a Republican operative named Lee Atwater developed an attack strategy that promoted the use of “code words” such as “welfare queens” to signify black women on welfare. Atwater argued that the use of such abstract language would remove a candidate from direct and harsh terms like the N word and thus shield him or her from charges of racism.
Code words are still widely used, but today’s Republican are also harsh, direct, and unapologetic. These latter approaches are characteristic of the tactics of Karl Rove, a contemporary and ally of Lee Atwater.
Rove developed several campaign approaches that have elevated various clients to high office. Perhaps his most effective tactic has been an all out assault on an opponent’s strongest characteristic.
He successfully employed this approach in the Presidential Election of 2004. The candidates were Democrat John Kerry and Republican George Bush II. John Kerry was a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard as a fighter pilot but was never on active duty. Kerry’s military service was his strongest point; it was arguably Bush’s weakest.
Rove and his minions, the Swift Boat crowd, unleashed an all out assault on Kerry’s military record, questioning the accuracy of his official military citations and all but branding him an all-out liar and traitor. In the face of the Swift Boaters’ unrelenting attacks, Kerry’s responses seemed weak and ineffective. Needless to say, Bush handily carried the election.
The Rovian tactic was also employed successfully against Max Cleland, a Democrat and a disabled US Army veteran of the Vietnam War who lost two legs and an arm in that conflict, a recipient of the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for valorous actions in combat, lost an important Senatorial election in Georgia to non-veteran Saxby Chambliss. Chambliss’ campaign manged to brand Cleland a virtual traitor. If you guessed that Chambliss won, you are correct.
It isn’t surprising, then, that the Republicans recently unleashed their all-out assault on President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, branding them as racists. Their crime: daring to call the Republicans to account for their own racist actions and egregious statements.
In Republican circles, what is good for the goose is not always good for the gander.