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TheRootDC
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Posted at 03:48 PM ET, 08/29/2012

Mitt Romney and the RNC: Stoking the racial politics of yesteryear?

Joy Freeman-Coulbary, a Washingtonian, is a civil rights lawyer and blogger.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney sank to new lows when he referenced President Obama’s birth certificate Friday during a campaign rally in Commerce, Mich. Those low depths are the trajectory of his lowbrow political antics.

But now we have this news: According to the Huffington Post and
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Janna Ryan, wife of vice-presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), applaud Tuesday during the Republican National Convention in Tampa. (Scott Olson - Getty Images)
CNN, two attendees at the convention in Tampa were asked to leave the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Tuesday after throwing nuts at a black CNN camerawoman and saying to her: ”This is how we feed the animals.”

CNN reported that multiple witnesses saw this happen, and police immediately escorted the two people out. But the damage has been done.

Who knew low could get lower?

The incident makes me wonder whether Romney’s pandering to the ugliest portions of American xenophobia, no matter how many black and brown faces the GOP puts before television cameras, is creating an environment that allows for this kind of public racist behavior.

It goes back weeks. Indeed, the presidential race between the Romney and Obama is hairsplittingly close, and Romney minced no words when he slung mud at Obama’s Hawaiian birth.

“No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised,” he said.  Through his appeal to the “birthers,” Romney downgraded the 2012 presidential election and the 2012 Republican platform from 2.0 to 1.0 — to us vs. them, black vs. white.

Romney attempted to appeal to what he perceives as latent xenophobia by pitting the black Democratic president against white-bread middle America and conventional Main Street.  In so doing, Romney became just another cliche, playing to the Southern racial politics of yesteryear — or what we hope is a bygone era. But is it really? Romney’s hedging his bets that it’s not and that he can manipulate the electorate with the specter of race and fear.

So, what do we get? Nuts being thrown at a black white-collar professional like she was a circus animal.

Whether serious or in jest, Romney’s comments dovetail with his recent racialized attack ads suggesting erroneously that Obama’s political “base” is welfare recipients. According to Romney, Obama paved the way for slackers and welfare queens by taking the “work requirement” out of welfare, thereby giving away Middle America’s hard earned tax dollars.

Interestingly enough, as with the Affordable Care Act, for which Massachusetts laid the blueprint when he was governor of that state, Romney was also one of 29 Republican governors to endorse waivers for the welfare work requirement.  To now accuse a black president of pandering to welfare recipients when, in reality, the face of welfare is hardly black or brown, is an attempt to conjure up Willie Horton-style politics and fear among the majority of voters — particularly affluent and middle-class white voters. Romney’s attempt to Willie Horton-ize Obama is a weak attempt to sully a president whom many across the racial spectrum, according to polls, find highly relatable.

No wonder there are people who think they can treat a black woman as anything but human.

In reaching into the bitterness of social conservatism, Romney is not only marginalizing African Americans, but he’s also offending many female voters through his guilt by association with a party platform that excludes freedom of choice. Polls show that women, including a vast numbers of white women, choose to align themselves with Obama rather than with politicians who want to define what women can do with their bodies.

Some Republicans, with their over-the-top social conservatism and overt pandering, are a step back in time. As Former Florida governor Jeb Bush stated Sunday on Meet the Press, it’s time for the GOP to change its tenor and tone to remain relevant in the 21st century and beyond.

Lee Atwater went to his grave regretting the racial politics he evoked through his menacing Horton ads aimed at terrorizing white America with the prospect of a president who would put a black rapist back on the street to victimize helpless white women. In doing so, he demonized not only black men, but a whole race of people. Through his use of stereotypes, Atwater undoubtedly aided then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in defeating Michael Dukakis, his Democratic opponent in the 1988 presidential election. However, in the process, Atwater outed a toxic brand of racial politics that had existed since the days of Reconstruction. This brand of politics revels in fear, ignorance, racial warmongering and misinformation.

When will conservatives and the wealthy elite — such as mega-rich Romney — stop using fear of the menacing black man and alleged racial differences to manipulate the masses and divide and conquer? The souls of black folk, white folk and every folk deserve better. 

So Mitt Romney, Republican presidential nominee, don’t call Mr. President out of his name. This isn’t a music video, and it isn’t Bush vs. Dukakis. Americans can see right through you. Let’s hope for the sake of a better America, we are far too sophisticated for the racial politics of yesteryear.

You can reach Freeman-Coulbary at freemancoulbary@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter: @enJOYJFC.

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By Joy Freeman-Coulbary  |  03:48 PM ET, 08/29/2012

 
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