Today as the Republicans of South Carolina again go to the polls, I am returned to those critical days in the Republican primary in 2000 when Karl Rove deployed a strategy of hate and fear that set in motion a series of events that has led to one of the most disastrous presidencies in American history. During the South Carolina primary in 2000, the Bush campaign, led by Rove, had surrogates use push polls to suggest that Bridget McCain, Cindy and John McCain’s adopted daughter from Bangladesh, was in fact John’s “illegitimate black child.” For a description of what happened, see Richard Davis’s account in the Boston Globe.
Although the Rove and the Bush campaign denied that this polling was their doing, it was consistent with Rove’s tactics from previous campaigns and it resonates with his most recent comments about Barack Obama in his January 10th, 2008 Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal. I refuse to link directly to that article as it would reward the Wall Street Journal for publishing the racist musings of a hate monger. Instead, I quote the relevant passage here:
“He is often lazy, given to misstatements and exaggerations and, when he doesn’t know the answer, too ready to try to bluff his way through.”
This, of course, is basic, hackneyed racism designed to draw on people’s underlying fears and prejudices. It also echos a senior White House official who called Obama “intellectually lazy” back in September, for more, see this. All of this is vintage Rove.
However, my sense is that people are ready for something other than the politics of hatred and fear. That approach bought us a war in Iraq, a well earned reputation for torture, and a CIA that is burning evidence of its own illegal activities.
Perhaps Americans are finally willing to turn from the politics of fear and hate to a different kind of politics.
Perhaps we are prepared finally to live up to the ideals the founders so beautifully articulated but over which they hopelessly floundered.
Perhaps we will finally be able to hear the garbage Rove and his ilk spew as precisely what it is: hateful, small minded and cynical political posturing that works only if a population gives in to its worst tendencies.
I remain hopeful that this year will mark the beginning of a different politics, one grounded in hope and possibility rather than fear and hate.
Perhaps not…but, just maybe.