So, yes, I had to tune into the Republican convention to see what hymns and songbook they’d be singing from. Not surprisingly, it was a night of negativity, the likes of which I don’t think I’d ever seen. I mean, really: It’s one thing when–as was the case in 2004–it’s two white guys going at each other. However, because there’s an African American in contention this year, the dynamics of race and class are working on multiple and, yes, nasty levels.
As one pundit on CNN put it, we’re back to the culture wars. The Republicans want their constituents to believe that it’s the urban centers vs. the rural enclaves. It’s a simplistic world view. And by that I mean that we’ve really got to be comfortable dealing with more nuance. The world is a highly complicated place and to continue looking backwards does none of us any good: Jobs will continue to flee overseas, we’ll still lag the world in science and math, and the environment will continue to be ravaged, and Bin Laden will continue to drop mixtapes.
Last night was disheartening. I didn’t see Huckabee or Romney speak. What I saw was Guiliani and Palin. And instead of addressing real issues that impact us all–the economy, the war–both of these attack dogs spent their time onstage condescending, ridiculing and blatantly distorting Obama’s positions. The mostly white crowd lapped it up. By their whooping, jeering and cheering for attacks on Obama, community organizers and all who would get involved in the political process at a grassroots level, they made it clear that they embrace only represent an isolationist, backwards-looking approach to being a 21st century member of the world community. I mean, here’s who the Republican party chose to represent them in a complex world: A "hockey mom" who seriously considered banning books, someone who believes that teaching abstinence is a good idea even in the face of her teenage daughter turning up pregnant (VivirLatino nicely points out the double standards here); who brings a "frontier mentality" from the third least populous state in the Union; and who just got her passport about a 1.5 years ago. Is this the type of person we really need to be second in command of the United States? Isn’t Bush a similar "rural champion"?
Now, I’m not trying to disrespect hockey moms or people who live in small towns. More to the point of yesterday’s show: When 10,000 people jeer and catcall Obama without giving serious arguments that speak to the issues at hand, I feel an incredible level of venom and disrespect. Not just for Obama and his family, but for me and mine. In some ways, I felt like I was watching a Klan rally because I didn’t feel like there was anyone in that hall that would’ve been empathetic to me. What we saw was the resistance that Obama faces daily made visible and real. And if there’s such an outright rejection of Obama–who I believe represents the best of us as African Americans and as Americans– then what does that mean for how they see me? What does that mean for the rest of us?
Clearly, the Republicans are about maintaining the status quo. Their vision for a 21st century America is not one that is inclusive. Their harping on "experience," "patriotism," "average Americans" and the like are all distractions. As Connie Schultz of the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out, it’s "all code for race." So, it’s sad to say, but as I watched the audience at the RNC convention last night, all I saw was scary white people.
Do I think my candidate is above reproach? Hardly. But this election–no, this country–cannot and must not turn on who’s more patriotic, who’s got more homespun values. It can’t be about "Country First", which sounds suspiciously reminiscent of the first line of Das Lied der Deutschen, the German national anthem that was propagandized by the Nazis: "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles/Über alles in der Welt" (Germany, Germany above everything,/Above everything in the world). Why can’t the McCain-Palin return the honor, integrity and focus on the issues that Obama-Biden offered them? While I expected Republican hypocrisy (Eisa Ulen writes about this here), it’s dispiriting to think that there’s even a remote possibility that the country will–and in some cases, gladly–endure a continuation of the past 8 years.
It’s got to be about the future, not the past. About participating in the global community versus being an isolationist and a bully. About real inclusion and diversity. About creating an environment in which we can all respectfully disagree and not be personally ridiculed, have our positions reduced to the absurd and called "un-American" simply because we have a different point of view.
One idea from hip hop that Republicans should take to heart: No bitchass-ness.
Related link (highly recommended):
- Jay Smooth on the Republican Hater’s Ball
- Jack & Jill Politics on Why GOP Attacks on Community Organizers Won’t Work