Friday, May 2, 2008

Hate Speech, John McCain, and the 2008 Campaigns

You are a pathetic and plastic excuse for an American...jumping, hooting and howling...This 'feminist' piece of could not tell the truth if we waterboarded your worthless ass !....can't keep his dick in his pants... stick to you like your ugly face...Your single pathetic platform...He could not do it if you tortured him...all of these towel-headed morons in the Middle East...all these other nut jobs...those other assholes in the sheets, the Saudis...

Excerpts from an anonymous email currently circulating in support of John McCain for president.
The full email dropped into my inbox like a bomb. It is an anonymous piece of text that "endorses" John McCain for president and systematically reduces the campaigns of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to some of the worst racist and sexist stereotypes that our country has to offer. The language intimidates, dehumanizes and demeans both the candidates and their constituents. Because the language has no identifiable author, it can circulate freely without accountability among those who wish to spread it.

John McCain is himself no stranger to an anonymous racist smear campaign. One of the nastiest political moves on record may have cost him the Republican nomination in 2000. As the South Carolina Republican primary approached, McCain and George Bush were in a close race. Bush had to have a win in South Carolina if he was to go on to win the nomination. A few days before the primaries, anonymous push polling, faxes and emails in the South Carolina primary asked voters, "Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain...if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?"

McCain had been campaigning in South Carolina with his daughter Bridgette, who he and his wife Cindy had adopted from Bangladesh. She is darker skinned and the racist attack played off of the picture of the two of them together. McCain's polling numbers plummeted. A few weeks earlier he had beat Bush in New Hampshire by 19 points. On voting day in South Carolina he lost by 11 points. As we all know, Bush went on to win the Republican party nomination.

Some sources attribute the design of this attack to Karl Rove, but it had been Charlie Condon, a former State Attorney General in South Carolina, who orchestrated the actual campaign. McCain left the Republican primary saying that there was a "special place in hell" for those who engage in these kinds of tactics.

Now, eight years later, we are facing the first presidential election in the history of the United States in which one of the main two candidates will not be a white man. The barrier is being broken. If the white man vs. white man campaigns of the recent past have generated such brutal and hateful tactics as those used against McCain in 2000 and the swiftboating of John Kerry in 2004, it can only get worse with the introduction of racist and sexist prejudices into the equation.

While we don't know who wrote this current anonymous hate speech, what is clear is that the demeaning, dehumanizing and intimidating qualities of these words being distributed in service to the McCain campaign work to destroy any platform on which a genuine political conversation can take place. They wipe out the civic playing field and replace it with a war zone.

John McCain must come out with a categorical denunciation of this kind of hate speech and he must promise that any member of his campaign, or anyone even affiliated with a member of his campaign, caught creating or distributing this kind of material will be immediately be terminated, followed by a full apology and retraction of the words. The stakes are too high here. Language that is racist and sexist erodes the very platform that both parties stand on and must be stopped immediately.

As for Charlie Condon, the man behind the racist South Carolina smear campaign in 2000? His work then hasn't hurt his current marketability. He recently was employed to run another Republican primary campaign in South Carolina.

This time by John McCain.

Katherine Powell contributed research to this post.

No comments: