The right-wing smear campaign against Barack Obama has already begun. Conservatives intend, as they have so many times before, to appeal to Americans' ugliest prejudices and most craven fears.
March 25, 2008 | web only
For months, I've been predicting that conservatives would delicately prompt voters to see Barack Obama through the lens of race. They'd drop hints, they'd make roundabout arguments, they'd find a hundred subtle ways to encourage people to vote their prejudices, while denying vociferously that they were doing anything of the sort.
It turns out I was wrong. Not about whether they'd try to exploit racial prejudice (that was about as easy to predict as the rising of the sun), but about how they would do it. After some hesitation and baby steps, the conservative campaign against Barack Obama has finally begun. And there's nothing subtle about it.
When the controversy over Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright reached critical mass last week, it was the political equivalent of the green flag at a NASCAR race. The conservative strategists and talkers had been slowly circling the track, feet itchy on the accelerator, just waiting for the signal to floor it. But now, as The Politico reported in a story titled "GOP sees Rev. Wright as path to victory," the Republican strategists know exactly what must be done, starting with famed ad man Alex Castellanos:
"All the sudden you've got two dots, and two dots make a line," said Castellanos. "You start getting some sense of who he is, and it's not the Obama you thought. He's not the Tiger Woods of politics."
As Castellanos knows well, these kinds of attacks have their greatest power when they tap into pre-existing archetypes voters already carry with them, and the deeper they reside in our lizard brains the better. So they will make sure white Americans know that Obama is not Tiger Woods. He's not the unthreatening black man, he's the scary black man. He's Al Sharpton, he's Malcom X, he's Huey Newton. He'll throw grievance in your face, make you feel guilty, and who knows, maybe kill you and rape your wife. Castellanos knows what he's talking about -- when it comes to painting frightening pictures for the voters, he's the Rembrandt of racial resentment. Among other accomplishments, Castellanos was responsible for a series of ugly ads on behalf of Jesse Helms' 1990 Senate re-election race against Harvey Gantt, probably the most explicitly race-baiting campaign American politics has seen since the retirement of George Wallace. The story continues:
"It's harder for people to say it's taken out of context because these are Wright's own words," noted Chris LaCivita, the Republican strategist who helped craft the Swift Boat commercials against Kerry that employed the use of their target's own language when he returned from Vietnam and returned his medals. "You let people draw their own conclusions."
"You don't have to say that he's unpatriotic; you don't question his patriotism," he added. "Because I guaran-damn-tee you that, with that footage, you don't have to say it."For the full article and it is well worth reading in its entirety see: