Monday, October 29, 2012

Election 2012: From Celebration to Racial Bitterness

Wednesday November 7, 2008 and again on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009 a broad spectrum of Americans celebrated the nation’s first election of an African American to the Presidency.  Jesse Jackson and other Black Americans cried tears of joy, but many who voted for Republican John McCain were also proud that America had finally made progress on this unfulfilled promise of racial equality which Alexis de Tocqueville had pointed out in “Democracy in America” (1835-40).  Nearly all Americans want to think of themselves as treating all people equally regardless of race or ethnicity, and the narrative of an African American who had grown up in difficult circumstances ascending to the highest office in the land was highly appealing and cause for celebration. That of course was largely a myth, for many Americans continued to harbor fundamentally racist attitudes and beliefs, but at least for that one day they could make believe they were supporters of equality.  

Any pretence of national solidarity ended with a secret dinner on January 20, 2009 at the end of the Inauguration Day when House Republicans and some Senators met to plan a campaign of obstruction against newly installed president Barack Obama. During a lengthy discussion, the senior GOP members worked out a plan to repeatedly block Obama over the coming four years, making it appear he accomplished nothing. Attending the dinner were House members Eric Cantor, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra, Dan Lungren, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan and Pete Sessions. From the Senate were Tom Coburn, Bob Corker, Jim DeMint, John Ensign and Jon Kyl.  Others present were former House Speaker and future presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and the Republican strategist Frank Luntz, who organized the dinner.  A detailed account of who was present at the dinner on that January 20 night and the plan they worked out to bring down Obama is provided by Robert Draper in 'Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the US House of Representatives.’

Barrack Obama surpassed any reasonable expectations of what a president could possibly do to address the disastrous state of the economy that he encountered on the first day in office, the Republicans succeeded in blocking nearly every presidential effort to improve the economy.  There were more filibusters of Administration legislation than at any time in history.  But despite those efforts to undermine the nation’s economic welfare, Obama was able to achieve economic improvement, with less unemployment and more new housing starts than any time over the past four years.  His foreign policy achievements, including eliminating Bin Laden, have been stunning. 

When Romney was selected as the Republican opponent, the die appeared to be cast that the official deciding factor in the upcoming election would be the economy.   Romney’s only claim to legitimacy appeared to be his experience as a business executive.  But when it turned out his business experience had almost completely involving consolidating and eliminating businesses, firing workers, and shipping American jobs to Mexico, China, the Philippines and India, it appeared that advantage had disappeared. Concealing his vast wealth from American taxation did not help Romney’s case.  But despite Romney’s appalling business record, many Americans continued to believe he would be able to improve the economy for ordinary people, which was simply false. The people who believed that were the elusive “swing” voters who are really uncommitted Republicans looking for an excuse to vote for their party. 

In this, the last month of the campaign, Romney’s supporters have explicitly turned to racism to defeat Obama, unleashing John Sununu and other representatives such as Newt Gingrich, to explicitly attack the president on racial grounds which tapped into the implicit racism of people who are mislabled “Independents,” whom most studies show to be largely Republicans who are concealing their affiliation.   Only 1 in 3 or 4 Independents are truly independent

The joy and justifiable national pride of electing the first African American to the presidency has been replaced by deep-seated racial bitterness, which is at its root will be the deciding factor in this campaign. If the election were decided on the candidates’ merits, Obama clearly would win. Most people realize that.  But it is no accident that Romney will win the southern states and mountain states that have traditionally had strongly racist constituencies, and Obama will win the west and east coast and upper Midwest states which have traditionally supported policies of social equality.  If Romney wins enough electoral votes to win the election, it will confirm for America and the World, that the country is deeply racist in its most fundamental way, revealing that all of the talk of equality is pure window dressing.  When Americans thrust their finger in the air and scream “We’re Number One,” they are referring to being the number one racist. All of the people of color throughout the world will realize this country’s rhetoric about equality is meaningless.  

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