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Trumping Obama with Race

New America Media, Commentary, Earl Ofari Hutchinson Posted: Aug 26, 2009

In early August, this writer blasted the bizarre Obama Joker Poster that depicted President Obama as scary, demonic and socialist. The controversy got more than a quarter million Google references. Nearly all respondents defended the poster, and there were hundreds of angry emails lambasting Obama and this writer with crude, vile, insulting racist language that would make a drunken sailor blush.

The writers didnt hide behind the cloak of anonymity. Most gave their names, addresses and phone numbers. Some even brashly called to heap more racial venom on me.

The Obama Joker poster is just the latest in the racial pillorying of Obama. A Google search turned up more than three dozen active anti-Obama websites filled with demeaning racist cartoons, depictions, characterizations and racially poisonous verbal bashes and attacks. As of mid-August, the sites had received more than 20 million Google search listed references.

The sheer weight and volume of the attacks has slipped into the mainstream media. There are Fox style racial quips and references from talk show hosts, guests, and commentators about Obama. It has worked. Polls show that a majority of Republicans and a significant percent of other respondents now think theres something to the charge that Obama is an illegal alien. The media has played up the borderline racist rants of health care town protestors as representative of a genuine, spontaneous grassroots campaign against health care reform, with no racial undertow.

The drumbeat race baiting is not done solely to shock, out of ignorance, to misinform, or to destabilize the Obama administration. There is a cunning calculus to the race baiting. Race, which is America's oldest, deepest and touchiest issue, is a studied and reliable brick and mortar marketing tool for the GOP, assorted hate groups and talk radio jocks. In the case of the shock jocks, the object is to cement their political influence, personal prestige, notoriety, and, of course, wealth. Hate groups use race to build bigger numbers, shake the money tree, and organize the gullible, hateful and young.

The GOP has used race to seize and expand its political dominance in all branches of the federal government and in many states, especially the Deep South. Its used now as a trusted and powerful tool to snatch back a bigger portion of Congress in 2010 and the White House in 2012.

Race baiting has worked because the GOP, first during the Nixon years and later the Reagan years, figured that there were a lot of white guys out there who felt left behind. Lurking underneath their frustration was the finger point at minorities for the government bloat. That turned into the artful twist of hidden race animus into slogans such as "law and order," "crime in the streets," "welfare cheats," and "absentee fathers." President George W. Bush's John Wayne frontier brashness, and get tough, bring 'em on rhetoric in talking about Iraq and the war against terrorism was geared to appeal to supposed white male toughness.

The GOP also sensed something else that could make sloganeering and race baiting work even better. Many blue collar white males were losing ground to minorities and women in the workplace, schools and in society. The trend toward white male poverty and alienation first became evident in the early 1980s, when nearly 10 million Americans were added to the poverty rolls and more than half were from white, male-headed families. Two decades later, the number of white men in poverty or among lower income wage earners continued to expand. The estimate was that more than one in five white males who voted in 2004 presidential election made less than $45,000 in household income.

The GOP argued the main culprit was always the big, intrusive federal government that tilted unfairly in spending priorities toward social programs that benefited minorities at the expense of hard working white males. That's exactly how hate groups, the anti-Obama web sites and bloggers, and talk jocks craft the reason for the anger and alienation that many white males feel toward health care and, by extension, Obama. This of course translates out to even more fear, rage and distrust of minorities.

The vintage mix of race, anti-government politics and top ratings has been on near textbook display in the health care reform battle. In a rambling talk at a conservative action convention earlier this year, Rush Limbaugh strung together words such as an unqualified Obama, liberal Democrats, a black guy, guilt, history, affirmative action and liberal policies. He covered all the racial rage bases and only mentioned race once.

Thats no longer the Republicans M.O.. The race card is back on the nations table with a vengeance. And the aim is to trump Obama.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, The Hutchinson Report, can be heard weekly in Los Angeles Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on ktym.com

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