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