Playing the Racism Card and Probably Winning

[NOTE: Due to a system glitch, this first went on TMV with the wrong byline. This post is written by Prairie Weather]

Over at the Plum Line, they’re saying that Romney is channeling Lee Atwater. Lee Atwater is one of the nasty playground bullies who adhered to the Republican party like a piece of used toilet paper, lowering its reputation and making way for ethically-challenged, “anything goes” politicians the Republican party now has in the House and on its campaign trails.

When Atwater died, he left behind Rove and other dodgy characters like Dick Armey to carry on the right’s effort to fracture and pillage America. Their kind of narrow self-interest has been emblematic of Republican politics for thirty years now. Racism? Sure, why not! Just another perfectly usable tool, particularly in the current campaign.

… The latest report from Pew Research provides insight into why the Romney campaign has adopted the Lee Atwater playbook for winning elections. Just five years ago, party identification among white voters was near parity — 46 percent identified as Republican, 44 percent as Democrat. Now, Republicans have a twelve point advantage among white voters, 52 percent to 40 percent. Overall, the GOP has become incredibly homogenous — 87 precent of self-identified Republicans are white, compared to just 61 percent of self-identified Democrats. With blacks, Latinos and other nonwhites so adamantly opposed to the GOP, Romney’s only hope for winning the election is massive turnout from white voters. …Plum Line, WaPo

A substantial group of whites in America are doing their best to hang on to majority rule. In terms of real population numbers, whites are losing majority status. But whether these rightwing use racist language or harrass “those others” at polling places or sink millions into campaigns in the hope that their kind of leadership will keep those other people down, they’re determined to destroy American diversity and turn the nation into something that no longer resembles America.

And they could win in November. No question about it. Not in the long run. But they’ve been doing one helluva lot of damage to the country in the shorter run.

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The same issue is raised by Ezra Klein at WaPo’s Wonkblog today.

…Click through the “videos” section of Mitt Romney’s Web site and you’ll see something odd: His campaign is running more ads about welfare than just about any other issue. Of the 12 most recent ads posted, five are about welfare. That’s more than the number dedicated to health care (four) or introducing Paul Ryan (one) or the economy (one). Romney’s ad warns that, “under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and you wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you a check and welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare.”…Ezra Klein, WaPo

But wait a minute! In reality, welfare is a non-issue, or should be.

Beyond being flatly false, Romney’s ads are puzzlingly anachronistic. Welfare is a shrunken program. Where it helped 68 of every 100 families in poverty in 1996, it only helped 27 of every 100 families in poverty in 2010. Meanwhile, few think the problem in this country is that the poor don’t want to work. Rather, it’s that millions of Americans — the poor and undereducated most of all — can’t find work no matter how hard they try. It’s as if a political strategy from 1992 slipped through a wormhole and began playing out in 2012. …Ezra Klein, WaPo

True. And the reason is? These ads, when shown to racists, stir up racism.

And which party do racists vote for? You don’t need a reiteration of the answer to that one! But in case you don’t quite believe that racism is so rampant (and so absurd), the responses have been studied and the numbers crunched by Michael Tesler, a political scientist.

Tesler has shown that racial attitudes appear to be bleeding into almost everything in the Obama era. In one study, he found that voters with higher levels of racial resentment were more likely to oppose the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor if they heard Obama’s name than if they didn’t. A similar experiment found the same held true for health-care reform. In a third study, he showed respondents a picture of a Portuguese Water Dog and told half it was Ted Kennedy’s dog and the other half it was Obama’s dog. When respondents with higher levels of racial resentment heard it was Obama’s dog, they were more likely to disapprove of it.
Yes, you read that right: In the Obama era, racial attitudes are even influencing voter opinions about the president’s dog. ...Ezra Klein, WaPo

That’s who we are, like it or not.

Cross-posted at Prairie Weather

Author: PRAIRIE WEATHER

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