Smear Strategy a Failure
Again, a majority of voters repudiated it and gave Obama another four-year term.
What is “it”?
I’m talking about the biggest, most expensive, relentless, coordinated propaganda smear, perhaps in world history, aimed at one man, Barack Obama. That’s right, Barack Hussein Obama. Stick that in your racist pipe and choke on it for the next four years. Because he’s baaaaaaaack. And he’s still blaaaaaaaack. And he still resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.
Get used to it. Despite the alternative post-fact universe Republicans created, facts are stubborn things, as John Adams told us, so many years ago. And the fact is he beat your stuffed-shirt plutocrat, despite another one of your clever camouflage jobs. Hundreds of millions of dollars of deceptive ads and a heap of lies and distortions couldn’t hide the fact that Willard Mitt Romney was a boring stiff. The Democrats had the same problem with Al Gore and John Kerry.
True, the Romney paint job wasn’t as convincing as portraying George W. Bush as “Compassionate Conservative, Uniter-not-Divider, Not-Interested-in-Nation-Building, Education President.” Voters bought into that whopper, twice no less, and look what happened.
And that was one of the fundamentals of the Great Obama Smear campaign. Count on voter amnesia. Yes, they would somehow forget about the Bush/Cheney catastrophe. Time would start anew with Obama’s inauguration. Never mention Bush/Cheney again.
Ever the savvy politicians, Bush/Cheney played along by keeping the lowest of low profiles. They became Invisible Men, their abysmal record tossed down the memory hole and burned. How often were their names even mentioned at the Republican Convention in Tampa? They sure weren’t invited.
The many-pronged attack on Obama, from the beginning, had many facets, but its primary theme was characterizing Obama as the Other, an Alien, not even really an American.
This is Birther territory. When you find yourself on the lunatic fringe of today’s Republican Party, you better book some reservations at the local asylum and get sized for a strait-jacket.
Then there was, is, and always will be the racist card, dealt from the bottom of the deck, to the basest of American instincts. Surely, Obama has always embraced a black identity, but the fact remains that he is every bit as much white as he is black, even more so. Few talk about his white-bread Kansas roots, the influence of his white mother and grandparents, or the near complete lack of influence his black father had on him, despite Dinesh D’Souza’s Kenyan conspiracy theories.
Coupled with the racist appeal, Republican propagandists subtly spread the idea that Obama was, incredibly, a Muslim. And with no evidence whatsoever, many Americans believed them. Now, in a country with real religious freedom and pluralism, in a country that truly respected the secular nature of the Constitution, one’s religion should not be a defining issue. But the notion of religious freedom in America had always been reserved for mainstream Christianity. Almost any other religion is suspect, and will deny you high office.
On the edifice of racism and religious prejudice, Republicans molded a hydra-head caricature of Obama. He was Count Blacula from Kenya, a Manchurian Candidate with a secret socialist agenda. Schooled by Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, in Chicago no less (that Moscow on Lake Michigan) Obama actually hated America according to their script. Get this: Obama supposedly hated the country that elected him to its highest office.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. That the various facets of their main propaganda attack are false, ridiculous, scurrilous, and appeal to the worst instincts of the American electorate makes not an iota of difference to the modern Republican party.
Imagine if Obama had actually done something gruesomely wrong in his first term. What if he had allowed the worst terrorist attack in American history to occur on his watch despite ample and obvious warning? What if he had duped and deceived us into a catastrophic war? What if he had established torture as legal policy? What if he had let Wall Street greedheads run completely amuck and tank the world economy and come within an ace of hurling us into another Great Depression?
Oh, that’s right, the Republicans did all that. And despite the appeal to amnesia, enough voters remembered.
Contrary to their attempts to label Obama a failure, he has been a steady and competent president. He has remained a fundamentally decent man, by all accounts an excellent father and husband. He is ending wars instead of starting them. And he has retained his cool competency in the face of a hysterical opposition party that has only the primary goal of destroying him, even if it hurts the country and the people.
The voters repudiated them -again. Is this finally the end of the Conservative Era, in ascendancy since Reagan’s election in 1980? I have mixed feelings. Looking at it from a Machiavellian point of view, I hope they remain an extreme right wing radical party of old angry white men, with a pronounced hostility to women, gays, and people of color. I hope they proclaim their central desire to shovel even more money to a wealthy elite wallowing in luxury enclaves who look down at the rest of us as The Help. If they continue on their current path, they will continue to lose.
However, for the good of the country, I hope the Republicans reform. They have legitimate and necessary arguments for fiscal prudence. I embrace the libertarian and isolationist elements still latent in the GOP. But the vagina-probers, the knuckle-dragging religious fundamentalists, the homophobes, the warmongers, and the racists drag the party into the pit of hatred, violence, and a fascist contempt for privacy.
Alas, the river of anger, hatred, and greed coursing through the conservative movement cannot be shut off as easily as turning a spigot. But perhaps, in the wake of defeat, the better angels of their natures will prevail, and they will reach back to the political center for reasonable compromise and the good of the country.
Rogerson, of Wheeling, is a professor of English at West Virginia Northern Community College.