It should come as no surprise that federal agents uncovered a plot to kill Senator Barack Obama. We knew from the moment he announced his candidacy for President that he had a bulls eye on his back that was as large as the iconic symbol of big box retailer Target. It is a reality that Mr. Obama has understood and accepted as part of the burden of breaking the stranglehold of white males on the most powerful elected office in the world. In fact, the reality of race in America is such that the Secret Service even acknowledged the special burden carried by the senator when they made the decision to provide protection at a point earlier than has been the tradition in presidential campaigns.
Even with the recognition of the inherent dangers Senator Obama faces in trying to penetrate the last bastion of white hegemony in electoral politics, the news of the plot uncovered by the agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is disturbing. The fact that the plotters are two young white males is all the more troubling because it suggests that despite all the progressive sentiment we hear from young people today, there is still a strand of ignorance among some that suggests we had better take heed of their estrangement.
While much is made of urban violence and gang activity, very little is spoken about the repeated incidents in which young white men commit horrendous acts of violence. Whether it was Tim McVay, a soldier, or the culprits who committed mass murder at Columbine High School, we have paid little attention to the degree to which young white men invest in racial stereotyping to compensate for their own shortcomings, socially, economically or intellectually. Rather, these incidents are quickly dismissed as aberrations or the result of some personal trauma that triggers an unexpected violent episode. And as politicians and media pundits get on their soapbox when young Black men are involved in anti-social behavior, young white men, like the two plotting to kill Senator Obama, get a pass.
What I find particularly loathsome about the reported plot is that I believe that the level of racial hatred that we are witnessing in the closing weeks of this campaign can be traced directly to Senator McCain’s fanning the flames on the campaign trail. John McCain has provided the fuel for the ugliness we are seeing as we approach Election Day. After weeks of questioning Senator Obama’s citizenship and faith, and then inferring that he is somehow anti-American in contrast to the pro-America values Sarah Palin claims are evident in her ticket’s supporters, McCain has given license to every ignorant, white racist quack out there with a racial grievance. Would the two dimwitted, would-be Oswalds attempted to push their plot forward without the background noise of McCain and Palin? Perhaps. But like a car that can go just a few more miles on fumes, these two young men were fueled by McCain’s co-signing of the racist paranoia that has gripped many whites over the prospect of an Obama presidency.
It doesn’t stop there. The hoax engineered by a McCain campaign worker, insisting that she had been attacked by a Black supporter of Senator Obama and had a backward “B” drawn on her face, presumably to “mark” her for Obama, smacks of the Charles Stuart incident years ago in Boston or the Susan Smith incident in South Carolina. And the manner in which some media outlets jumped on the story, despite it clearly originating from the McCain camp further exposes the degree to which scare tactics are being used to inflame white passions. It is apparent that since he does not seem able to gain traction on the issues, and is now fighting for survival in what were once considered safe “Red” states, John McCain’s last pitch is whiteness. If for no other reason than Senator Obama’s race, the McCain camp is hoping white voters hew to race loyalty in casting their ballots.
Now, one could suggest that I am being hypocritical in arguing that McCain is using race to appeal to white voters when there is obviously a tidal wave of Black support for Senator Obama; much of it driven by racial pride. Here’s the difference. Senator Obama has wrapped his campaign in a universal message that acknowledges the cultural significance of a Black candidate. It is a message invested in a hopefulness that is inclusive while acknowledging the unique history of Black Americans. On the other hand Senator McCain has chosen a different and darker route. He has traded on race as a means to rile white voters and stew their anger. How many times have we heard McCain say that he is angry and that his supporters should be too? And if anger is at the root of their voting, why would they be angry with Senator Obama? Differences on policy are to be expected but for John McCain to appeal to the lowest common denominator – race - in angry whites is an appeal that has far more to do with white supremacy than it does with winning the White House.
When this election is finally over, the Republican Party will find itself the equivalent of the racist National Party of South Africa during apartheid. What could have been an engagement that brought out the best in our nation and a time of celebration for the progress we have made, has been turned into a hate party with invitations courtesy of John McCain.