In a 1973 televised interview, Richard Nixon vigorously denied claims of corruption, stating ‘People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.’ Dodging certain impeachment over his clear involvement in the in Watergatescandal, Nixon resigned a year later. Scandal aside however, Nixon’s lesser known but arguably most detestable legacy is employment of the southern strategy in the 1968 presidential race against Hubert Humphrey. The plan being to foment anti-African American racism in the south to turn white voters against Democrats in retaliation for desegregation and passing the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1965. It’s been over 40 years, but the Romney campaign seems to have made the shrew calculation that a modernized version of this strategy is his best chance for taking the White House. In 2005, Bob Herbert of the New York Times reported on a 1981 interview with Republican hatchet man Lee Atwater, where he candidly explained the modern version of the southern strategy. ‘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 … But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, Nigger.’
Following script, immediately after clinching the Republican nomination, Romney flew to Vegas for a 2 million dollar fundraiser with rabid birther, Donald Trump. Considering Romney is on track to raise a billion dollars, Trump’s role in Romney’s campaign is not about the money. Romney is a numbers guy. He’s seen the recent Washington Post – ABC poll that shows 59% of people supporting him aren’t voting for him. They’re voting against Obama.
Hence Romney’s refusal to repudiate Trump’s birtherism. It’s not spinelessness. If internal polls said a spine of iron would garner him a few extra votes, Romney would be on the earliest Fox program brimming with the confidence and moral authority of the Green Arrow.
Romney didn’t repudiate Trump for the same reason he didn’t correct the lunatic at his rally saying the president should be tried for treason, or senile rocker Ted Nugent’sassassination threat to a crowd of gun fanatics, or even Limbaugh’s particularly egregiousthree day misogynistic assault on law student Sandra Fluke. He couldn’t. It would contradict the strategy. While political wisdom holds that you need to maintain a certain cadence to win the independent vote, you can’t under any circumstances alienate your base. The campaign has made the cynical decision to use Trump and people like him to toss out rancid chum to galvanize the hate vote, while retaining a fig leaf of plausibly deniable separation as to not overtly alienate independent voters.
As Romney said,’I don’t agree with all the people who support me. And my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in, but I need to get 50.1 percent or more. And I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.’ Romney knows there are more than just ‘a lot’ of these ‘good people’. He also knows he needs to max out their vote as he’s going to lose nearly every other demographic.
Romney dug this ditch in regards to turning off broad demographics with his own two hands. The liberal governor of Massachusetts that boasted of being more pro-gay than civil rights lion Ted Kennedy, that enacted statewide and advocated nationwide Romneycare, and emphatically stated his love for mandates in 2008; unburdened himself of any and all traces of character in the 2012 primaries. Without the weight of shame or conscience, Romney screamed pass the right of serial philanderer Newt Gingrich and ‘man on dog‘ Rick Santorum; retroactively branding himself ‘severely conservative‘. In the process decimating the LGBT vote with minimizing his youthful assault of a suspected gay student and opposing gay marriage, the Hispanic vote with policy ideas like “self deportation”, the sane woman’s vote with his support of the “personhood amendment”and his drawing a blank on whether he supports equal pay for women, and the elderly vote in his full throated endorsement of the Ryan budget. A budget that calls for thedestruction of social security and medicare in favor of trillions in tax cuts for the rich.
He’s left with two main groups he’s sure to win hands down by large margins. The rich vote, and the hate vote. Maximizing the later, the 2012 version of the Nixonian southern strategy finds Romney and his surrogates pushing one main theme. Obama isn’t one of us. Obama isn’t American. ‘Obama was born in Kenya. Obama is a Muslim. Obama is not American. Obama wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society.Obama is a socialist. Obama hates America. Obama is a racist. Obama is destroying the economy. Obama is a food stamp president. Obama is coming for your guns. I wish this president would learn to be an American.’ The newest Nixonian-Atwater codeword Romney has added to his stump speech is ‘foreigner.’ This steady drum thump reverberates through most of the population as white noise. A few however heed the call. And despite all evidence to the contrary, their need to believe in imaginary things to justify their bile, overwhelms reality and good sense. In return for the Republican party’s validation and acceptance of qualities and feelings society typically shuns; these Americans bestow their vote.
Given our history as a country in regards to what an industrious American can accomplish with a firearm, it’s not just disheartening he’d harness this element, it’s dangerous. It’s not whether Romney wins, it’s how Romney is trying to win. It’s a cynical interpretation of America that panders to the lowest aspects of this republic. It’s not just Romney. There areplenty of billionaires not satisfied with their lot in life, foaming at the mouth to invest hundreds of millions of dollars that sufficient racial animosity exist in 2012 to harness into such a fine point as to pierce the veil between what we say we are as a country and what we actually are. To vote, not out of self interest or a genuine interest in how to move this nation forward, but purely out of a negative bias that has neither a logical or productive aspiration. Come November, this country will either vote for something, or against someone. For good or ill, the answer to that question will reverberate with near karmic repercussions for years to come.