By Farron Cousins
November 17th, 2012 8:00am
The Republicans’ campaign tactics this year can be summed up with one word: Hate. As a party, they launched attacks on African Americans, Latinos, College Students, Women, and Unions, and the GOP honestly believed that this strategy would put Mitt Romney in the White House. And the Tea Party has only pushed the Republicans further into the hateful, right wing fringe of politics that could easily destroy the party if they continue down this path. Mike Papantonio recently talked about the overwhelming amount of hatred that the right wing spewed during this campaign with Adele Stan, the Washington correspondent for Alternet.org, and the transcript of that interview follows:
Mike: Adele, I’d love to say I was surprised about the election results, but I really wasn’t. Ever since Nate Silver told us what was going to happen, I believed him since day one. What I love about this story is that great writers like you have been talking about what the back story is to the bigger story that occurred this week and that is, the mendacity of the Republican Party. The impact of racism, the impact of race baiting and hate stream that took place, the racial hatred that took place.
We have to understand that going forward. Fortunately, the Republicans don’t understand it and that’s going to make them into a dinosaur. Give me your thoughts as it applies to what occurred. Let’s talk about what Obama overcame and unfortunately what was left for the Latinos and African Americans because of this very ugly election.
Adele: First of all, let me say, “Oh, shucks, thanks for the kind words.” November 6, 2012, may be the day that African Americans and Latinos saved America because they had to fight for that vote. In a lot of places, in places where it mattered, people had to stand in line for hours. More than that, a lot of them had to demand their right to vote. In your own state of Florida, people had to raise a ruckus.
To your point about the Republican Party being a dinosaur, I do think they got themselves painted into a bit of a corner and that is because of their own internal politics, Pap. What has happened is, the party establishment people like John Boehner, the Speaker of the House and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, these are the establishment guys. These are guys who probably would’ve made a few deals with Obama but the Tea Party came from their right and started challenging people in primaries from the right.
At the same time, this right wing built a pretty awesome infrastructure that they’ve been building for a long time. The GOP has gotten rather complacent in building its own turnout model.
Mike: I did segments during the election. The theme that kept coming up, it’s the same thing that you raised right here and that is, you almost conclude that rebuilding cannot take place because there is no more coalition to build with. The coalition of the crazy, fringe, insane Billy Graham evangelicals together with the angry, white blue-collar and white-collar worker that just don’t understand not just low information, but no information.
Adele: Or bad information.
Mike: Or bad information. The elderly part of the demographics, they’re disappearing. They’re the last remnants of the Republican Party. The real question is, you started a war on women, you started a war in intellectualism, you started a war on labor, you’ve started a war on students, you’ve started a war on minorities, you’ve got a war on poverty, I mean, on poverty-stricken, not poverty, you’ve got a war on the 99%. Who in the hell do you to go to rebuild this party, especially when you have out there, ankle-biting, tea baggers that say, “No, we’re in charge.”
From a Democrat standpoint, this is a godsend because you have a party in disarray. As you point out, the infrastructure has reached the point … I don’t know how the hell you rebuild it.
Adele: If only I had the faith in the Democratic Party to believe that they would actually be able to advantage this moment …
Mike: You know what I …
Adele: It is the Democratic Party after all.
Mike: You know what I think about that, so we are in agreement. This is overwhelming from the standpoint of the steep hill that the Republicans have got to rebuild on.
Adele: I think you’re absolutely right. I do think because of that, there is a danger, my job is to be Debbie Downer, that’s kind of who I am. I think there’s a danger, Pap, that Democrats in more conservative areas feeling that their job now is to take up the vacated right of center.
Mike: Yeah, because what that’ll do when you … great article that you produced before the election, “Romney Pushed Limits of Accepted Racism.” What that does then, is it starts alienating the Latinos and alienating the African Americans that now are, become the backbone of the coalition, right?
Adele: Yeah. As the boomers age, if you’re going to cut into social security in terms of that bargain they like to talk about, any of that kind of thing, it’s really time for progressives to keep the feet of the Democratic Party and its leadership and the President to the fire.
We tend to always say we’re going to do that. This was a very hard-won victory. I got to say “kudos” to the Obama turnout operation. I’ve been covering the rights’ turnout operation and I was nervous, but these guys did run circles around them.
Mike: Let me put this in perfection. First of all, Adele, you have to follow this crazy fringe. That’s one part of your job.
Adele: That’s my job, yeah.
Mike: That’s what you …
Adele: Pretty much what I do.
Mike: That’s what you write about. It’s almost like waking up today and saying, “Today, again, I’m a proctologist.” I have to go do this thing. I’m the proctologist of politics. As the proctologist of politics, why don’t you make some comparisons for me. It is unappealing, but I don’t think these terms that I’m just thinking …
Adele: I might not get out of bed tomorrow.
Mike: Today, I got to get out of bed and then I got to be the proctologist of politics because I have to follow the crazy fringe right.
Adele, what are we left with? If you’re Latino, if you’re African American, what’re you left with, with the ugly remnants that Romney created and the Sununu types created and the Santorums created in this ugly, ugly race war that they tried to create in this election? What’s happened here?
Adele: You have to remember that this election was on a popular level, close enough, that Romney had significant support and they came almost entirely from white people. White people who have been told that the President is the welfare President, that he is the food stamp President, that he’s foreign, that he’s lazy. Every single trope that you could trot out against an African American has been trotted against the President and then some, because of his exotic last name and all of that.
He’s been painted as not legitimate by surrogates of Romney. This began before Romney got the nomination. This has been going on vociferously in the Republican primary.
Mike: It started out as a wink-wink kind of racial coding as you pointed out, and then it grew into what?
Adele: When you have somebody out there like John Sununu saying the only reason Colin Powell endorsed President Obama was because he’s black. When Marco Rubio, of all people, is saying that the President is acting like a third world dictator. All this kind of stuff, it became very, very blatant. The lie about welfare reform was truly just the most egregious thing.
What you have is a very large sector of the white electorate that is primed to see African Americans and Latinos and basically anybody from a non-European background as a threat, as a threat, as bad people, as morally bad. Now they’ve lost. They’ve lost and they’ve been told time and time again that Democrats, totally erroneously, that the Democrats only win via voter fraud. That already sets up a challenge to the legitimacy of the Democrats’ win.
You have them nursing these resentments. You have a continued, troubled economy, thanks to the Bush crash, it does stir that pot.
Mike: Let me ask you something. I think you wrote this. I read so much everyday but I think you’d written something to the effect that we have is, you have almost an electoral map that looks like a map of the Confederacy and that the war hasn’t been settled in the minds of the Southerner and they have this right to declare black Americans is really something less than human. They’re less than human, therefore they can own them, they can be slaves, that type of mentality. When I read that, I said, “Well hell yeah. I live down here, I see it.” You hit it on the head. We can’t believe we’re talking about this, but think about this.
They had a riot at Ole Miss. Did you know that?
Mike: They rioted in the streets.
Mike: At the University of Mississippi the night of the election. They had riots where you had students. These are supposed to be …
Adele: Oh my goodness.
Mike: These are supposed to be people with a little bit of sense, at least enough sense to go to college and they were out there yelling racial epitaphs. It was nothing but a complete burn down of the idea that we have a black President that was re-elected. This is at Ole Miss.
This kind of define that. We go back and look at the story, it’s a remarkable story. It really tells you how accurate you are and how accurate you have been in saying, “You know, I don’t know that’s going to change that easily,” because it’s not simply a generational issue in the south.
Adele: You saw this early on. I noted it early on as the Tea Party movement was taking shape. While on the one hand, they appropriated all the regalia of the American Revolution, Pap, there also was a lot of confederate talk. All of a sudden, all of these terms like “nullification” and “state sovereignty” started popping up in the rhetoric. In 2009, you even had in Virginia as part of the Tea Party movement, a march called the “Virginia sovereignty march,” which is really neo-confederate stuff and they were received in the office of Eric Cantor, of all people.
Mike: I got to tell you. The startling thing to me about this Ole Miss story, they were burning Obama signs, the photos that were taken were just like these angry, white bunch of dunces, confederate dunces at Old Miss. I can just see it, the K-As at Ole Miss say, “By God, we can’t have another black president.” You can just see that.
When you have written so long about the rising up of this right-wing fringe, as I read your writing, it’s clear in your mind, I think, at least this is what I’ve taken from it, that you don’t even see the shift taking place from a generational shift.
Adele: I think it depends on where people have grown up to a certain extent. By that, I don’t mean what state. I mean, whether they’ve grown up in more urban areas or not. I think that there is something to that. You do see softening of certain attitudes on the right. Not so much racially … well, yes, actually, there’s more racial acceptance among young evangelicals than there is among their parents, say.
Mike: That’s encouraging but we didn’t see that at Ole Miss.
Adele: At Ole Miss.
Mike: We certainly didn’t see it in most of the south.
Adele: Here’s the thing. If you’ve had these resentments, which of course are encoded in the DNA of America and in the north as well as the south, but there’s a whole special history to the south that makes it that much more intense.
For the last two years, that resentment and those fears have been stoked and stoked and stoked with millions and millions of dollars, Pap, and institutions behind them. Where’s that energy going to go now? Where is it going to go?
Mike: Where it goes is we have scapegoating of immigrants, scapegoating of Latinos, scapegoating of African Americans. All it does is it creates this mob mentality that we saw at Ole Miss just last night, the night of the election where we have some things just never change. As you follow the story, I don’t know that it gets any easier for Obama this second term.
I think the same thresholds are there.
Adele: I agree.
Mike: He has to overcome this insane, insane confederate mentality that is, as you put it if I got it right, where you said that it is American in the south, where Americans have the right to treat African Americans, Latinos, immigrants as something less than human. I think that’s what we saw in the Ole Miss campus.
Adele: Look at some of the signs from the Tea Party movement early on. That was what they did, they painted the President as less than human.
Mike: A monkey, a pimp, a Nazi.
Adele: A lion, all kinds of things. I do agree with you that this is going to be a very, very difficult term for this President. I would not be surprised to see people trying to trump up ways to draw up impeachment papers. They were already talking about that last night on their list and all that. Already this morning, I have gotten appeals from Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition begging people for money to stop Obama’s “radical” agenda. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council who himself has addressed the concerns of the Citizens Council. One time he’s having a conference call. He was having a conference call the day after the election.
It’s going to be really difficult, but here’s the thing. Obama doesn’t have to run for re-election. If progressives hold his feet to the fire and it will take people going out into the streets to do that, I believe.
Mike: I think it will too.
Adele: If progressives hold his feet to the fire, if he can’t get it all pushed through, he can stop them from doing some bad stuff because they held on to the House.
Mike: Adele Stan, thank you for joining me.
Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer Magazine, a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com, and the producer of Ring of Fire.