Tuesday, March 13, 2012

After the Circus: Get Ready for the Hate

Despite Richie Richney outspending everybody (or more accurately, his SUPERPACS, which paid for over 90% of the on air ads) he could do no better than third in the Alabama and Mississippi primaries on Tuesday.  At late as this weekend, his campaign had convinced some of the punditocracy that he could win either or even both states.

Casino Newt Gingles was the evening's Biggest Loser--these were states he needed to win--but he lost both to Little Ricky Sanctimonious.  But has he been voted Off the Island?  Well, yes, but he refuses so far to go.  Great television, huh? 

Casino Newt, man of the people, needs his Casino Daddy to keep financing him or he'll have to walk to the next primary .  Even if he stays in, he may become increasing irrelevant to voters not in the deep South, but his few percentage points in Ohio and Michigan could have made Sanctimonious the winner of those states.  His rationale partly was to win a plurality in five states, so he would be guaranteed a speech at the GOPer convention, as well as other goodies.  He's won two states and there's nowhere else he's likely to win a third.  So he's lost even that. If his motivation is to hurt Richney, his best strategy is to drop out and support Little Ricky.  There is some peril in that--if it indeed becomes a two man race, then Ricky has no excuses if he loses to Richney in any primary. 

The Rabid Religious Right vote of these relatively few GOPers in these states was 75-80%.  By voting overwhelmingly for Ricky and Casino Newt (with Richney getting under 30%) they demonstrated their desire, in Jonathan Chait's words,"to nominate a genuine maniac as opposed to a fake one."
Polls in those states also determined that GOPers there overwhelmingly believe President Obama is not Christian either.  It's not clear they distinguish between "Muslim" and "Mormon" or even know (or care) there's a difference. Unless it's that Muslims are black.  You know, black Muslims. 

The nice pundits kept referring to these white evangelicals as expressing their "anger" at President Obama.  The correct word is not anger, it's hatred.  It's race hate, however bound up it is with other views and rationalizations.  And this portends a very very very ugly general election campaign ahead.

Ironically it could be even worse if Richney is the nominee, as still is more likely (though not as certain anymore.)  Because Richney will have little positive to say that the GOPer's essential Southern base want to hear.  So they will live on the negatives out of Richney's mouth--especially the dog whistle racism, how President Obama is not up to the job, etc.--but even more they will live on the ads and other campaign materials furnished and paid for by the millions and millions of SUPERPAC millions.  The TV/You Tube ads will be hateful enough, but the hate gets increasingly graphic and obvious farther down the chain: radio, robocalls, email, print. 

That race baiting was a forbidden tactic in 2008 should not lull anyone into the assumption that it means America became race neutral or enlightened--that may be truer of younger generations but it is still not true in general, and especially in the South.  Facing the fact every day that a black man is President of the United States has made hatred increasingly overt.  Hate groups are on the increase.  And the racism and hate that will infect this campaign has already begun.

It will be tricky to deploy--there is substantial danger of backlash, and of motivating Obama voters to rise in his defense--but this is a year in which GOPers seem unable to help themselves--they are consumed by fear and hate.  The abandon with which they go to extremes even against each other suggests that we will see more virulent hate than in any campaign for more than a century, and given the money to be spent, probably ever.  But it may also mean that in this way as in others, this election is fateful: either a Dark Ages victory or a last stand purging, an inoculation.

Not that there won't be costs to GOPers themselves, as in a silly circusy way there already has been.  Chait also points out how GOPers making a spectacularly stupid issue out of President Obama (like every President since and including Reagan) uses a teleprompter. "And speaking of a failure to communicate, the Republican war on teleprompters has poetically backfired. It began as a quasi-racist meme among the fever swamps of the right, a way for right-wingers to express their belief that Obama is a brainless talking doll. By catering to it, Republicans backed themselves into a position where they can’t use teleprompters at all. The result is a series of rambling election night speeches which manage to be at once frightening and dull. The speeches, like the race, just go on and on and on."

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