Wednesday, August 8, 2012

On That Barack the Welfare King Obama Ad: Mitt Romney is a Racist Liar. Why is the Media Afraid to Hold Him Accountable?

It would appear that we have gone "Black to the Future" and the Reagan era.

Mitt Romney's newest ad suggests that President Obama is creating a society of dependence by giving out free stuff to those poor black and brown people on welfare. In the post-truth era inaugurated by the rise of Right-wing talk radio, Fox News, and the Conservative blogosphere, it is irrelevant that Romney's latest campaign ad is a willful misrepresentation of the facts. The Fourth Estate has abandoned all pretense of being guardians for the truth; they have been bullied into submission by Conservatives, and their invention of the catch all propaganda phrase "the liberal media."

Consequently, with few exceptions, the mainstream news media runs away from calling Mitt Romney what he actually is--a willful, almost pathological, liar.

Mitt Romney is also a racist liar.

To some folks, that language is strong, frightening, and offensive. This is expected: we live in a bizarre, post racial, post Civil Rights moment, where to call a white person--especially a Conservative--a racist is a bigger sin than racism itself. The public needs to be reminded that racism is not just mean words. Racism is not defined by intent (the common "he or she didn't mean it that way" defense). Racism is not limited to the KKK, skinheads, or signs that say "Colored Drinking Fountain," or "No Mexicans, Negroes, or Dogs." 

Racism is also about disparate outcomes, structures, institutions, and power. The media and social scientists have invented a whole vocabulary in order to avoid talking plainly about the type of racism being exhibited by Mitt Romney's campaign at present, the Republican Party since the 1960s, and the Tea Party GOP during the Age of Obama. We talk about dog whistles, coded signals, white racial resentment, symbolic racism, and racial affect. In our efforts to be subtle and precise, the obvious is often overlooked. 

As I wrote here, in this election cycle Romney and his fellow Republican candidates have been using racial air raid sirens that are direct appeals to white racism in order to win over white voters. The Tea Party GOP and its candidates are rarely held accountable because the news media is afraid of being called "racist" or "biased" by the Right's pundits and foot soldiers.

To help navigate these muddy waters in the public discourse, The Christian Science Monitor recently offered up a nice set of criteria for determining if a political campaign is using racism to further its electoral goals. Mitt Romney's Barack Obama is a "welfare king that wants to take stuff from white people and give it to undeserving black and brown poor people" meets several of these guidelines. My suggestion that Mitt Romney is a racist liar gains further traction when you place his most recent ad in a broader context. 

The patterns are very revealing:

1. Romney's campaign channeled one of the oldest stereotypes about black personhood in American society with his "Obama isn't Working" ad. This allusion keys off of long standing stereotypes about black laziness and poverty that go all the way back to white fictions about the Southern Slaveocracy and the happy old plantation. Here, Romney is directly and transparently suggesting (in a very smart and sophisticated ad) that the President is a lazy black man. 

Given that the Right-wing media has repeatedly reinforced the idea that Barack Obama is partying, playing golf, not working, and has turned the White House into a hip-hop basketball themed thugged out barbecue, Romney's Obama is a lazy black man narrative finds resonance throughout the conservative media-sphere. It is also echoed by prominent Republicans such as House Speaker John Boehner who repeatedly assert that Barack Obama has "never had a real job" in his life.

2. Romney has repeatedly suggested that President Obama is an alien Other who does not understand American values, and is outside of the American political and social tradition. In a party where a significant percentage of Republican voters still believe that Obama is not a United States Citizen, and is a closest "Mooslem," Romney is channeling a type of xenophobic, nativist, white racism that conceptualizes "American" as synonymous with "white." 

Moreover, during his recent trip to the United Kingdom, Mitt Romney doubled down on this ugly, scurrilous blood and soil narrative, where through a senior adviser he argued that the country's first black president is incapable of understanding the special "Anglo-American" relationship because Obama's father was born in Africa. Black people are not "real" American citizens in the white conservative imagination; Romney is simply playing off of this implicit understanding of the boundaries of "real" American identity to win voters.

3. Mitt Romney told the NAACP that he will not give them "free stuff" like Barack Obama. Here, he signaled once more to a repeated theme offered by the Tea Party GOP and its candidates, that African-Americans are lazy parasites whose kids should pick up mops so that they learn a work ethic, and not have to live off of good white people as adults. Romney's use of these crude and insulting stereotypes in an invited speech before the NAACP was a tactical opportunity to signal to his white conservative (and racially reactionary) base that he would be tough on "the blacks" and put them "back in their place."

4. Mitt Romney's campaign dishonestly edited a speech where Barack Obama made the obvious observation that we live in society in which entrepreneurs and others have benefited from the government, and the public goods and services, it provides to society. In Romney's ad, Obama was framed as an angry black man who dared to lecture (white) "job creators." 

President Obama has also been called "arrogant" and "disrespectful" by Right-wing politicians and pundits. During the Age of Obama, the Right has also made the suggestion that whole portions of the country, the Red State Neo-Confederacy, should secede from the Union. These elements both sustain, as well as are prefaced upon a narrative, where Barack Obama is "uppity" and does not know his "correct" place as a black person in America. By implication, the country's first black president is insufficiently deferent to white authority (and white people). Thus, President Obama is illegitimate by virtue of his party membership and his racial identity in the eyes of the New Right and Tea Party GOP.

5. Mitt Romney's campaign has combined naked racial appeals with subtle, and very sophisticated, signals to white racial anxiety and resentment. In this way, Romney's deployment of white racism is among the most devious in recent American political memory--as such, he is generations ahead of the clumsy Willie Horton style ads of his predecessors. The following commercial is a great example of Romney's gift in this regard:

On the surface, this commercial is race neutral. However, language is critical for how we as viewers, and especially the target audience, respond to the cues--both subtle and obvious--contained in a political advertisement or other visual text.

The ad revolves around the following phrase: "He tried. You tried. It's okay to make a change."

There are two thematic elements at work. The ad offers a list of "failures" (lacking in context of course, as is expected) by Obama. In keeping with Romney's previous ads and his target audience, there are no people of color featured in the visuals presented--except for the "failed" black President.

Romney's ad is designed to give white voters, especially Right-leaning Independents, the freedom to vote against the country's first black president without feeling "guilty" or "racist" by making such a choice. The Right-wing media has repeatedly supported this move with their meme that opposition to Obama is not racism, and moreover, to suggest that racism drives conservatives' hostility to President Obama is itself racist.

Ultimately, the American people (coded as "white") out of good will, charity (and perhaps even guilt) elected Barack Obama as President of the United States. In essence, Romney is arguing that Barack Obama was an "affirmative action" candidate who was not prepared for the job and is in over his head.

This is the genius of the above ad: Romney can leverage white resentment, play off of conspiratorial political toxins such as Birtherism and Graderism, and still appear to be race neutral in how he reaches out, offering racial absolution to white voters for voting that "black bum" out of the White House. Romney's ad is the little voice pushing a white voter to follow through on the much discussed Bradley Effect...and to not feel any guilt for having done so.


Mitt Romney is playing with fire. His race-baiting may win over some Independents. It will also help to shore up enthusiasm for Romney among the Tea Party GOP base. But, Romney is walking a tightrope: he continues to flirt with naked racism in order to win over white voters. However, Romney is not necessarily bringing new voters into his camp. Those voters most moved by white racial appeals are going to vote for Romney anyway. In the long-run, Romney's race-baiting is simply reinforcing the demographic suicide that the Tea Party GOP, as the country's de facto White National Political Party, is facing by making the prospective base smaller and not larger.

Because of his faith and class background, Mitt Romney is especially vulnerable on questions of racial inclusion, tolerance, and diversity. The media may have avoided asking him some obvious questions about these matters. Eventually, someone will have the courage to speak truth to power, and demand some basic answers about the bigotry and racism that Romney has been using to advance his presidential campaign. When that moment comes, and he fumbles for an answer, Mitt Romney may slip and fall  into the racist  muck and mire that he has been playing with for months. I do hope that moment comes sooner rather than later.


OTB said...

What is the right amount of blacks to show in a Romney ad? In the first ad, the workers, with one exception, look to be all white. In the second ad, most of the ad is of closed businesses, with a few quick shots of people, most holding protest signs. As (and you would likely agree with this) few of those protesters were black, shouldn't we expect the sign holders to be white?

How does Romney make his points without being called racist?

Anonymous said...

@OTB Romney can make his points by not using racism in his ads. It really is simple.


Black Sage said...

@OTB, Hopeful Presidential candidate Romney could easily make his point by refraining from being an untruthful, hypocritical racist!

Black Sage said...

On That Barack the Welfare King Obama Ad: Mitt Romney is a Racist Liar. Why is the Media Afraid to Hold Him Accountable? – Chauncey D.

Personally, I do not believe that the media is afraid of holding wishful presidential seeking Mitt Romney accountable. An abundance of fear by the media is not the problem at all. The media is in fact, THE PROBLEM! The media pulled the same stunt during the Reagan era with the so-called “war on drugs”. The administration befriended the major media outlets so that the so-called “war on drugs” could be first hyped, then justified to get more federal funding to quash a problem that didn’t really exist. In short, a ghost of a problem that came with harsher penalties targeting primarily Black and Brown people for even a miniscule amount of drugs.

According to the Washington Post, earlier this year, President Obama sent a letter to all Governors and stated that he would consider granting waivers from work participation requirements for an array of projects. However, he would not approve any waiver likely to reduce access to employment. President Obama never removed the clause that required welfare recipients to work.

Moreover, in 2005, then Governor Romney joined in concert with other GOP governators in promoting “increased waiver authority” at the state level. Obviously, it’s quite difficult for Mitt to speak the truth. Mitt is the epitome of a racist, hypocritical liar. Apparently, when he increased waiver authority as Governor of Massachusetts, he thought of it as a decent idea. However, now that he’s running for POTUS, he’s not so fond of it.

There are no surprises here regarding Mitt’s deep pockets and the media’s insatiable appetite to spin a story targeting the working class. The media has a salient history of pulling off stunts such as this, even more so during political seasons. Shame on wannabe President Romney!

Again, I’m not really a fan of Obama, however, he is the lesser of two evils here!

Plane Ideas said...

Black Sage really is that your litmus test Obama is the lesser of two evils come on give me something more than that tired trick...

Your template gives to much capital for Mitt he is nowhere in any merit on the same plane with BO. Mitt is a minor figure on any score card of course you know this stop allowing your disdain for BO stain your focus here much is at stake for the community

Anonymous said...

" Eventually, someone will have the courage to speak truth to power, and demand some basic answers about the bigotry and racism that Romney has been using to advance his presidential campaign."

Really? I doubt this will happen at all. The major media, TV journalism and print journalism, is owned by maybe five or six, media conglomerates whose CEO's are largely Republican. Even the so-called left leaning MSNBC will gloss over obvious news in an effort not to offend corporate advertisers, which are also largely Republican. Besides, Mitt rarely talks to media unless it is Republican campaign channel Fox. Who there is going to confront him on walking the racist tightrope? Legitimate, straightforward and informative muckraking is a thing of the past. Sacrificed on the alter of all things money. If a journalist wants to keep their job, they had better not ask hard hitting questions and if they do they had better not expect direct answers. This is how Mitt has been able to succeed thus far. Avoid anything that smacks of neutral media, McCarthy-ize any reporter who asks for truthful answers; or any answers, offer vague solutions, lies and race baiting. While doing this, hoping that everyone only pays attention to him pointing at President Obama so they don't realize what a horrible fellow American he has been.

So you have a combination of lack of effort or willingness to stick the neck out, on the one hand and effective evasiveness by the candidate seeking to be elected, on the other. Both make it less and less likely that Mitt will ever be confronted on his tactics. Heck the media won't even call his lies, LIES.

Black Sage said...


What tired trick are you referring to? As far as I’m concerned, the entire US political system is hopelessly corrupt and influenced mostly by money and who politicians know. You stated that Romney is a minor figure compared to Obama, well then, you should give me something to support your claim. Moreover, I gave you reasons in my post as to why I believe Mitt is not only a liar, but a racist as well. I’m waiting, therefore, hit me with something to backup your point.

olderwoman said...

Agree with your take on all these ads. They freak me out.

A data point for what it is worth. I just got back from a visit with my 85-year-old White father who hates Obama and liberals and gets his news from Fox. He thinks there is no way the Republicans will win the election in the fall. I'm not sure he actually has any clue what he is talking about, so I wouldn't want to bet anything significant based on his opinion, but I was rather surprised by his take. Maybe the race-baiting is a sign of their desperation?

Black Sage said...

your 85-year old father’s keen observation of today’s naked, empty political atmosphere is right on point. I believe wishful presidential candidate Romney’s camp also recognize that his chances of capturing the White House are getting slimmer by the day. This explains why he’s pulled out his race/welfare card in an attempt to drum up support for his continually failing campaign.

Plane Ideas said...


I agree with your talking points on Romney that was not my point in my post. Please revisit and then provide me with your proofs why you are using the tire theme of the lesser of two evils in regard to BO

nomad said...

Romney! LOL! I never seen a presidential candidate try so hard to lose an election. Well, 'cept for that Gore fella. That was really hard to pull off. (McCain, of course, didn't have to try.)

chaunceydevega said...

@sabrina. the mass media in this country are owned by 3 corporations (someone correct me if need be) that are among some of the richest entities in the world. theses same companies also make weapons, control global energy, and food. this is a narrow set of interests tied into the global power elite. that isn't conspiracy talk--i believe the number is actually 3-6,000 who actually control the show at this point in a world of billions.

@elder. the right wing echo chamber needs to gin up desperation among its followers to justify the even more radical steps they are going to take. remember, sometimes you need to destroy a village in order to liberate it.

@nomad. don't believe the talking heads on the tv. yes, they like a horse race and are covering minutia to fill time. despite what some of the early polling data says, this race is going to be very, very close. the obamabots are going to be clinching theirs butts way past midnight waiting to see what happens.

Comrade Physioprof said...

Excellent post, as always, holmes. Your analysis of the intentionally racist Romney narrative is undeniably correct, and the only people who could possible deny it are self-interested whites caught up in the white racial frame and unwilling to accept reality.

(Note: "sure up" should be "shore up".)

Comrade Physioprof said...

Oh, and BTW, in answer to your question: I don't think the media are "afraid" to hold Romney accountable. Rather, they have no desire to hold him accountable because it is in their interest that he continue to not be held accountable.

This is for a number of reasons:

(1) The political media are almost all wealthy coddled white millionaires who are embedded in the white racial frame and benefit from it socially and financially.

(2) The political media benefit from a presidential "horse race" that is as close as possible. They thus refrain from reporting or analysis that they perceive as possibly leading to a widening of the gap between candidates, and engage in reporting and analysis that they perceive as closing any gap.

Plane Ideas said...


Awesome post!!

Black Sage said...

@Thrasher, I've had some personal dealings with President Obama as it relates to the reasons why I think of him as the lesser of two evils. In short, the reasons are too controversial and too personal an issue to post here!

Plane Ideas said...


Got it...

nomad said...

"don't believe the talking heads on the tv"

Word. But I'm not goin by them, that's for sure. Just tryin' to visualize the controllers' game plan. I don't think they want to go back to the heavy handed Bush approach to the empire abroad and the police state in der home land. No, the clandestine Obama style is working quite well, thank you very much. Ah, presidential campaigns: the illusion of choice.

Black Sage said...

@Thrasher, I’m still waiting for you to provide me and the community with some substance regarding your claim that wishful presidential candidate is a minor figure when juxtapose against Obama. Thus far, you’ve given me and the entire community here nothing but empty rhetoric. I’m confident that you’re capable of doing better than this or am I sadly mistaken? I’m still waiting!.....

Plane Ideas said...


Iam just mirroring your empty dogma and comments.. Please elaborate for me what proofs you have offered up truth is all you did was piggy back on CD's talking points

You got nuttin but tired chatter class twitter... Now either step up or get stepped on .. You are posting on WARN not jack and Jill or black planet

You wanna carry the water for a shallow vessel than be prepare to drown ..

Black Sage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Black Sage said...

@Thrasher, lol, you are consistently in a comedic mode, perhaps you should seriously consider joining a comedy club. Aren't you tired of utilizing the word tired and at the same time, you're still refusing to answer my simple question regarding Mitt Romney? Answer my elementary level question that was put forth or MOVE ON!........

Plane Ideas said...

CD already answered your pedestrian question lol lol
Now move on or spill your gutty about your little BO secrets .,., lol lol lol

nomad said...

Romney Picks Paul Ryan

Toljah he was tryin to lose. Reminds me of when Gore picked Lieberman.

nomad said...

'this race is going to be very, very close.'

Sigh. If only the outcome meant something.

Leah Starkey said...

I don't entirely see the reason for ANYONE to vote Mitt Romney into office, if we're being entirely honest. This man has plans to bring down women, minorities, the middle class and younger generations. The only people he has yet to offend is the white man, which he won't do, because he is a white man.
Barack Obama has been trying, yes, and the only reason he has get to succeed is because all Republican's in Congress aren't letting him do anything. Sure, call out Obama and the democratic party, when they start fighting back, but not a single person is looking at rhe obvious; they wouldn't have to fight back if Republicans played fair. Between the amount of child's play they're putting the President through, he has no time to try things he has wanted to change.
Will it be any different with Romney? Probably not. He's pissed off 2/3 of this country, and put himself in a terrible position.
Just this morning, him and members of the republican party were talking about demolishing abortion, because a woman can "stop a man from raping her."
As completely inconsiderate as he is, he also lacks quite a few pieces of knowledge from the woman side of America.
If he gets voted into office, my family and I are moving out of the country.

Anonymous said...

And don't forget that the majority of welfare recipients are white.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a really great article. As a white person, sometimes the subtleties of racism, I don't catch at all until it is pointed out (i.e. years ago, I didn't think about the whole "flesh colored band aids" until it was pointed out.)then of course, it becomes obvious.

I also think that oftentimes people who are racist don't think of themselves as such. ( I mean who wants to think of themselves that way?!) Here is a prime example: years ago I worked in a company and we hired a young black man to work in the back office. One of the women who worked back there (albeit, very uneducated) was very upset about hiring him and said, and I quote "I'm not a racist, but I keep my pocketbook back there!" Really?! Really?! So I think no one (except the KKK) would really define themselves as that. And the obvious and subtle messages of these ads speak to that.

Capt. Spastic said...

@otb Well, telling the truth would be a good place to start.