Sunday, September 14, 2008

Reflections: from Darkest Bubbastan

Back in the day of the so-called Gingrich Revolution, one of the right-wing foot soldiers who seemed to be appearing most often on the cable talk shows, and whom I found to be one of the least appealing of all the neo-Republican ideologues, was Rep. Dick Armey. I would not have predicted that I would ever be putting up a post in which I was agreeing with a controversial assertion made by Armey. Nevertheless… I am.

On Meet the Press this morning, Tom Brokaw twice brought up what Dick Armey recently stated about the “Bubba vote.” He brought it up first while interviewing Rudy Giuliani and then later in the show while talking with political analyst, Chuck Todd. What Armey has said is:

"The Bubba vote is there, and it's very real, and it is everywhere," Armey told USA TODAY and Gannett News Service. "There's an awful lot of people in America, bless their heart, who simply are not emotionally prepared to vote for a black man.” (The article from which this excerpt is clipped can be read here.)

Living as I do in the heart of darkest Bubbastan, experience tells me that Armey is, most unfortunately, correct. Since Obama emerged as a candidate, I have from time to time said much the same in comment boxes on other blogs. But I haven’t had the heart to speak about the issue directly here. Armey and Brokaw have forced my hand.

Having been a Republican pol and thus, of necessity, a rabble-rouser and a player-to-the-cheap-seats, Armey obviously knows what he is talking about. When one calls his constituent “Bubba” it is not in order to compliment his high intelligence and cultural attainment. Republicans win national elections by herding the Bubbas—those whom I prefer to call the “bleating merinos”—toward their candidate using “hot button issues” as prods.

Obama’s blackness, his negritude—to use a now archaic word to describe a mostly submerged, but, anachronistically, still potent factor—is a built-in “hot button issue.” McCain can’t—but won’t need to—campaign on it. Nonetheless, it will cost Obama votes among people who, were it not for their bigotry, would stand to gain the most by his success—and whose votes Obama needs in order to win several key states. These states include two (Indiana and Ohio) that I have lived in, and another (Michigan ) where I was born and mostly raised. Like Armey, I know what I am talking about.

America’s tragic flaw, our collective Achilles heel—racism—is very likely about to turn around and bite us in our collective ass, one more time.