The North Carolina Republican Party — forged by the hand of Dixiecrat segregationists like Jesse (“White people, wake up before it is too late. Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife and your daughters, in your mills and factories?”) Helms — has never been cautious about playing the race card. When North Carolina Democrats nominated Harvey Gantt, an exceptionally-qualified moderate African-American candidate against Helms in a 1990 U.S. Senate race, the North Carolina Republican machine countered with a series of ads that emphasized Gantt’s race and played on fears and prejudices.
Of course, in the politically-correct world of special privileges demanded by contemporary conservatives, no one was supposed to use the word “racist” to describe the pro-Helms ads. And, so, much of the commercial broadcast, cable and print media has to this day allowed the Helms and his partisan allies off the hook for running a campaign that was conceived and implemented with the aggressively racist intent of scaring white voters away from voting for an African-American candidate who they agreed with on the issues and who they knew to be more capable of representing them in the Senate.
Because the media tends to be afraid of calling racists out, Helms and the North Carolina Republicans had no trouble running a blatantly racist campaign. And, when Helms was reelected over Gantt, a powerful lesson was learned.
The unfortunate truth is that, when a political organization plays the race card, gets away with it because journalists have been pressured to avoid using accurate language and then wins on election day, that organization can be expected to play the race card again.
And so the North Carolina Republican Party has.
Under the guise of opposing the a pair of Democratic gubernatorial candidates who have endorsed Barack Obama for the party’s presidential nomination, the state party is airing a commercial designed to do exactly what the Helms campaign’s anti-Gantt ad did back in 1990: scare white voters away from an African-American candidate they might otherwise support.
If the material in the current ad was accurate in its portrayal of Obama, the North Carolina Republicans might have a defense. But it’s not.
As images of Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright flash on the television screen, the candidate’s former pastor is quoted out of context with the purpose of making him look like a dangerous radical – and Obama like either a dupe or a fellow-traveler on the anti-American fringe.