You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites.” –Lee Atwater, 1981 Interview with a political science professor
I heard an NPR piece Tuesday on an upcoming documentary, Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story. Immediately the current conversation comes to mind. Fox News’s Neil Cavuto blames minority homeowners for the economic crisis, a McCain campaign aide says he’s tired of “catching the spears” from Obama. Last night, Fox News gave a 5 minute platform to a man who argues Barack Obama is a terrorist’s best friend. Fernando C. de Baca, the chairman of Bernalillo County Republican Party in New Mexico recently said,
The truth is that Hispanics came here as conquerors. African-Americans came here as slaves. Hispanics consider themselves above blacks. They won’t vote for a black president.”
This is just in the last 48 hour news cycle.
Black people continue to be the designated scapegoats for all that is wrong with America.
NPR discussed how GOP methods leave Democrats utterly defenseless. This is a point of pride for conservatives, “They don’t even defend themselves.” Why can’t liberals fight back? My own thinking on why the Atwater, and now the Rove, strategy is so effective is that calling something racist requires an explanation when the racism is veiled. There is no public forum to unpack the prejudice from subtle buzz phrases like “states rights” and “forced bussing” and “catching spears.” Liberals hear these things and want a dialetic; conservatives want votes.