In 1968, his second campaign for the White House, Richard Nixon rode into office on what later became known as the “Southern Strategy.” While running as a moderate in most states, Nixon used code words like “states’ rights” and “busing” to appeal to the racist tendencies of southern whites. This was the nail in the coffin of black support for the GOP, which, since the days of Abraham Lincoln, had traditionally been the party of civil rights. Two years ago, former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman officially apologized for his party’s attempt to “benefit politically from racial polarization.”
How ironic that Barack Obama – the first, serious black presidential candidate in the history of the United States – would resurrect one of the most disreputable features of the Republican Party’s campaign playbook.
Singling out a class of Americans as a basis for that fear – as Nixon did 1968 – is reprehensible and destroyed Bush’s pledge to be a “uniter, not a divider.” For many years, the Human Rights Campaign and the Democratic presidential candidates have promised to offer us something different.
But the events of the past week have shown that even the most platitudinous of liberals is not immune from utilizing the cynical election tactics concocted by the right.
While we respect Kirchick’s opinion, Nixon intentionally played on people’s racism. Obama and his campaign, meanwhile, simply didn’t do his homework when booking Donnie McClurkin. There’s no way in our minds that Obama would intentionally play with homophobia to get votes. He simply neglected to realize that many of his religious pals find his gay pals to be abominable.
This begs the question, of course: is ignorance bliss? Not when it comes to running a campaign, no.