I can’t say that I was at all surprised by some of the tactics we’ve seen recently from Republican presidential candidates in particular. Some may say that it’s expected given Republicans history with employing racial politics when necessary, and that the recent statements by someone like Newt Gingrich can’t be that shocking. Gingrich clip below:
He understands exactly what he is doing. Many would argue that some Americans on food stamps take advantage of the system. Some may, but determining the full extent is tricky. Also, unfortunately some Americans hold a belief that African Americans make up a majority of food stamp recipients(actually 33%). Blogger Joshua Green does a great job of explaining why critics of President Obama on this issue should look in the mirror:
The number of food stamp recipients has indeed risen sharply, but this rise began under President George W. Bush and is largely attributable to the recession. Food stamps are an anti-poverty measure, so it’s no surprise that enrollment should rise when large numbers of people are out of work (the number of recipients dropped last month as the economy improved). But recession isn’t the only cause. A Bush administration initiative begun in 2002 dramatically increased participation rates among eligible households, from 48 percent to 72 percent in 2009.
Couple that together with the fact that if he’s the Republican candidate, he would be facing off against the nations first African American President. Gingrich knew that the far right conservatives in South Carolina would eat it right up, and he went with it unfortunately. He’s not the first candidate to stoop to the racial politics of old.
The Jessie Helms “Hands” ad was one of the most memorable political ads of all time. It was both disgusting to watch, and sadly, very effective. The Republican Senator from North Carolina was in a tough re-election fight. His opponent was none other than up and coming Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt. Gantt was African American, and to Helms surprise, he was staying with him in the race. Helms had to drop a bomb, which he did. Racial politics was all too common in North Carolina at the time. Helms knew that he could play to peoples misconceptions about affirmative action, and use it as a wedge issue.
This next ad was unveiled by the Republican National Committee some years ago to attack Memphis Congressman Harold Ford, in his quest to defeat Republican Bob Corker in the Tennessee Senate race. Ford, like Harvey Gantt, was a young, ambitious African American politician that was on the rise. Ford came from a political dynasty, and though he was a Democrat, stayed moderate. This helped to position him to eventually run for the U.S. Senate, and he ran a very close race with Bob Corker. I believe the RNC aired this ad because they were afraid of a Harold Ford upset. Stoking some peoples hatred of interracial relations or dating seemed to be the strategy of choice for the Republicans. Unfortunately this classless tactic worked. Corker squeaked out a close win.
As the 2012 election nears, I only wonder what some of the Republican operatives have up their sleeve. They are very smart, and won’t present ads such as this unless the election seems to be extremely close. I think in 2012 it might be a little tough to produce ads that have such strong racial undertones. My prediction is that ads aired during the 2012 election will be a bit more discreet- just enough to not cause too much of an uproar. I’ll be watching, and analyzing.