Monday, April 21, 2008

Race and the GOP

I know that I shouldn't think John McCain's current tour of Alabama is strange. I know I shouldn't.

The skeptic in me says that McCain is gearing up for a fight with Obama, and in his spare time before the general electioneering starts, he's collecting his "I'm not a racist" credentials since the GOP has such an awesome track record when it comes to campaigning against black and Latino Democrats. This is, after all, the same man who voted against making King's birthday a national holiday, and the man who asserted repeatedly that he was the true heir to Reagan, the foot-soldier in the Reagan revolution and all that. Remember Reagan? Remember the time he went to Philadelphia, Mississippi, to announce his candidacy in the same county where three civil-rights workers were brutally slain? And gave a speech about states' rights?

This new post-primary version of McCain echoes back to the man who was race-baited himself in the South Carolina primary in 2000, not the "foot soldier" of this past primary season. A shred of hope that McCain might douse the GOP's fondness for overt and covert racism?

At the very least, he is clearly setting a different tone - perhaps because McCain would be battling for centrist voters for support if Obama is to be the Democratic nominee. Maybe going on the civil-rights tour of Alabama is less about getting the black vote and more a PR opportunity to appeal to (white) centrist Democrats. All of which reminds me of polls at the beginning of primary season - when many people were deciding between McCain and Obama. If McCain wants their vote, he can't play with the usual GOP playbook.

Predictions about what a general election between McCain and Obama would look like?


Joyce Cheng said...

My first participation in the blog phenomenon, in the form of a comment to Gale on Obama vs. McCain.

I am so interested in this election because it seems as if the voters actually have to deliberate before casting their ballet, as opposed to simply voting by party line. Isn't this what genuine political life is about? We are supposed to have a moment where we decide what the common good is. Indeed, this is almost touching.

What is truly worthwhile in the political life of free citizens ought to be the moment of transition and transformation. In that sense Obama is right to mobilize the word "change" in his campaign. I would add a qualification, however. A flippant "change" (as in the case of an overnight religious conversion, or the sudden inclusion of Japanese people in the category of Aryans under the Third Reich) is not nearly as interesting as a change that comes about after a moment of deliberation. The fact that people might be asked to think for once before making up their minds: weighing the pros and cons, perhaps, but more important, seeing the world they know from different angles.

If Gale's stories about how some Republicans voted for Obama in the primary as first-time voters for the Democratic party in decades, then this is very, very interesting. I must say that I almost want this moment of deliberation and uncertainty to last as long as it possibly can.

JeremyC said...

Unfortunately my view of this election is less sanguine. I think that when McCain and Obama run against each other, Obama will be viciously attacked by the right as a wacko leftist while McCain (and he has already started this process) steadily builds up his cred as a lovable guy who isn't THAT opposed to the "positive" parts (as no doubt some see them) of the Bush presidency. Note the reversal on the Bush tax cuts. It's already beginning.

Then, all of the good old fake issues from the culture wars will come up again and galvanize the inaccurately named "values voters" to vote for McCain. How much do you hate America, Mr. Obama? Why don't you want to save the unborn children? Why are you a pawn of the homosexual agenda?

Anyways, I think McCain can pull this off, no matter who wins the DNC nomination. Maybe it's just that the "Democralypse" (as Colbert puts it) is consuming the political news, but McCain seems to be passively waiting for the most politically advantageous platform for him to materialize.

gale said...

I like "Democralypse." What's their problem? Sometimes I long for a Karl Rove who could give orders that people would have to follow.

This became an issue with my caucus meeting, actually, when there was this period of 30 minutes where no one was in charge and no one stepped up to take charge . . . it seemed indicative of a larger problem. But that said, on a national level there must be Democratic power-brokers. Howard Dean? Where are you?