Obama plays the race card, and there’s nothing wrong with that

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 10/19/2010, 11:17 a.m.

The shouts, taunts, spitting, catcalls, joker posters, N word slurs, Confederate and Texas Lone Star flag waving by tea party activists at their early rallies, the billboards that crop up along highways and back roads that depict Obama as a communist, terrorist and racially mocking caricatures, and the recycled racially leaden code words, slogans and digs have been an indispensable political necessity for the GOP.

The GOP could not have been competitive during campaign 2008 without the bail out from white conservative voters. Elections are usually won by candidates with a solid and impassioned core of bloc voters. The GOP’s conservative, white base, vote consistently and faithfully. And in elections going back three decades have voted in a far greater percentage than Hispanics and blacks in midterm elections. Polls have repeatedly shown that they are just as enthusiastic about this election partly stirred by rage at Obama, the Democrats and government. The usual undertow of race is a driving force.

The GOP leaders have long known that their constituents can be easily aroused to vote and shout loudly on the emotional wedge issues: abortion, family values, anti-gay marriage and tax cuts. For 14 months, they whipped up their hysteria and borderline racism against health care reform. These are the very voters that GOP presidents and aspiring presidents, Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr., W. Bush, McCain and legions of GOP governors, senators and congresspersons banked for victory and to seize and maintain regional and national political dominance.

Obama did the right thing when faced with the prospect of defeat in a key presidential primary by Clinton. He played directly to the black vote. In November his presidency doesn’t hinge on a massive black voter turnout. His prestige, legislative agenda and orderly White House governance do. If it takes playing the race card to get results then there’s nothing wrong with that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.