Obama Inherits Democrats' Flawed Script on Race
still don't know whether to howl with laughter or shake my head in disgust at the crude and silly race-baiting antics of the National Black Republican Association. It recently announced that it's launching a series of radio ads about presumptive Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama. The ads recite these tired and worked-over slanders: a rap at Obama's alleged ties with former Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayers, his relationship with his former pastor Jeremiah Wright, and convicted financier Tony Rezko.
Before going any further, there are many politically astute, principled black Republicans who would never dare stoop to personal and gutter-dredging attacks on Obama, or any other Democratic candidate. They are probably aghast at the association's mud slinging attacks too. Obama is hardly immune from legitimate political criticism, particularly for his recent black flip and rightward shift on the FISA bill, the Iraq War withdrawal, refusal to accept public financing, and support of the death penalty. That kind of criticism is legitimate.
Still, there are several interesting, ironic and pitiable things about the association's hit ads on Obama. One is that they fly in the face of what Obama rival John McCain and the Republican National Committee have publicly pledged, and that's to run a clean campaign against Obama. That means confining criticism of Obama solely to his stance on the issues. McCain and the RNC so far have not violated their pledge to play fair. But then again, they don't have much choice. Even the slightest hint of a race-card play would bring a loud shout of foul and would likely backfire. Even those whites, and there are many as evidenced by surveys and exit polls, who say they will not vote for an African-American solely based on color would cringe in shame at a naked racial pander by the GOP. A racial attack also wouldn't work for another reason. Obama and the Democrats are on guard against it. They have sternly put the GOP on notice that such an attack will be swiftly and vigorously denounced as dirty political pool.
The irony is that blacks, even black Republicans, would choose to make race an issue with Obama. One would expect that such an attack would likely come from a far-out ultra conservative, or race-baiting fringe political group. But it didn't. So that raises these questions. Who paid for the ads? Is the association fronting for some shadowy well-funded Republican hit group? And what does the group hope to gain from a hit below the belt attack that could blow up in their face?
Then there's the pitiable thing about the attack ads. They crash against a hard political fact of life. Though blacks in the past have groused at and bashed the Democrats, they still overwhelmingly vote for them, and even when they don't, they're more likely to stay home rather than vote Republican. Their rock solid loyalty to the Democrats is not simply a case of blind and misguided loyalty. The entire Congressional Black Caucus are Democrats, and so are the leaders of the mainstream civil rights organizations. Despite the shots they take at the Democrats for "political plantationism," black Democrats and civil rights leaders are still highly respected. Most blacks still look to them to fight the tough battles for health care, greater funding for education and jobs, voting rights protections, affirmative action, and against racial discrimination.
Black Democrats still accurately capture the mood of fear and hostility the majority of blacks feel toward the Republicans. Even when black Democratic politicians stumble, they are still regarded as better bets than Republican candidates to be more responsive to black needs.
Then there's the Republican Party, and its terrible history of racial exclusion, neglect and race baiting. The endless foot in the mouth, racially insulting gaffes, racially loaded campaign ads by Republican officials and politicians and the refusal by GOP brass to loudly condemn them -- or worse, their tendency to defend them -- has continually ignited black fury. The fight of House Republicans against the Voting Rights Act renewal, Iraq war expansion, the slash and burn of job and education programs, and Bush's Katrina bungle, as well as his many year snub of the NAACP and Congressional Black Caucus, deepened black suspicions that the GOP is chock full of bigots. McCain has said he will address the NAACP convention in July. Beyond that he's done little to court black voters.
In 2004, Bush talked about making the GOP a true party of diversity. That got him a mild bump up in black votes in his 2004 presidential win. That stirred many black Republicans to hope for the unthinkable, and that's that they could win big-ticket offices. That hope has been largely dashed.
If the association thinks that its ad antics against Obama will sway even a microscopic fraction of black voters to dash to the Republican camp, they're floating in dream land. And that's worth a laugh and a shudder.
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Albion Monitor July
5, 2008 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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