Thursday Reads: The Southern Strategy on Steroids

Good Morning!!

Over the past few days, Mitt Romney has stepped up his race-baiting with patently false ads focusing on welfare. On Tuesday in a speech in Chillicothe, Ohio, Romney projected his own rage at having his own policies and those of his designated VP criticized onto his critics by lashing out at President Obama with the most vile personal attacks I can ever recall from a candidate for President–normally the attack dog role is reserved for the VP or surrogates. Here are some samples from Romney’s speech:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday delivered a harsh indictment of President Barack Obama’s re-election strategy, accusing the president of running a “campaign of division and anger and hate.”

“His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then cobble together 51 percent of the pieces. If an American president wins that way, we all lose,” Romney told a crowd of thousands standing outside the Ross County Court House in southern Ohio.

Romney referred to Vice President Joe Biden’s remark to a heavily black audience in Virginia that the Republican ticket wanted to put people “back in chains” by repealing Wall Street regulations. Although he didn’t cite other examples to support his harsh rhetoric, his campaign pointed to the controversial ad that linked Romney to a steelworker’s wife’s death from cancer and an Obama spokeswoman’s suggestion that Romney might have committed a felony if he didn’t tell the truth in federal filings about his activities with his former company.


“His campaign and his surrogates have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency,” Romney said. “This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like.”

Romney really needs to learn to quit whining and act like an adult. He’s a typical bully–he can dish it out, but he can’t take it. He doesn’t like being reminded that when Bain Capital loaded up companies with debt and drove them into bankruptcy, real people suffered. Well, boo hoo hoo. When you run for President on being a “successful businessman, you shouldn’t be shocked when your opponents examine your business record.

NBC news has more whining from the speech:

“This is an election in which we should be talking about the path ahead, but you don’t hear any answers coming from President Obama’s re-election campaign,” Romney said. “That’s because he’s intellectually exhausted, out of ideas, and out of energy. And so his campaign has resorted to diversions and distractions, to demagoguing and defaming others. It’s an old game in politics; what’s different this year is that the president is taking things to a new low.”

“This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like,” Romney said. “President Obama knows better, promised better and America deserves better.”
“Over the last four years, this president has pushed Republicans and Democrats about as far apart as they can go,” Romney continued. “And now he and his allies are pushing us all even further apart by dividing us into groups. He demonizes some. He panders to others. His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then try to cobble together 51 percent of the pieces.”

This from the man who wants to make 95% of Americans pay more in taxes so he can cut the taxes of the top 5%. This from the man who repeatedly called Obama’s ideas “foreign” and whose surrogate John Sununu said Obama needed to “learn to be an American.”

During the primaries when Newt Gingrich complained about the barrage of negative ads run by Romney’s campaign and Romney supporting superpacs, Romney dismissively lecture Gingrich with the old saying “Politics ain’t beanbag.” (h/t Buzzfeed) The relevant quote comes at about the 2:40 mark.

On another occasion, Romney said “there’s no whining in politics.” (h/t Buzzfeed)

Mitt Romney is running on an updated Southern strategy in which the race and culture baiting is directed not just at African Americans, but also at Muslims, Hispanics, Palestinians, and pretty much anyone who isn’t Caucasian.

Let’s face it, Romney’s false claims that Obama has “gutted welfare reform” are deliberate efforts to appeal to racial bigotry–by emphasizing that Obama is {gasp!} black and to play on the false beliefs of many ignorant people about the racial composition of welfare recipients. Greg Mitchell articulated this pretty well at The Nation:

Just on a factual level, the new charges (which seemed to originate with the right-wing Heritage Foundation) —Obama trying to undermine the work ethic by granting waivers to certain states—fell apart quickly. The White House quickly denounced the meme as “dishonest” and pointed out that two of the five governors who requested the very limited waivers were Republicans. Also (surprise): Romney had backed such waivers as governor.

And this morning, PolitiFact delivered the harshest of its judgements on the ad and campaign statements —”pants on fire,” or one-big-lie. But its conclusion also, if a bit coyly, referred to what may be the most significant, and enduring, aspect of the new Romney focus: “The ad’s claim is not accurate, and it inflames old resentments about able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance.”

What they are obliguely referring to, of course, is the old, long-lasting, portrayal of welfare by conservatives, Southern Democrats and many in the media as (1) mainly for lazy folks who won’t work and (2) mainly a program for black Americans (and other minorities). Facts never got in the way but it was a way to flame racial and class resentments. Nixon put his welfare recipients in Cadillacs and Reagan famously denounced “welfare queens.”

You still heard a lot today about “Reagan Democrats” and the battle between Obama and Reagan for their souls, but few point out that the origin of this subgroup can be traced back at least partly to Reagan’s race-tinged welfare bashing.

Anyone who can’t see what is going on here is either utterly ignorant of American history, is simply being deliberately obtuse, or is OK with this kind of ugly bigotry.

OK, I’ve said my piece. Now I’ll refer you to a few pieces on this topic by other people who expressed these points better than I can.

First, a brief but pithy piece from the Auburn Journal: Romney Revives the Southern Strategy. Referring to the Sununu and Romney statements implying that Obama isn’t “American”:

This kind of language acts as a dog whistle for bigots. It is a more subtle version of birtherism, and reflects the kind of exclusionary definition of American national identity embraced by far too many on the right. It is the exact opposite of Barack Obama’s conception of our national identity, one that emphasizes national unity as well as inclusion, and seeks to strengthen ties among Americans across lines of race, culture, and religion.

When John Sununu said that President Obama was not an American – and make no mistake, that’s what he said – he wasn’t saying anything his boss hadn’t said before. Mitt Romney has made the same kind of remark on too many occasions to be able to deny that his campaign has made a clear decision to do what John McCain refused to do, and what any politician with a sense of honor and patriotism would refuse to do.

Mitt Romney is running on hate.

Salon’s Joan Walsh has a new book coming out called What’s the Matter with White People. Here’s a review of the book by Andrew O’Hehir: Joan Walsh: GOP has “doubled down on whiteness”

Joan Walsh’s family, as she writes in her new book “What’s the Matter With White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was,” participated in two of the great migrations of 20th-century American history. Joan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but mostly grew up in suburbia (first on Long Island and later in Wisconsin). As that happened she watched many of her Irish-American family members morph from bedrock New Deal-JFK Democrats into Nixon-Reagan Republicans. In her book, Joan tries to wrestle with this legacy as honestly and forthrightly as she can, without betraying either her family’s complicated lived experience or her own passionate commitment to social, racial and economic justice.

“What’s the Matter With White People?” is sure to provoke much discussion during the fall campaign, with its personal and historical approach to one of the most toxic issues in American politics: How and why the white working class became the Republican base, in defiance of its own economic interests, and whether the Democrats can ever win it back.

And Joan Walsh herself writes: Joe Biden Was Right.

By now everyone knows that the vice president told a Virginia audience Tuesday that once Mitt Romney “unchains” Wall Street from Dodd-Frank reforms, “They’re going to put you all back in chains.” Since his audience was mainly but not exclusively African-American, the pearl-clutchers in the GOP and media claimed Biden was accusing Romney of wanting to reinstate slavery, denounced him. “The press pounded Palin when she talked about ‘blood libel,’” Ari Fleischer wrote on Twitter. “What will they do about Biden’s ‘chains’ remark?” The Romney campaign likewise tweeted its outrage.

Romney himself attacked the Obama-Biden campaign in multiple interviews. “The president’s campaign is all about division and attack and hatred,” he told CBS, adding, “And the comments yesterday by the vice president I think just diminish the White House that much more.” Even some nominal liberals joined the Biden-bashing. “Of course the GOP has done nasty racial stuff this campaign (esp newt). But Biden’s ‘chains’ statement was still absurd,” Peter Beinart tweeted Wednesday morning. There were widespread demands that the vice president apologize.

But he didn’t. Biden clarified his remarks, noting the frequency with which Republicans use “unchain” and “unshackle” metaphors to describe the way they’d “liberate” Wall Street from Obama-era regulation and reform.

The whole post is well worth reading.

New York Daily News: Who’s playing racial politics in this campaign? It’s Mitt Romney. The article focuses on the first of the Romney welfare ads:

Romney accuses Obama of gutting welfare reform by granting waivers to state governments in how they choose to implement the law. It’s a charge that is completely without merit; spun from whole cloth; an invented attack line. But again, lying on the campaign trail about President Obama’s record is the rule, not the exception, for Mitt Romney.

Among the accusations made by Romney is that under Obama’s non-existent, made-up welfare plan, “you wouldn’t have to work,” “you wouldn’t have to train for a job” because “they just send you a welfare check.”

What’s most striking about the ad are the visuals – workers wiping their brow; working class Americans toiling away at manufacturing jobs. And coincidentally all the people in the ad … are white. This might not mean much, except for the fact that, as anyone who has followed American politics for the past 45 years knows, criticisms of the welfare system from the campaign trail have habitually always been used as racial code in attacks on Democrats for coddling blacks. It is the symbol of wasteful government spending, rewarding poor Americans for not working and creating a culture of dependency.

Since the 1960s, Republican politicians – along with the occasional Democrat – have used assaults on the welfare system to stir up white resentment toward blacks, poor Americans and other minorities for allegedly lazily living off the largesse of hard-working tax-payers, like those visually portrayed in Romney’s ad. That the current President happens to be African-American (and is also visually featured in the ad) is again just another of those odd coincidences.

Indeed, this ad and in fact this whole line of attack is one of the most blatant uses of racial coding in a presidential campaign since the Willie Horton ad of 1988.

It’s nice to see that the corporate media is beginning to call Romney out on his race baiting.

Here’s another example from U.S. News and World Report: Romney’s the angry one, not Obama.
Referring to Romney’s Tuesday speech in Ohio:

Obviously Romney has forgotten who his buddies are, and who are pulling his strings: the Republicans who are bending over for the Tea Party and Grover Norquist and for their rich financial campaign backers.

Has Romney forgotten the “diversions and distractions” of those who were questioning the president’s citizenship and place of birth long after he was elected? Has Romney forgotten the “defaming others” like what was done when House Speaker John Boehner said the president hadn’t worked a day in his life?!


I must say I was most shocked, although not surprised, by Romney’s accusation of the president “dividing us all in groups.” Isn’t wanting a baby born here of an undocumented immigrant not receiving citizenship divisive? Isn’t not wanting healthcare for the poor divisive? Isn’t wanting to cut programs that benefit middle- and lower-income women and families divisive? Hmm…sounds like Romney and his camp to me more than Obama. And with the addition of Rep. Paul Ryan as Romney’s vice presidential candidate, the race has become more polarized, more—dare I say—divisive?

I’ve focused on Romney/Ryan’s race-baiting strategy in this post, but I know there are lots of other stories I should I read today. I look forward to your suggestions.

64 Comments on “Thursday Reads: The Southern Strategy on Steroids”

  1. gdaddo says:

    Sorry, but I’m deeply offended by the title of Joan’s book. It’s the very essence of racism.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      “What’s wrong with White people” is the essence of racism? Have you read it?

    • bostonboomer says:

      Really? Do tell. How is researching the political attitudes of a particular demographic “the very essence of racism?” Do you feel he same way about the book by Charles Murray, Coming apart the state of white america 1960-2010?

      Perhaps you need to do some reading on American history. In any case, you should take up your complaints with Joan Walsh at

      • ANonOMouse says:

        This strategy is still very effective in the South for a reason and that reason is that there is still a serious undercurrent of racism in the South. Not to mention homophobia & islamaphobia.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Unfortunately, it’s effective in the North too.

      • gdaddo says:

        Can you even read? I said that I find the title offensive, not the book.

        • dakinikat says:

          Yes. We can. Your comment shows a basic lack of understanding of quite a few concepts including racism. Discussing the political attitudes of a population segment is not racism nor is questioning their frames. Look up racism and institutional racism and you’re going to discover what racism is …

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Dak & BB…..I worked for a man who put a glorified painting of Nathan Bedford Forrest in the business Conference room. I asked him to remove it because I found it offensive and I believed our clients would find it offensive too. Of course he refused so I took my complaint to a senior partner and the painting came down within a few days. That was pretty much the beginning of the end for me at that business.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        I relate that story to demonstrate that in the South, the love pining for the days of the Confederacy are still very visible. Confederate flags flying from flagpoles in residential neighborhoods, Confederate decals on trucks and on vehicle bumpers & windows is a common sight in Dixie.

    • Eric Pleim says:

      It’s kind of jumping the gun to be offended by the title of a book that isn’t even out yet. Have you considered that the title was chosen to be deliberately provocative, and draw attention to it?

      • RalphB says:

        That seems to be the norm to pump sales. Oh, well.

      • bostonboomer says:

        If you read the article, the book is actually a memoir based on Joan Walsh’s own family. They’re white and traditional Democrats who switched to Republican to vote for Reagan. Reagan ran a race-based campaign from beginning to end.

  2. RalphB says:

    Great post BB! Rmoney is more disgusting every day.

  3. ANonOMouse says:

    Spot on BB…The GOP has been dog whistling since the race began. I watched every GOP debate and it was one dog bone after another to the base, one long dog whistle. The Southern strategy has become the calling card of the extreme right, especially the TP, but with the changing demographics that strategy has just about reached it’s shelf life expiration date. May their racism, classism and sexism rest in pieces.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Jan Brewer issues executive order to prevent young people who apply for Obama’s “dream act” program from getting driver’s licenses and other “public benefits.”

  5. joanelle says:

    When did all the adults leave politics in the USA?
    It appears that we’re once again expected to follow the Pelosi methodology – we’ll have to wait until after the election to find out what’s in their ‘plans’ – it seems that they just want to trash each other rather than actually tell us what they want to do

  6. RalphB says:

    When did all the adults leave politics in the USA?

    1964. Give or take a little.

  7. Pat Johnson says:

    Are we really living in the year 2012? Because it often looks like we may still be fighting a civil war that has yet to declare a winner.

  8. pdgrey says:

    ” is OK with this kind of ugly bigotry”.
    BB, I think that sums it up. And words like Angry, Hate are dog whistles for scary black man. This election really sucks.

  9. Pat Johnson says:

    If memory serves – and believe me when I say there are days when I suffer from my own “brain drains” – few of us here were Obama supporters.

    Based on the fact that he was less experienced than his challenger, and not quite up to job expectations, we did not sign onto the Obama Train.

    But we find ourselves defending him more for the vicious and unwarranted attacks leveled against him because we see it for what it really is: his race. We recognize the dog whistles and coded words for what they are: a sad and disturbing commentary that has done more damage to the nation than a disagreement over how to fund healthcare.

    The GOP is running on empty. Seventy percent of the public dismisses their agenda. Their primary candidate is a loser. His running mate the face of those policies the public rejects.

    Running away from tax returns that may portray him as a scum sucking – albeit legal – thief, they have nothing to offer beyond appealing to the low information and haters of Obama voters to present their case.

    Challenging his birth certificate, declaring him as “the other”, questioning his Christianity, wrapping Muslim Brotherhood around his head, suggesting his manhood is in doubt, calling him “unAmerican”, painting him as a “racist” is all they have in their quiver to beckon those who harbor the same instincts.

    As a lifelong liberal Democrat I can say that Obama has disappointed me. But to go after him as the GOP has done, with charges of personal destruction, is abominable IMHO. Suggesting that he was “married” to a man at one time quickens the juices of the mouth breathers unable to think for themselves. This is their “base”.

    But “race baiting” has always been a winner in these circles so why not trot it out one more time. And coming from a candidate “whiter than white”, whose own religion disparaged minorities unti a few decades ago, is ludicrous.

    A man who discourages anyone questioning him. Who won’t take a stand on any issue that might lose him a vote. Who is unable to articulate a vision beyond enriching the rich even more, is as stupid a tactic as even seen in a national race.

    To applaud these tactics is a measure of the hatred and divisiveness that permeates throughout this nation and to reward it would be fostering an atmosphere that is as far from American as one can get.

  10. ANonOMouse says:

    The New Swift Boaters

    “Ex-officers attack Obama over bin Laden raid leaks”

    “Some of the group’s leaders have been involved in GOP and Tea Party campaigns”|utmccn=(direct)|utmcmd=(none)&__utmv=14933801.|

    • Pat Johnson says:

      You have to wonder what took them so long to pull this one out of their butts.

      Had we not got bin Laden cries of “he is protecting Muslims” would be resonating all over the place.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        They were probably saving it for after the convention, but considering the shit-storm of Romney/Ryan, they decided they better get going with the BS a little sooner.

      • RalphB says:

        I read about these guys months ago. They’ve just been waiting for someone to pull their chain and say “go”. A couple of them are failed republican candidates etc.

    • Fannie says:

      That is exactly what it is, swiftboating………….calling the 501C non partisan, huh? Their leader is a failed Republican candidate from Va………….and they are super secret, and able to raise millions. This is blatant swiftboating, and les we forget who gave Pres. Bush all the credit “mission accomplished”, I am ashamed of these so called military people.

  11. pdgrey says:

    The really disgusting thing about defending Obama from obvious dog whistles now, is there are still Obama supporters that say Hillary started it. I guess they are now going to see “turn it up to eleven” racism. I hope they learn the difference.

  12. bostonboomer says:

    Great response from one of the women who heckled Ryan at his Iowa State Fair appearance.

    Yes, Mr. Ryan, I’m from Iowa.

  13. ANonOMouse says:

    Oh no, YET another obfuscator and prevaricator. Must be a GOP/TP family value

    “Report: Ryan amended financial disclosure reports”

    “CBS News) Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s new running mate, amended two years’ worth of congressional financial disclosure reports in June to include an income-producing trust worth between $1 million and $5 million, USA Today reports.

    The trust, which Ryan’s wife Janna Ryan inherited in 2010 after her mother’s death, was previously left off Ryan’s financial disclosure reports. In documents filed with the Clerk of the House, Ryan said they were left off his 2010 and 2011 reports as an “inadvertent omission,” according to USA Today. He reported that the trust produced at least $15,000 in income in 2010 and between $100,001 and $1 million in 2011.”

    The “man of the people” meme is getting shakier by the second.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      How do you forget that you inherited between $1 and $5 million dollars?

      That’s just total BS!!!

  14. RalphB says:

    No More Mister Nice Blog: Romney:Angry as Dukakis:Tank

    So how does Mitt Romney follow up yesterday’s meltdown, in which he accused the nation’s first African-American President of “divisiveness based upon…ethnicity”? And said “The president seems to be running just to hang on to power”? And complained that the Obama campaign is “all about division and attack and hatred”?

    He follows it up with…a petition!

    (At first glance I thought that said “Division of Anger and Hate”, and wondered if that would be a cabinet-level post in Romney’s White House.) …

    Good post here.

  15. Pat Johnson says:

    I think it is safe to assume – and rightfully declare – that with the advent of the Tea Party we are no longer looking and listening to “politicians” but at the rise of an ideology that spells doom to the republic as much as it did during the 1930s.

    That ideology is a mixture of a “screw you” attitude, a corporate excercise in control over the system, and the substitution of religious beliefs that goes against the very heart of the US Constitution.

    The means to that end is to obstruct, misinform, and obscure through lies and language that breeds fear and hatred let loose like we have never seen before.

    Again, to reward this behavior is doing so at the risk that may become insurmountable since today we are witnessing the tampering of even our voting rights by those who are preparing a foundation that will forever change the landscape.

    This is what the election is really about in 2012.

  16. ANonOMouse says:

    Thought y’all might enjoy this Truthout article from William Rivers Pitt

    Beneath the Bottom of the Barrel

    • pdgrey says:

      OMG, that made me cry. I guess we won’t see that any other place than truth-out. It’s just to fact based.

  17. ANonOMouse says:

    Romney still trying to dodge the tax return bullet

    “Romney didn’t specify whether he was referring solely to federal income taxes. A 13 percent federal tax rate — presumably mostly from taxes on capital gains — puts him at a much lower rate than most average Americans pay on their salary and wage income. In the past, Romney has said he pays around 15 percent in taxes, which is the rate on capital gains.”

    It’s beyond odd that neither Mitt or Ann will use the phrase Federal Income tax when talking about their taxes. Someone noted this on Lawrence O’Donnell last night, but it’s been noted here many times.

  18. bostonboomer says:

    Posting this for Dakinikat who keeps losing her electricity: The Five Fatal Flaws of Romney’s Ryan Veep Pick

    Read more:

  19. peregrine says:

    A word on Grand Nasties:

    Once this racist, homophobe, misogynist, bigot got elected in ’73 to the U.S. Senate, he remained there for 30 years. In 1990 and 1996, he ran against the black, well-respected, former Charlotte mayor, Harvey Gantt, and won by 5% and 7% margins. Here’s his ’90 racist ad produced by Alex Castellanos embedded in firedoglake’s post at his death:

    The bad news is Marco Rubio, on the Committee on Foreign Relations, long chaired by Helms, names him as the senator he most would like to pattern his career after.

    The good news is Jesse Helms is dead.

  20. pdgrey says:

    I want to write a post that is OT, concerning a comment in the last thread. I am writing it here for a reason. I don’t want to respond to the commenter. I was at first, like most, drawn in with her health and economic situation. After writing a very long comment, I went back just to spell check. I deleted the whole damn thing. If she read the post she was commenting on, nothing I could add would help. The fact the only problem was ” calling her insane” (which no one did) nothing we could present would help.
    I was naive just 13 years ago that the Supreme Court could not become political, that the republicans would ever have been successful in destroying Social Security and Medicare. The Voting Right’s Act, who would have thought that would be up for grabs? I don’t even want to talk about women’s issues, I’m just tired. Yea, both parties suck now. But can it get worse for poor and middle class, YES. Excuse me for intruding on this post.

  21. Fannie says:

    Clearly Ron Paul was comparing Social Security to medicare as slavery, not one of them made a comment. It’s been going for years now, les we forget Allen West went on calling Social Security Disability a form of slavery…………….nobody asked him to step down or shut up.

  22. NW Luna says:

    The “not American” slur was hurled at all those of us who did not see that Iraq had WMD or connection with alQueda. Pretty much any sensible Dem was hearing that accusation from the Bushites back then. So I’m not convinced that particular attack phrase is racist.

    It’s Romney/Ryan who display anti-American values now: freedom for those who can buy an off-shore account.