The GOP’s “Played-Out” Race Card

I have to say, Melissa Harris Perry is spot on with her piece in The Nation‘s “Sister Citizen” column.

The Nation

Conservative strategists have been toying with how to use race against President Obama in this year’s election. Since Obama’s May 9 announcement supporting same-sex marriage, some Republicans have been salivating about the delicious possibility of dampening black voters’ enthusiasm for the president by casting him as out of touch with their religious sentiments. Then the leaked Joe Ricketts plan, “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama,” revealed GOP strategists’ idea of employing “an extremely literate conservative African-American” to discredit Obama among white voters by reminding them of his link with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Thus, the black church would be both a wedge to weaken black support and a tool to discourage white supporters.

I’m a little surprised to find conservatives offering such clumsy and stale campaign game plans. They seem intent on repeating the strategic mistake made by Illinois Republicans nearly a decade ago—a mistake largely responsible for making possible the swift ascendance of Barack Obama from state senator to president.

In 2004 Obama won the Democratic primary for Illinois’s open Senate seat in a crowded field of contenders. His strongest competitors were well financed and backed by the powerful Daley machine and by many prominent African-American elected officials and religious leaders from Chicago.

Although Obama was well liked by his constituents in Illinois’s 13th Congressional District, he had been beaten badly in 2000 when he challenged incumbent Bobby Rush in a primary for the state’s predominantly black 1st District. Against Rush, Obama faced serious racial credibility problems. His connections to the South Side were concentrated in Hyde Park, known for its relative whiteness compared with the rest of the neighborhood. He was not a particularly fiery public speaker and lacked access to the racialized cultural narrative of defiance that Rush used throughout his career.

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