George Graham

Cultural Wedge is McCain’s Latest Weapon But It’s Also About Race

Why do Republican political candidates lie? Because if they told the truth, they would lose. That, my children, is the reality. So get over it. It will do no good to gnash your teeth and point your finger and cry, “Liar! Liar! Pants on fire.” They know they’re lying. Everybody must know they’re lying; it’s so obvious. But some people like to hear the lies; it reinforces their prejudices. Those are the people who listen to commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter.

The Republican Party represents rich Americans. The Democratic Party represents poor Americans. If the U.S. elections were run on that issue, the Republicans could never win because there are a lot more poor Americans than rich Americans. But the Republicans keep winning. Why?

They have learned how to turn poor people against each other: to divide and rule. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. “Middle Class,” I mean you. America’s middle class took a slow boat to China sometime during the first Bush term. Now, there’s only the rich (and super-rich) and the poor (and super-poor).

It used to be that all Republicans had to do was convince poor people that they had a chance (however slim) of getting rich, and a lot of poor people would vote for them. But Americans are wise to that con. Over the years, the chance of climbing out of poverty to become a Horatio Alger hero has grown more and more elusive. Now, the secret is out: the rich get richer and the poor get… well, promises, I guess.

So now, the Republican spinmeisters have come up with more sophisticated strategies. One plan of attack is to drive a wedge between college-educated voters and high school drop-outs. The message goes something like this:

Remember that smart-ass kid in the ninth grade? He went on to some fancy university and earned some kind of egghead degree – and he’s still looking down his nose at people like you!

obamaOne of the code words for this message is “elitist.” Other code words are “liberal” and  “arrogant.” Then there’s “arugula” (I think that’s a salad green, like lettuce). I’m sure you’ve heard political opponents using those words in connection with Barack Obama (photo at left). The Americans who are being encouraged to vote against him are being rallied as “blue-collar” and “working class.”

Another tactic is turning rural Americans against urban Americans. That message is more complicated but it goes something like this:

Those city slickers think they’re so damn cool with their designer jeans and fancy notions, but they’re actually a bunch of weirdo, commie perverts. 

The code words for this message  include  “small-town,” “Middle America,” and “families.” Yes, I know, urban Americans have families, but not in the same sense that rural Americans do. Rural folks have real families.

They’re even turning American women against American men, using words like “sexism” and “disrespect” to describe legitimate criticisms of the cynically selected – female – Republican vice presidential nominee.

Of course, the easiest trick of all is to get the religious right stirred up. They know they’re God’s chosen people and are going to be swept up in the Rapture to walk on streets of gold, while the rest of us burn forever in a fiery furnace with Satan poking us in the rear with a pitchfork. Tell them that someone might have doubts about banning abortion or fighting Holy Wars against “God’s enemies,” and they’ll organize busloads of Republican voters in a heartbeat.

In the beginning was the word and the word was “abortion.” But there are other, more subtle, code words – like “values” (sometimes referred to as “family values”).

In this election, the Republicans have an ace in the hole: Barack Obama is an African-American. And there are still many voters (mostly white but including some Hispanics and Asians) who react with suspicion, fear and even hatred to African-Americans – especially to African-American men. However, there are many more decent Americans (of all ethnic backgrounds and political parties) who would not put up with an overt display of racism. It would be political suicide for Republican candidates to come right out and say:

Don’t vote for that Black Man! You know what he will do. He will fill the White House with crack-smoking rappers, gang members and welfare bums. They will rape all the white women and free the criminals, etc. etc.

The Republican spinmeisters know better than to play the race card from the top of the deck. They are expert in the art of hypocrisy. They know how to deplore racism while practicing it. So when Obama mentioned in passing that he knows he does not look like the American presidents who have appeared on the nation’s currency so far, he was denounced as racist.

sex adYet, look at the racist (and sleazy) ad (at right) that has just come from McCain’s campaign. It shows Obama’s African-American face appearing to smirk suggestively while the voice-over inescapably suggests that he is a child molester. The ad lied about a bill that Obama supported in Illinois, saying it was designed to provide “comprehensive sex education” for kindergarten pupils, when its purpose was actually to protect the kids from sexual predators. But the lie was incidental. I am convinced that the ad’s real objective was to portray Obama as the over-sexed black bogeyman of American mythology.

Remember how Paris Hilton and Britney Spears – both underwear-challenged, blond sex symbols – frolicked in the television commercial that accused Obama of being a “celebrity”? There’s a code word for you! What do “celebrities” do? They have messy love affairs. They leave their underwear at home and flash the papparazzi. They indulge in orgies and other unspeakable excesses… No matter that Obama is actually a devoted father and husband who is untouched by any breath of scandal.

The McCain campaign has pushed this train of thought to the limit, suggesting over and over that there’s a “cultural” difference between Obama and  white “middle-class” or “working class” America. Cultural, huh? Like the color of his skin, perhaps? Now, the most daring racist ploy has come from not one but two Republican politicians in Georgia.

  • Representative Lynn Westmoreland of Grantville, Ga., described the Obamas as members of an “elitist-class … that thinks that they’re uppity,” according to The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper. Asked to clarify whether he intended to use the word, he said, “Yeah, uppity.”
  • Speaking to a Georgia morning news show, GOP congressional candidate Rick Goddard criticized an MSNBC reporter’s sharp questioning of former House speaker Newt Gingrich at the Republican National Convention. Goddard called the African-American reporter, Ron Allen, “uppity.“

This is no accident, folks. This is right out of the spinmeisters’ playbook. By using a pejorative word, one that has been paired with another more disgusting word for as long as anyone can remember, these politicians are giving listeners permission to thumb their noses at “political correctness.” In other words, it’s OK to be racist! I’ll bet you haven’t heard the last “uppity” from these creeps.

The plan is this: First stir up the prejudices, and then spin out the lies to support them. Look, if lies bother you, stop listening to TV or radio until after the election in November. And be careful when you read the newspaper. You’ll just upset your stomach if you let this stuff get to you. One thing to remember, though: We have to vote. And we have to encourage all the like-minded people we know to vote also. We simply cannot let the Republicans win this one. That would be a tragedy too horrible to contemplate.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for