It’s time for some real talk. With only three weeks away a presidential election that should not even be close, save for some understandable economic anxiety, is coming down to the wire as a symbol of privileged white manhood makes a fever pitched run for the White House. If you listen to his supporters, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is the “Great White Hope.” Romney’s run for the Oval Office is more than a campaign for many on the right, it is a crusade to restore the proper order of things in America; to bring a white male back in power and to reclaim the ‘wholesomeness’ of white family values at the White House. The level of resentment among many Romney supporters is palpable and the over-the-top racist vitriol represents a cry of desperation among some who are none too pleased over the browning of America.
When the racist imagery used to portray President Obama and the derogatory language used to characterize his presidency is considered in its totality, it becomes clear that many of his detractors are just an N-word away from attacking his character. In the last four years we have witnessed images that evoke post-Reconstruction and early Jim Crow white supremacy, and seen a rise in overtly racist appeals disguised as policy differences. And it has not simply been the work of rank-and-file Republicans, as GOP lawmakers at all levels of government have engaged in gutter politics in an attempt to sully the legacy of the nation’s first African-American President.
My criticism of journalist Jim Lehrer’s performance in the first debate is that he failed as a seeker of truth to bring out of the shadows the single most salient factor in this presidential race: race. He did a disservice to the national conversation by omitting any discussion on an issue that has hung over the Obama presidency since Day One. If for no other reason than the rapidly shifting demographics of our nation, each candidate should have been confronted about the tone of the campaign, the racist imagery that has been at play, and asked to respond and specifically explain to the American public their point of view on race in the campaign and country in general.
This is not a case of southern style prejudice resurfacing either. The racism projected by Obama haters can be found in all quarters of this country. Just the other day while driving in my home state of New Jersey, a car passed me with the bumper sticker “The Worst President Ever” with the “O” mimicking the President’s campaign logo based upon his last name. Just considering the wretchedness of the George W. Bush presidency and the Constitution trampling of the Nixon White House, labeling the Obama administration as “the worst ever” is the product of irrational hatred. It is this exaggeration and attempt to create a false narrative of the Obama presidency that is driven by fanaticism and encourages the hatefulness of an anti-Obama poster depicting the President as a witch doctor in a New Jersey shop owner’s window. Worse, the business owner uses as his excuse for his overt racism his biracial granddaughter as a symbol of his race neutrality. The worst racists tend to be those who claim “I’m not a racist,” and then cite a Black friend or family member to affirm him or her being ‘down.’ Equally disturbing is the silence of the state’s normally bombastic governor, Chris Christie, a key Romney supporter and surrogate, regarding this incident. It suggests a quiet complicity and validation of racial hatred that cannot be defended on First Amendment grounds. We can’t resolve the issue of race, and racially induced inequities, because we are too busy denying the existence of racism even when it is in the room like the proverbial 800 pound gorilla.
In so many ways Mitt Romney represents the last white male standing; not loved by his party but tolerated as a tool to derail the Obama presidency. This is not an election driven by issues as so many pundits, journalists and academicians would want you to believe. The economy is certainly a concern but what is driving a good portion of Romney’s base is an animalistic hatred of the President, and his family. The First Lady has not been immune to the crassness of Republican fanatics, and has endured her own share of racist insults. If the recovery were not part of this election’s narrative I am convinced that the level of inflammatory and crass rhetoric targeting President Obama would persist. The disapproval of the President is not about governance, it’s about race and the panicked extremism of many whites who see in this President the demise of their privileged, however tenuous, existence despite their pre-Obama marginalized lives.
Sadly, the end of this campaign will bring no relief. America will still have a racial hangover and will not have a prescription to alleviate the symptoms. Should the President win re-election, the intensity of politically driven and endorsed racism will only increase. In the event that Mitt Romney is victorious, there will be a brazen attempt to mute the voices of dissent through policy oppression and voter suppression. The racists will be emboldened and will hide their true sentiments behind the banner of ‘state’s rights’ and innocuous sounding legislation that will serve to lay the foundation for apartheid-like conditions in the United States. We will see emerge a nation constructed for the benefit of white elites dependent but not indebted to a servant class of poor and working class whites, immigrant, Black, Latino and foreign labor.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.