john mccain’s divisive rhetoric

Today, Representative John Lewis (D-Georgia) accused John McCain of divisive rhetoric that’s reminiscent of George Wallace’s campaign in the 1960s (NY Times, Politico). From Politico:

“What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history,” Lewis said in a statement issued today for Politico’s Arena forum. “Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.”

Lewis didn’t accuse McCain of imitating Wallace, but suggested there were similarities.

“George Wallace never threw a bomb,” Lewis noted. “He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.”

McCain, of course, is acting offended and demanding that Obama renounce Lewis’s statements. But why doesn’t McCain just fess up? Want evidence that his rhetoric/actions are racist? I’m not talking about explicit 1960s style racism. I’m talking about about subtle, 21st century style racism: unconscious or unnoticeable, institutional, and built into out bodies:

• During the Republican National Convention, the Republican Party mocks Obama for being a community organizer. This was at first very confusing to most liberals: why is it bad to be a community organizer? Then, the realization: “community” is code for “ghetto” and “organizer” is code for “activist.” Obama is painted as a Black leftist activist.

• McCain has called Obama a “man of the streets,” which I think is also coded.

• When someone at a rally mentions that Obama is an Arab, McCain says he’s a good family man, not an Arab, leaving firmly in place that notion that Arabs are un-American.

• During the most recent presidential “debate,” McCain clearly others Obama by pointing to him as “that one.”

• Also during the debate, McCain shakes the hands of and talks directly to white folks who ask questions. But

When Blacks asked the question, McCain treated each one with disrespect. He called one Black gentleman the wrong name, he was condescending to another in reference to Fannie Mae and then there was Ingrid. Ingrid, a Black woman, asked McCain a question on how he would get Congress moving fast to on environmental issues. McCain didn’t look her in the eye, he turned his back to her and started chatting with a white guy.

• Palin’s constantly claiming that Obama “pals around with terrorists.”

And these are just off the top of my head.

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