Friday, October 24, 2008

Rep. John Lewis is Right: McCain-Palin Racism 'Playing With Fire'

Rep. John Lewis is right: McCain-Palin racism ‘playing with fire’

By Fred Goldstein
Published Oct 22, 2008 5:32 PM

Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, an African American and former civil rights leader, condemned the McCain-Palin campaign for “playing with fire” after a series of anti-Obama campaign rallies in which “Kill him,” “Off with his head,” “Terrorist” and other threats and racist epithets were yelled in plain hearing of the candidates and the media. An African-American cameraman was told to “Sit down, boy” during one of Palin’s rallies.

Lewis accused the campaign of “sowing hatred and division” and stated: “During another period in history, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks. ... Because of this atmosphere, four little girls were killed one Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.”

Lewis knows whereof he speaks. He was one of the leaders of the Selma, Ala., voters’ rights march in 1965 and had his skull split open by Wallace’s stormtrooper police during the “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The McCain-Palin campaign demanded an apology. Lewis issued some mild-mannered retreat about having been able to “phrase it better,” but he did not apologize. And he was right not to. In fact, a few days later, YouTube carried a video of a news report from Fairfield, Ohio, where an effigy of Barack Obama with a rope around his neck was hung on the front lawn of a racist, just above a McCain-Palin campaign sign.

The McCain-Palin campaign has become more openly right-wing and racist since Palin joined the ticket. Not that McCain isn’t a racist. His contemptuous reference to Obama as “that one” was his way of sending the right-wing base of his followers a message that he was indeed racist enough to say it openly on national television.

The continued robocall attacks trying to stick the “terrorist” label on Obama are also a not-so-subtle racist message. They blend with the Republican leadership’s campaign that spreads rumors Obama is a Muslim while surrogates for McCain and Palin continually refer to him as “Barack Hussein Obama.” The point is to stoke anti-Muslim racism and then attach it to Obama. Surely John Lewis’s accusations of “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” are right on target.

One of the treacherous features of the campaign is the way those in the capitalist establishment who are opposed to Palin have framed their opposition. For the most part, it revolves around her “lack of qualifications.”

The question of whether Palin, or any other bourgeois presidential or vice-presidential candidate, is “qualified” to carry out the aims of U.S. imperialism is a problem for the capitalist class to worry about. The question for the working class and the oppressed regarding imperialist candidates is not these qualifications but their politics.

Klanswoman in three-piece suit

What the capitalist pundits do not want to talk about in relation to Palin is the fact that she is the candidate of the ultra-right. Palin has injected energy into the lynch-mob atmosphere at campaign rallies—so much so that it has reverberations among the Black population in Alaska.

“Alaska’s black leaders say they’re not surprised to see Gov. Sarah Palin at the center of the controversy over injecting the race issue into the presidential campaign,” was the lead into an Associated Press dispatch of Oct. 18 from Anchorage.

“She has no sensitivity to minorities,” said Baptist minister Rev. Alonzo Patterson, president of the Alaska Black Leadership Conference. The dispatch went on to say: “Many of Palin’s black constituents say they are disgusted with the campaign’s racial overtones. ‘It’s really been like you’re going to a Ku Klux Klan rally,’ said Javis Odom, an Anchorage minister. ‘Gov. Palin is showing her true colors on the national stage.’”

Black Alaskans know Palin up close. Palin opposed a proclamation endorsing a festival that marks the freeing of the slaves. She has attended conventions of the ultra-right Alaska Independence Party, which considers the Civil War in the U.S. to be an “act of Northern aggression.”

When she took office as governor she refused to reappoint two Black officials. In a tense meeting with Black leaders to discuss appointments, she was openly hostile. “Her top lip got really tight” when the question of diversity came up.

Black Alaskans make up 4 percent of the population. Native Alaskan tribes make up 18 percent of the population. Palin has been just as racist and colonialist to the Native peoples.

She has challenged federal rulings up-holding Native rights to subsistence fishing. She is the point person of the commercial and sports fishing industries that want to expand into Native territories. Similarly she has fought legally to take traditional hunting rights away from Native Alaskans in order to enhance sports hunting, a significant profit-making enterprise in Alaska.

While being forced to recognize tribal sovereignty, Palin refuses to recognize the rights of the tribes to exercise that sovereignty. She has held this position despite court rulings overturning her policies.

Palin was brought up in politics by the ultra-right in Alaska, including activists in the fascist John Birch Society and the Alaska Independence Party. Her racist and right-wing conduct in the presidential campaign is a continuation of her colonialist, pro-big-business, right-wing political origins.

The capitalist establishment has all the resources to unearth this and much more, but they are silent and confine themselves to superficial talk about “qualifications.” The multinational working class should be concerned with the right-wing, racist direction of both McCain and Palin.

These forces are already preparing to interfere at the polls to try to influence the election by intimidation and obstruction. Should Obama win the presidency, the right and the ultra right will no longer have Bush in the White House. His regime has kept them quiet.

The forces that are now gathering around McCain, and especially Palin, are not going to go away after the election. On the contrary, they are preparing for a campaign against Obama after the election, should he win. In particular they will mount a campaign of scapegoating for the capitalist economic crisis and the suffering it causes. The workers and the oppressed must remain vigilant and prepared to do battle with these reactionary forces.
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