As Republicans increasingly find themselves backed into the corner of their inevitable, impending losses in the Midterm elections next month, GOP candidates seeking office and re-election alike have been increasingly resorting to the single platform that has been helping their party thrive: racism-based politics of fear.
The onslaught of racist political ads flooding regional airwaves underscores Republicans’ desperation to cling to power. And while culturally tone-deaf and racially insensitive ads are nothing new — remember when a John McCain TV spot manipulated Obama’s skin color to make it look darker? — this latest crop has been especially and unabashedly disrespectful, using the most damaging stereotypes to depict or refer to Black people in particular.
The latest example came from Arkansas, where a radio ad released in support of Republican Congressman French Hill was in theory supposed to appeal to Black voters. But in real life, the desired effect was anything but achieved when someone decided that using stereotypically sassy Black women’s voices speaking in a dialect often-mocked by non-Blacks was the right move.
“Honey I always told my son, don’t be messing around with that,” one voice says of dating white women and the possible consequences of being lynched because of it, evoking damaging and false imagery of an eye-popping, neck-rolling Black woman with a hand on her hip. “If you get caught, she will cry rape.”
While just a radio ad, anyone remotely familiar with Diamond and Silk would easily be forgiven for confusing the voices on the ad with the embarrassing duo of Black Trump supporters who have made a living from reinforcing the same stereotypes featured in the pro-Hill spot.
Not to be outdone, the National Republican Congressional Committee released an ad last month trying to reduce New York congressional candidate Antonio Delgado, who is Black, to a “big city rapper.”
While Delgado has indeed been a rapper, he is also a Harvard Law School-trained former Rhodes Scholar, by the way, making him completely qualified for public office. To add insult to injury, the right-wing propaganda tabloid New York Post referred to Delgado as a “Rappin’ Dem” in its headline on Thursday.
And let’s not forget about how the Republican Governor’s Association in August featured a pair of tap-dancing feet in an attack ad on Stacey Abrams, who is battling all types of voter suppression efforts while campaigning to become Georgia’s first Black governor.
For the uninitiated, the controversial imagery surrounding Black people tap dancing is rooted in racist minstrel shows and doubles down on the stereotype that Black folks can only entertain white audiences. But, of course, most importantly, tap dancing has nothing to do with Abrams’ campaign, showing the low, deceptive measures Republicans don’t mind stooping to.
Never mind how Abrams’ Republican opponent, who just happens to be Georgia’s current secretary of state — the office that oversees elections — was featuring a controversial video on his website showing a Black child actor who failed to bring the acceptable government-issued voter ID to cast a ballot. Although the video was first posted in 2016, it remained on the site until Thursday.
Aside from political ads, white Republican candidates themselves have been using no uncertain terms to describe their Black opponents in coded, dog-whistled language. Ron DeSantis, who was trailing Andrew Gillum in the latest polls for the Florida governor race, has defended racism and has a lengthy, detailed history of racism. The day after Gillum secured the Democratic nomination in the race, DeSantis told Florida voters not to “monkey this up” by electing the person who could become the state’s first Black governor.
Still not enough examples of how racism has permeated the 2018 election cycle? HuffPost listed more than a dozen other instances here to emphasize the tidal wave of racist “attacks made on candidates of color by their opponents.”
While the ads can’t be forgiven, they can certainly be understood, since the politics of fear worked so well for the president’s own election. And as has been shown time-and-time again, Republicans have no problem following the example of their leaders, even (especially?) if it means resorting to racism.