Task for progressives in 2012: Monkey-wrenching the white united front
It has been striking that many progressives have said so little about race, racism, and the discourse of right-wing populism in the context of the upcoming elections.
In the context of the criticisms that many of us have of the Obama administration for what it has not accomplished, for its advance of a corporate agenda, and for the unacceptable compromises it has made with the Republicans, there is something that I have seen few progressives address. To borrow from a comment offered by television commentator Tavis Smiley, the 2012 elections are likely to be the most racist that most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Given this, what are the implications? It has been striking that many progressives, particularly those who have not only written off President Obama but also written off all those who offered critical support to the Obama campaign in 2008, have said so little about race, racism, and the discourse of right-wing populism in the context of the upcoming elections.
We have witnessed the first Black president of the United States questioned about his citizenship and birthplace, yet I have seen precious little from many friends on the left side of the aisle (particularly those so critical of Obama) responding to this. If you put your ear to the ground, however, you hear the murmurings of Black Americans furious that Obama was put in a place where he had to file a petition in order to obtain his Hawaii birth certificate. The murmurings do not stop there. When Donald Trump and other opportunists started asking questions about how it was that Obama got into Columbia University and Harvard Law School (i.e., was he REALLY qualified to have gotten into those schools?), for most of us enough was enough. Because this was no longer about Obama and it had very little to do with criticisms of Obama and his policies.
The white nationalist backlash is using Obama as the target but they are attempting to create a white united front to, in their minds, take back the United States. Part of this agenda means delegitimizing the democratically elected President, but it also goes towards tampering with election laws and voting processes in state after state. In case you have not noticed, in many states where there is a Republican majority in control, efforts are underway to restrict voting, whether by further limiting ex-felons from voting, to eliminating same-day voter registration, to the demand for picture identifications at the time of voting, to the shortening of periods of early voting. The objective is to reduce the potential anti-Republican electorate. This is being done by demagogically and inaccurately crowing about alleged voter fraud. But this happens through the Right racializing alleged voter fraud.