Sarah Palin, with her support of creationism, her populist rhetoric and her continued references to "Joe Sixpack" is appealing to a continuing strain of anti-intellectualism that can be found very strongly in a certain class of American citizen: lower income, poorly educated, racist white people.
Sarah Palin speaks before crowds and whips them into a frenzy. Not by being inspiring, but by promoting hate:
Barack Obama, she told 8,000 fans at a rally here Monday afternoon, "launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist!" This followed her earlier accusation that the Democrat pals around with terrorists. "This is not a man who sees America the way you and I see America," she told the Clearwater crowd. "I'm afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country." The crowd replied with boos.As she launches these attacks, the Republican campaign is trying to limit the access of reporters to Palin's followers.
Constantly under the watchful eyes of security, the media wasn't permitted to wander around inside Coachman Park to talk to Sarah Palin supporters. When reporters tried to leave the designated press area... an escort would dart out of nowhere and confront him or her and say, "Can I help you?" and turn the person around.But even with these efforts, the reaction of Palin's followers is becoming public.
In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her "less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media." At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."Veiled racism has a long history in Republican election tactics.
Race was the blueprint for the Dixiecrats, Strom Thurmond, Richard Nixon and Lee Atwater. They used it to create the “Southern Strategy” employed by neoconservatives and neo-Confederates today.And the racist meme has spread widely thoughout the Republican party during this election as well. GOP politicians keep using racially loaded words like “uppity,” whether referring to Obama and his wife, or a black reporter. (The first recorded use of “uppity,” incidentally, is found in Uncle Remus, in case you were wondering.) And the direct line between “elitist” and uppity isn't hard to draw at all.
It's why presidential candidate Ronald Reagan spoke in 1980 about "states’ rights" in Philadelphia, Miss. — the place where civil rights activists Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were killed and buried in the ’60s.
It’s why then-Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and campaign strategist Dick Morris ran in 1990 their notorious ad with the white hands of an actor crumpling up an application for a job that he lost because of “racial quotas.”
It’s what then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was conveying in 2002 when he told a Thurmond birthday gathering, “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either.”
The racially loaded terms are everywhere: a Palin ad talked about Obama not being “respectful” enough to her; Geoff Davis (R-Kentucky) saying of Obama “That boy's finger does not need to be on the button.” A College Republican leader had to quit after saying that Obama has“a pair of lips so large he could float half of Cuba to the shores of Miami (and probably would).” At a conservative political forum, boxes of “Obama Waffles” were sold with a caricature of Obama obviously referencing Aunt Jemima.
People working for the Obama campaign report repeated racist comments and threats. There have long been reports of vandalism, but obervers are now fearing outbreaks of violence.
And now, it seems that McCain has lost control of his own followers. McCain and Palin are both interrupted when they mention Obama by cries of “terrorist,” and occasionally, “kill him!” And in one of his own town hall rallies, as people kept asking about Obama being a terrorist, a Muslim or an “Arab,” McCain found himself being booed simply for suggesting that Obama was an honorable man with whom McCain disagreed (video for that here).
Andrew Sullivan, in the Atlantic, put it this way:
McCain and Palin have decided to stoke this rage, to foment it, to encourage paranoid notions that somehow Obama is a "secret" terrorist or Islamist or foreigner. These are base emotions in both sense of the word.As Obama said in an Ohio rally, “nothing's easier than riling up a crowd by stoking anger and division.” But it seems that anger and divisiveness are the only weapons that the Republican campaign has left.
But they are also very very dangerous. This is a moment of maximal physical danger for the young Democratic nominee. And McCain is playing with fire. If he really wants to put country first, he will attack Obama on his policies - not on these inflammatory, personal, creepy grounds. This is getting close to the atmosphere stoked by the Israeli far right before the assassination of Rabin.
Update: And as if someone were trying to support my charges of racism in the Palin camp, we find this:
As the crowd cheered at a Sarah Palin rally this morning in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a man in the audience grinned as he held up a stuffed monkey doll with a Barack Obama bumper sticker wrapped across its forehead...Check out the link - they even have video. Of course, you could probably have seen this coming months ago, if you'd looked. This is simply a mirror of the Obama sock monkeys.
After Palin finished her remarks this morning, the man holding the stuffed monkey seemed to notice that a video camera was pointed at him, at which point he removed the Obama sticker from the doll’s head and crumpling it up in his hand. He then handed the doll to a young boy who was watching the rally from his father’s shoulders. The boy’s parents later told CBS News that they weren’t acquainted with the man who gave their son the stuffed monkey.