Offensive Language and the 2012 Election

If language offends you, you might want to skip this essay.

The issues involved in the 2012 presidential election are many and varied. The economy, immigration, education, religion, experience levels and what kinds of experience are involved, all of these play a part.

But at heart, all the Republican contenders have played to the right wing base.

That right wing, or conservative, base includes evangelicals.

You’d think that they might remember Jimmy Carter; a good man, very religious, but ineffectual as president. There was nothing like the rabid push to get Carter out of office. That happened, but not with the anger that the conservatives show now. Carter, still a good religious man, has been an excellent ex-president. Compare him to Bill Clinton, a womanizer, a liar, impeached but not convicted, and still Clinton served two terms. He benefited during his time in office from policies and trends that occurred during previous administrations. The economy boomed. He’s also an excellent ex-president.

And then there was George W Bush. By any standard of reckoning, the worst president in modern times. Two terms. Two signature domestic accomplishments, No Child Left Behind and the Bush Tax Cuts. Since these were passed, education has continued to decline in quality and has now become essentially a national embarrassment. The tax strategy has gutted the middle class while funneling money to the elites and has contributed to the Great Recession which occurred during the final years of the GWB presidency. In foreign policy, Bush started two wars, at least one of which was rationalized by false intelligence interpretations on the part of Bush and his advisers; the intelligence community recommended other interpretations of WMD intelligence, but Bush overruled them. And then he and his principal advisers, Cheney and Rumsfeld, mismanaged the Iraq War. At least in part, the mismanagement was to protect the Bush Tax Cuts; the war was financed by borrowing.

Never mind; the failed policies of the GWB administrations concerning the economy are virtually identical to the ones currently adopted by Republicans, including Mitt Romney. In matters of religion, he’s possibly more religious than Barack Obama, but both are family men. Romney provides more financial support to his church than does Obama. Neither is a Clinton or a Carter in terms of family values and religious belief.

And yet, there’s a sense of fury behind the Republican campaigns. And they dare not offend the conservative base. Being more conservative meant a better chance of being elected.

Why? Didn’t the last Democrat president, Clinton, have a better domestic record? And isn’t the economy steadily improving after 3+ years under the current Democrat? Hasn’t he moved decisively against terrorists and begun the process of disengagement from the wars that Bush started?

Why is he so hated by the Conservatives?

I think it comes down to one overriding aim, one goal: get the nigger out of the White House.

Is it simple racism? Some of it is. Some of it also comes from the fear among White working-class people that their political and social dominance is under threat.
Immigrants and mixed-race children and even Muslims are moving in. The old majority is being squeezed politically and in religious terms. Economically they’re also under attack; they were once the middle class that fueled the national economy.

But those things can be addressed. Accommodation can be found. There’s no anger here, although there might be some subconscious fear.

But the presence of a Black, even a half-Black, president in the White House? That strikes at the heart of their feeling of racial superiority. And so the one goal that Obama can’t address, the one aim that nothing he does will deflect:

Get the nigger out of the White House.

It’s increasingly common to see once-forbidden words used in mixed conversations. Fuck…you can say that. Even motherfucker. Once taboo.

But not nigger. It’s there; now it’s called the n-word, as if that somehow hides the word while permitting the concept. Nigger…shocking, isn’t it? Go back and change what Mark Twain wrote, as if he’d been a racist of the first order. He wasn’t, but he used the now-forbidden word. Nigger.

It’s time we confronted this. How can we discuss the concept, the anger that I think is at bottom from the most conservative, if we’re afraid to even mention the word? Two syllables. Forbidden, but not the concept. It’s alright to believe in racism, to vote that way, but don’t write down the word.

Are you offended?

I am…but perhaps not for the same reason you are. The word doesn’t bother me. I’ve heard it before. I am offended that 70 years after the Tuskegee Airmen, after MLK Jr and the Civil Rights Movement, after Brown vs Board of Education, we’re still rooting out the vestiges of this failed philosophy.

And if saying nigger allows us to confront that, it’s worth it to me.

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