Craig Frucht | Road to November
The height of silliness
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 08:11
So Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and Richard Mourdock all walk into a bar and −−
Yada, yada, yada, the punch line is an Obama conspiracy theory, a racial slur or another Republican rape gaffe. Have your pick.
The Republican Party is spinning a narrative right now that Romney has momentum. This might be believable if not for two bits of evidence to the contrary.
First, a surfeit of public opinion data suggests that President Obama maintains a lead in more than enough swing states to bring him to 270 electoral votes. As a general rule, if it’s less than a week before Election Day, you’re behind in Ohio and Nevada and the graphs of your poll numbers there over the last two weeks look like flat lines, words like “surging” do not accurately characterize your election prospects. Phrases like “underdog” and “is probably going to lose” may better capture your predicament.
Second, Republican figures have unleashed a torrent of gaffes recently that reek of the kind of frenzied, enraged desperation you simply don’t see from people who are confident they are going to win.
It was actually Romney himself who used the expression “the height of silliness” last week, referring to Obama’s accusation that Romney had advocated allowing the auto industry to enter bankruptcy.
But Obama’s claim that Romney would have allowed the auto industry to go bankrupt doesn’t seem all that silly given that Romney once authored an op−ed in The New York Times entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” And it is decidedly less silly than Romney’s assertion that Syria is “Iran’s path to the sea,” which is akin to saying that Minnesota is Vermont’s path to Canada.
That claim, in turn, seems robustly sane compared to the vitriol that has spewed forth from some of Romney’s fellow Republicans in the media over the last two weeks. Let’s quickly recap these comments in order from least to most repellent.
It surely isn’t a good sign that the “least repellent” award goes to Sarah Palin, who wrote on Facebook that “President Obama’s shuck and jive shtick with these Benghazi lies must end.” Palin may not have known that “shucking and jiving” is a racial slur often used to characterize African Americans, but even so, she’s only adding to Romney’s Benghazi problem, which is that he has so far failed to sound anything resembling credible when he discusses last month’s terrorist attack.
Speaking of racial insults, there was also John Sununu, a top Romney campaign operative, suggesting in an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan that Colin Powell only endorsed Obama because Obama is “somebody of the same race.” This isn’t even dog−whistle politics −− it’s overt racism. Imagine the uproar from the right if David Plouffe had said a Romney supporter had only endorsed him because he was white.
Even worse was Donald Trump attempting to extort Obama into releasing his college records and passport application by promising a $5 million check for charity. This clearly harkens back to the old theory that Obama isn’t a true U.S. citizen, and it’s a transparent attempt to tap into race−based distrust of Obama.
But the most horrifying was Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who said that pregnancies that result from rape are “something God intended to happen.” Mourdock’s comments, while absolutely obscene, aren’t directly related to the presidential race, but they do serve as a distraction to the Romney campaign’s relentless narrative that Romney is pulling ahead.
At best, these are just a few isolated remarks from a handful of horribly misguided men and women. At worst, they are symptomatic of a party among whose leadership harmful and grossly offensive attitudes about civil rights are the norm. What is certain, however, is that people who think they’re ahead don’t resort to dog whistling and race baiting.
Craig Frucht is a senior double majoring in political science and psychology. He can be reached at Craig.Frucht@tufts.edu.