If there was a bridge from the unreserved segregationist era of American conservatism to our current era -- when most politicians and their acolytes usually find more polite ways of using race -- I'd have to say that bridge should be named in honor of Alex Castellanos and Larry McCarthy. Some might give it Lee Atwater, given that he tailored the "Southern Strategy" for the modern Republican. But the Republican strategists Castellanos and McCarthy get the nods in my book, given that both authored the two most notorious antecedents of what some call the "dog-whistle" racial politics of today:
- Castellanos wrote the late Jesse Helms' "(White) Hands" ad, used in his race against black Democrat Harvey Gantt (which scared people fearful of losing their jobs to racial quotas, and Gantt himself noted years later was "political genius,"
- and McCarthy authored the Willie Horton caricature used by the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1988 to slam Democrat Michael Dukakis on crime.
McCarthy was a part of Mitt Romney's 2008 campaign, and is now a key strategist at Restore Our Future, the heavily-monied pro-Romney super-PAC. Castellanos, also a 2008 Romney veteran, but he got on the candidate's case during the primary for not going full "torches and pitchforks" like Newt Gingrich, the guy who was for a while a noun, a verb, and "food-stamp President."
Perhaps both men should consider returning (officially) to the fold, given how brutal and precise their own methods of race-baiting proved to be. It seems that Romney sure could use the refresher. This is certainly not to encourage race-baiting, but Romney is quite fond of the practice -- yet remains, in this election cycle, stunningly clumsy at it.
Witness his new lie, centering around a welfare-to-work policy he alleges President Obama is eliminating. (He isn't.) But don't let a thorough and embarrassing debunking stop you from going full "welfare queen," Governor:
For the second day in a row, Mitt Romney attacked President Barack Obama on welfare reform, accusing his Democratic opponent of ditching a work requirement for those receiving government assistance...Romney's comment came just ours after Clinton issued a statement calling Romney's claims "not true." And it happened just a day after the Romney campaign released a television ad attacking Obama on welfare reform, a spot that used Clinton's image. On Tuesday, the White House and the Obama campaign trashed Romney's claims on welfare reform as "blatantly dishonest."
But haters gonna hate, right? As long as he has Gingrich on his side alleging a massive welfare conspiracy, right?
Romney's "post-truth campaign" was heralded in December, during the primaries by the New York Times' Paul Krugman, and race-bating is hardly anything new for the presumptive Republican nominee (or Republicans, in general). But Melissa last night, appearing as a guest on "The Rachel Maddow Show," anticipated this morning's New York Times poll recap highlighting the fact that Romney is maintaining the traditional Republican edge amongst white working-class voters with her incisive point Romney's welfare lie:
...I do think on the question of tactics and this position you can use African-American bodies and particularly the bodies of poor black women as a bogeyman, as a wedge that basically, the goal here is to distract white women who if they pay attention to what's going on with reproductive rights, will overwhelmingly choose President Obama and congressional Democrats to encourage them not to think about that issue but instead to stoke racial resentment primarily among white women voters in order to get them to vote their race rather than their gender.
In this light, the term "dog-whistle politics" should probably be retired, particularly in the context of race. Forget about anyone who consumes political news at the rate we do; to most any observer, the sound of scapegoating should be loud and clear. But as offensive as it is to us as black Americans, particularly women, used again as political fodder, Melissa's point is salient: we have to remember that it's not about us. It's been made perfectly clear just how little Republicans care about courting black voters, or serving black interests once elected.
We're mere fodder for the political stage. This is all about the dog whistlers fooling the audience.
Melissa's discussion with Rachel is below. First, watch Rachel's introduction here.
Update, Thursday, 7:48am: It seems that when asked on live television to actually prove Romney's allegations about Obama and welfare, Gingrich found that difficult. Nay, impossible. The Huffington Post reports on Gingrich's interview last night with CNN:
Newt Gingrich admitted Wednesday evening that Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has no evidence the Obama administration dropped work requirements from the nation's welfare law, contradicting a Romney TV ad released a day earlier."We have no proof today, but I would say to you under Obama’s ideology it is absolutely true that he would be comfortable sending a lot of people checks for doing nothing," Gingrich told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "I believe that totally."
Fear not, America. Gingrich may not have the facts, but damn if he isn't certain. But then again, in our modern politics, since when do you have to actually prove a policy allegation before you declare it to be true?