Monday, October 20, 2008

The Ultra-Right & the McCain/Palin Campaign(s)

The ultra-right & the McCain/Palin campaign(s)

By Fred Goldstein
Published Oct 16, 2008 10:04 PM

The capitalist media have been filled with reports of Republican candidate Sen. John McCain being booed by his own supporters and of extreme racist outcries at campaign rallies, including threats to African Americans and reporters. These incidents reflect the fact that, within the McCain electoral camp, there are two different but overlapping campaigns going on simultaneously.

While McCain publicly dissociated himself from some racist remarks at his campaign rallies, they had in fact been incited by him and his running mate, Sarah Palin.

On the one hand, there is the McCain campaign’s opportunistic drive to win the presidency by whatever means necessary. On the other hand, there is the campaign by the right wing and the ultraright wing to promote their racist, sexist, militaristic and chauvinist ideology and program.

The McCain campaign turned into two campaigns with the nomination of Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, to be the vice presidential candidate.

McCain was booed twice at his own rally in Lakeville, Minn., on Oct. 10 when he tried to tone down ultraright, racist attacks on Sen. Barack Obama.

The first time he was booed during the so-called town hall meeting was when a right-wing man in the audience talked about his fear of raising his child “under a president who cohorts with terrorists like Ayers.” When McCain told the man that Obama was a “decent person” and that he did not have to be scared, the crowd booed loudly.

Later, McCain was again confronted. “I don’t trust Obama,” a racist woman said. “I have read about him. He’s an Arab.” McCain parried that Obama was “a decent family man” and called for respect. Again he was booed.

McCain was publicly dissociating himself from these two racist remarks. But in fact they had been incited by him and his running mate, Sarah Palin, over the previous 10 days, beginning before the second presidential debate in Nashville. In fact, at the same moment that McCain was admonishing the crowd, his campaign was sending out statements justifying the attacks on Obama, using his association with Bill Ayers to attach the “terrorist” label to Obama and also calling him “a liar.”

[Bill Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground. Founded in 1969, the group grew out of the militant resistance of hundreds of thousands of youth, soldiers and veterans to the ruthless 13-year imperialist war of extermination against the people of Vietnam. Three million Vietnamese and 57,000 U.S. soldiers died in the war. The land was carpet-bombed, bombarded with napalm and phosphorous bombs, and covered with the poisonous pesticide Agent Orange.

Millions of Vietnamese, as well as many U.S. GIs and their families, are still suffering from its effects. Civilians were massacred, on the ground and from the air. Operation Rolling Thunder—the bombing campaign during which McCain, a pilot and true war criminal, was shot down and captured—killed 182,000 Vietnamese civilians, according to U.S. estimates. (

[Some of the young anti-war militants in the U.S. resorted to bombings as an act of resistance. Although these methods completely isolated them from the masses and were ultimately ineffective, they were motivated by outrage over the murderous imperialist war that was trying to destroy a heroic national liberation struggle.]

Racists boo McCain at his own rallies

McCain was forced into making his minimalist, mild disavowal of ugly racism after a series of fascist-like outbursts during rallies where he appeared with Palin. The most publicized was the one in Clearwater, Fla., where Palin attacked Katie Couric of CBS News and the “kinda mainstream media,” as well as Obama and Ayers.

The crowd menaced the reporters covering the rally, shouted racial slurs and “Kill him!” One man shouted racial epithets at an African-American sound man and told him to “Sit down, boy.” (Washington Post, Oct. 7)

The same day Sheriff Mike Scott of Lee County, Fla., introduced Palin at a rally in Fort Meyers. Scott worked the crowd up into a racist frenzy by referring to the Democratic nominee as Barack Hussein Obama in tones dripping with contempt. Scott was in full police uniform at the time. McCain made the perfunctory disavowal and Palin’s campaign made a mild statement about how Obama’s name was not the issue.

Rep. John Lewis, an African-American member of Congress and former civil rights leader from Georgia, has said that McCain and Palin are playing with fire. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has warned against racist attacks. AFL-CIO Vice President Richard Trumka has been campaigning among white workers, urging them to reject the kind of racism that is being spouted by the McCain campaign.

Other progressive forces as well as moderate voices from within the bourgeoisie have sounded the alarm. This pressure may force the McCain campaign to pull back somewhat.

Most of the warnings about the racism of the McCain-Palin campaign have been within the framework of promoting the electoral campaign of Obama. To the extent that those warnings help to counter racism among whites, they are totally progressive. The McCain-Palin campaign has allowed the racist forces to surface and the working-class movement, the anti-war movement and the progressive movement in general should give these racists a firm rebuff and mobilize to stop the progress of the ultraright before it spreads. In particular, everyone should be on the alert for a campaign of racist intimidation leading up to the election and particularly at the polls at election time.

But one does not have to be an electoral supporter of Obama in order to join in the struggle against the racists and fascists who are attacking him. For example, many people are supporting the campaign of Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, two women of color who have put forward a broad, progressive program for the people.

Palin galvanized the right wing

Capitalist electoral politics are a totally ineffective framework within which to fight the ultraright and fascist elements. On the contrary, the ultraright is now using that arena to galvanize its own movement.

What has become evident is that the McCain campaign and the Palin campaign are going on simultaneously. It started from the night of Palin’s acceptance speech, when she wowed the Republican right wing and referred to McCain as “my running mate.” Three weeks later Palin referred to the “Palin-McCain administration” at a campaign rally.

Palin was brought onto the McCain ticket because he was weak within the Republican Party. McCain was not based in the moderate, so-called Rockefeller wing, of the party. But he was also distrusted and downright despised by the extreme right.

McCain has pursued a generally reactionary policy, is a militarist, a tool of big business and a racist. But he is distrusted by the Republican right wing because on occasion he has departed from a strictly right-wing agenda.

On occasion he has collaborated with Democrats, for example, with Sen. Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform. He also held out for a compromise on immigration reform that would allow a “guest worker” program and a complicated, arduous, so-called “path to citizenship” for some undocumented immigrants.

He mildly differed with Bush on torture. And he has pulled back on using anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage as wedge issues in his campaign. During his primary race and up until Palin got into the campaign, his mantra was “reaching across the aisle” and bipartisanship “to get things done.”

All this is anathema to the right and the ultraright.

The main contenders on McCain’s short list for vice-presidential picks had been Mitt Romney and Joe Lieberman. Romney is a Mormon, a former governor and a former supporter of a woman’s right to choose. He has been dubbed a moneyed Eastern “elitist.” Lieberman was a right-wing Democrat who turned independent. But at crunch time McCain lurched to the right by picking Palin. His campaign at this point is heavily submerged in the campaign of the right and ultraright.

The right wing knows Palin and her choice transformed the campaign. Take, for example, the shift by James Dobson. He is a right-wing evangelical figure, founder of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. He spews his sexist, racist bigotry throughout the country on television programs, radio broadcasts and through books. He speaks the mind of many of the extreme right-wing social conservatives in the country.

During the Republican primary, he said he could never vote for McCain “as a matter of conscience.” Once Palin was nominated, however, he decided to back the campaign. Except for George W. Bush in his second term, no president was ever right wing enough to get Dobson’s endorsement, not even Ronald Reagan.

Palin’s ultraright supporters

The reasons are clear. Palin is from the ultraright. She was brought up in Alaska politics to become mayor of Wasilla, population 7,000, under the tutelage of Mark Chryson, a leader of the extremely right-wing Alaska Independence Party, and Steve Stoll, a John Birch Society activist. The Birch Society is a true fascist organization. The AIP is so racist and right wing that it considers the Civil War in the U.S. an act of Northern aggression. (, Oct. 10)

Palin is militantly anti-abortion, promotes creationism in the schools, has tried to ban books in the library, is a tool of the oil companies and is an enemy of the Indigenous population of Alaska.

As governor of Alaska she has negotiated an agreement for Exxon, BP and Conoco-Phillips to build an oil and gas pipeline across the state into Canada and got them a $500-million subsidy to build it. She is for opening up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling, a position even McCain has backed away from.

While the whole world has watched polar bears floating around on melting slabs of ice as their habitat disintegrates around them, Palin filed suit to stop the federal government from classifying the polar bear as an endangered species. Her suit questioned science and claimed the classification would harm the development of oil and gas in the state. (The Nation, Sept. 10)

Settler-state racism

Alaska is a settler state in which the rights of Indigenous people have been disregarded ever since Secretary of State William Seward purchased it from Russia in 1867. Not only were the numerous tribes of Indigenous peoples not consulted at the time, but the racist language of the agreement stated that “the uncivilized tribes will be subject to such laws and regulations as the United States may from time to time adopt in regard to aboriginal tribes in that country.”

Palin governs in that same chauvinist, racist spirit. Alaska has a population of about 670,000, of whom 80,000 or more are Native Alaskans—15 percent of the population. They were pushed off much of their land over the years by settlers, especially after oil was discovered in 1968. They have fought to retain their traditional rights to hunting and fishing. It is a matter of survival, especially for the many villages with no roads to the outside.

Palin has brought legal actions at every turn in order to override the rights of Alaskan tribes to subsistence fishing, subsistence hunting, tribal sovereignty and the teaching of their languages.

In other words, Palin was the candidate of the ultraright. She gave them a new lease on life. The right wing in this country has grown more and more isolated. The Republican Party has grown more openly split as a result. The Bush years have resulted in misery and suffering for the masses and the general population is demanding solutions. “Free market” ideology and social reaction provide no answers.

The new climate in which the Obama candidacy has arisen has promoted an element of desperation among the right, and that has now surfaced around the Palin candidacy. The Palin forces want to win the White House, but not at the expense of inhibiting their poisonous politics of racism, sexism, bigotry, militarism and other forms of reaction. That is their priority.

When McCain gets booed for even weakly separating himself from the racist mobs at campaign rallies, it is the Palin supporters who are leading the booing. They come with “Palin-Power” tee shirts—McCain’s name isn’t even there. Many of them merely tolerate McCain for the opportunity to promote Palin and their racist agenda.

It is a mark of progress that the racist attacks, while they rev up the tiny minority of right-wingers, have not won over large numbers of white voters. McCain’s poll numbers have been dropping among white workers and Obama’s have been rising.

Eight years of Bush, climaxed by a profound economic crisis, have laid the foundations for an advance of Black-white unity and unity among all the oppressed and the workers, who will have to come together to fight back against the capitalist crisis. Hopefully, in that process, they will push the fascist and racist elements back into their holes.
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