Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mitt Romney's little joke

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I've already commented, briefly, on Todd Akin's rape comment, though there's plenty more that could be said about it. But I've been meaning to talk about Mitt Romney's little "joke":
“No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”

As Romney says, the crowd loved it:
Mitt Romney is standing by a joke about his birth certificate he made on Friday, despite complaints from President Obama’s campaign that the line was a nod to racially charged conspiracy theories regarding the president’s origins.

The Republican nominee told CBS Friday, after the campaign appearance where he made the remark, he saw nothing wrong with the comment, in part because it drew cheers from the crowd. ...

The Obama campaign found it less amusing, noting that Romney has consistently refused to denounce campaign supporters at the forefront of the birther movement like Donald Trump. It didn’t help that Trump tweeted about his conspiracy theory the very same hour Romney spoke.

Yeah, no one has ever asked to see a rich white guy's birth certificate! Isn't that funny? What a great joke!
Wait…how do I know that? I haven’t seen Mitt’s birth certificate, but I’ve seen Obama’s. Why should I believe him?

Oh. Because he’s white and looks like everyone else at his rallies. White people look like they were born in America, while brown people all look like foreigners and their claims of being born here are all questionable. I forgot.

And the all-white crowd at a Republican campaign event loved the comment. Imagine that!

It's really odd, isn't it, that Romney currently polls zero among African Americans? Even when the Republicans hand out free peanuts?
An attendee at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Tuesday allegedly threw nuts at a black camerawoman working for CNN and said “This is how we feed animals” before being removed from the convention,...

Keep in mind that the Republican Party - the "Party of Lincoln" - used to be the overwhelming favorite of African Americans. There were 23 black congressmen before 1900, every single one of them a Republican. (The first woman senator was a Republican, too.)

But that was when the South was solidly Democratic. That was before the Republican's 'Southern strategy' of deliberately wooing white racists brought all those old Dixiecrats into the GOP. That was before the South became the new Republican stronghold (replacing the Northeast, which was appalled at how their party had changed).

But why are those black people so touchy? Why is it all about race with "those people"? Why can't they take a little joke?

And speaking of jokes:
Chris Christie got tapped to make the keynote attack on President Obama, but Rick Santorum was assigned to throw out some of the reddest meat at the GOP convention: about the way Obama supposedly gutted the work requirement for welfare (he didn’t).

And in case anyone was in danger of missing the racial subtext, Santorum linked Obama’s waiving the work requirement (he didn’t) to “his refusal to enforce the immigration law.” Welfare recipients and illegal immigrants, oh my! Santorum made sure to scare the white working class with the depredation of those non-white slackers and moochers. It’s 1972 all over again.

But Santorum moved beyond “blah” people to claim that all of America is caught up in “a nightmare of dependency, with almost half of Americans receiving government assistance.” To get to half, Santorum had to be including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, programs that are overwhelmingly going to white people.

Implicitly, Santorum praised Charles Murray’s thesis (which he praised explicitly during the primary campaign) that “marriage is disappearing in places where government dependency is the highest.” Of course, where in the 1980s Murray made that claim about black people, now he’s making it about the white working class. But Santorum and the GOP are counting on the fact that the white working class — the core of their base — aren’t paying attention to that analysis, they’re only hearing the dog whistles about the non-white. The entire 2012 race hinges on that.

To this day, Republicans are using race to divide us Americans. And their base eats this stuff up.

That base, of course, was created by deliberately wooing white racists after Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawing racial segregation. But this tends to work on white people in general, because it's easy to believe the worst about people who look different - especially when they hear this stuff over and over again from Fox 'News' and other Republican propaganda mills.

This works especially well on elderly white people - people who grew up in a blatantly racist America. And the elderly vote. The young don't. And lately, Republicans have been busy putting barriers in place to keep Democratic constituencies - urban voters, young voters, minority voters - from the polls. Make it difficult to vote and fewer people will vote.

It's sad to realize, but all too many of us Americans are ignorant enough, bigoted enough, and/or gullible enough that racist dog-whistles still work. Republicans tend to use code words - their leaders, at least, know that calling black people 'animals' will turn off some voters - but they're not hard to translate.

In fact, they're not meant to be hard to translate. They're just meant to give them plausible deniability - not among minorities, who know very well what they mean, but among white supporters who want to believe that, anyway.

And ordinary white Americans buy into that, because it's easy to blame someone else for their problems. Even decades ago, this worked. Those so-called "Reagan Democrats" saw economics almost entirely in racial terms, as Republicans intended. They let the rich screw them over, because they bought into that race-baiting. Well, as I say, it's easy to believe the worst about people who look different.

It's the same way with Romney's little "joke." No white president has ever faced accusations about a secret birth overseas. No white president has ever been called a secret Muslim. John McCain was born in Panama, but that was never an issue in his presidential campaign. Of course no one is going to ask to see Mitt Romney's birth certificate.

Heh, heh. Hilarious, wasn't it? Yeah, that was a great joke. I'm still chuckling. Racism is always so funny!

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