A white man who extended a Sunday-school class in to a two-day school for poor children was called on by irate Klan members. He was taken out, blindfolded, and forced to kiss the private parts of several assembled blacks:History echoes. This account from the 19th century can just as easily describe the white racial anxieties and resentment that Mitt Romney's campaign is playing to almost a century and a half later, and which Obama and the Democrats must neutralize this week.
Well, they made me kiss the negro man's posterior, and held it open and made me kiss it, and as well as I remember a negro woman's too, and also her private parts, and then told me to have sexual connection with her. I told them they knew, of course, I could not do that. They struck me, and some them begged for me. They asked me how I liked that for nigger equality. I told them it was pretty tough.
According to a white eyewitness, "I think that was the cause, or one cause, of his being whipped. That was what they professed, that he was equalizing himself too much, and that was the reason they made him take that kissing negro equality."
Pundits, journalists, academics, and others have spent a good amount of energy dissecting the race-baiting go for broke white right-wing populism of Mitt Romney and the Tea Party GOP. The Republican Convention in Tampa tried to balance the "read meat" for the base with an open-arms appeal for the Independents and undecideds who were watching the event at home--and not checking out the white trash adventures of Honey Boo Boo.
This week, the Democrats have a similar challenge: they need to mobilize their base; but Obama and company must also convince undecideds that they are in fact better off now than they would be under a continuation of Bush the Younger's failed economic policies under Romney-Ryan, and to tout the successes of President Obama in the face of rabid Tea Party GOP obstructionism.
The Democrats also have a particularly fine line to walk, one that is the converse of the Tea Party GOP's "mobilize the angry white men" strategy.
The novelty of having a black president has worn off. Moreover, how can the Democrats appeal to white Independents who are unhappy about the economy, somewhat "persuadable" by Romney's racial dog whistles, and yet do not feel particularly comfortable with either the latter's personality or the Tea Party GOP's policies?
These right-leaning Independents, undecideds, and low information voters are vulnerable to the white identity politics that are the foundational premise of Mitt Romney's Southern Strategy 2.0. However, with the correct prodding, some of them could perhaps be won over by the Democrats.
Ultimately, the big tent is already present in the convention hall. The practical politics involve figuring out how the Democrats can get the votes of these white fence sitters.