Disclaimer: not voting for Barack Obama is not, in and of itself, racist. Certainly, there are racist reasons not to vote for him, but there are racially-neutral reasons to do as well (coming from both liberal and conservative viewpoints). I personally am not ecstatic with his stances on several issues, particularly on LGBT rights and women’s rights. He is not my ideal candidate, though in all respects he is much more in accord with my views than McCain. So, I am sympathetic to the notion that somebody might not buy into the messianic Obamania that has permeated the left in the past year, and not want to have to answer to cries of “racism!”.
Nonetheless, this much is true: a vote for McCain is a vote for racism. It is a vote for many other things; it’s a vote for misogyny, for idiocy, for fiscal irresponsibility, for homophobia, for ineptitude, and lots more fun stuff. But racism is what we will focus on today.
The Republican party, of course, has a long and storied tradition of racism (even more so than America in general has said history). Alternet has an excellent post on how if McCain were really more concerned with issues than party lines or ideology, he would have broken with the Republican tradition of bigotry and hatred.
What a sick joke: if McCain had been the maverick he thinks he is and expects to be taken for, if he had continued to tell George W. Bush to stuff it and conducted an honorable campaign, he might have single-handedly redeemed his own party, the party whose rank and file voters and most powerful member famously regarded him as some kind of traitor. But by trying to fit in and play by the established rules, he’s treated fence-sitters and swing voters to a sight designed to convince them that to support McCain/Palin is to sign on to march off a cliff with the rest of the caveman army.
As it stands now, however, even bigwig conservatives are distancing themselves from and condemning McCain’s tactics.
To be fair, some of them, like that of New York Times neocon columnist Bill Kristol, don’t denounce them on ideological grounds, but merely for the fact that they are alienating swing voters (those pesky swing voters, getting turned off by asshattery!). Others, such as Frank Schaeffer – lifelong Republican, member of evangelical nobility, former supporter of John McCain – are less circumspect:
John McCain: If your campaign does not stop equating Sen. Barack Obama with terrorism, questioning his patriotism and portraying Mr. Obama as ‘not one of us,’ I accuse you of deliberately feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate, and therefore of potentially instigating violence.
Strong words, and he has plenty more of them in his interview with Amy Goodman about a recent editorial he wrote, in which the above selection is the first sentence. This, and the abundance of other conservative voices who urge McCain to knock it the hell off, already, proves that it is not only partisan bickering or vote-mongering. What McCain and his campaign (particularly Palin’s speeches) is doing – instigating, enabling, and contributing to racist, hate-filled, fear – is inexcusable under any circumstances. Even the fact that he’s losing in the polls does not give him the right to act this way.
To be (somewhat) fair, it is not clear whether or not John McCain himself is an inveterate racist, or if he just doesn’t mind fanning pre-existing flames and using them to win votes. But I don’t think this excuses him from anything – which is worse, a John McCain who holds deep-seated and harmful beliefs about race, ethnicity, and religion, or a John McCain who isn’t as bigoted on the inside but just as willing to pretend to be so he wins the election? A recent Alternet article makes the parallel between McCain and Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “In his desire to be king, Macbeth destroyed the kingdom itself and brought chaos to the moral order. So obsessed is he with his vision to be king, he compromised all that was good about him.” The author then elaborates on the connections between the two political figures – complete with a scarily-apt comparison between Governor Palin and Lady Macbeth – and holds out hope that both McCain the person and the campaign might still redeem themselves by taking the high road.
I don’t know if McCain will or won’t, and frankly, I don’t care*. Because at the end of the day, even though you might feel sorry for Macbeth as he is wracked with guilt over his actions and his inability to set things right – would you ever want him to rule your country? Do you really want somebody whose campaign and policies were not strong enough to stand on their own, so he had to resort not only to mudslinging and negative campaigning, but didn’t hesitate to dredge up some of this country’s most shameful and harmful prejudices, all to make it to the White House? What the hell does he (do you?) think he’s going to do once he’s in office? Does he think the pressure will cease then? Or is he not concerned with what people think about his actual plans or actions once he’s more-or-less guaranteed a seat for the next four years? Even if you’re somebody who doesn’t give two figs about racism or discrimination, how can you look at this and cite McCain’s “experience” or executive capabilities? This is what we’re looking at for the next four years if McCain wins: governing based on fear, obfuscation, breathtaking incapability, dishonesty, and appealing to the basest instincts of the lowest common denominator of people. This is what you’re voting for. And you have lost the modicum of respect I might have had for you, way back when.
You may not care, and that’s certainly your prerogative. I just thought you should know.
*That is, I don’t care about it for his sake; if he manages to quell some of the racial tensions in his party and the country, that would of course be a good thing.
Required reading on the subject (besides linked articles in text body):
AWESOME video clip in which Keith Olbermann, from MSNBC, hands McCain his ASS for playing the victim instead of shaping the fuck up and knocking it off already with the “lynch mob mentality”. I paraphrase – minus the profanity, Olbermann is much harsher.