Despite the blatant racism on display at various Birther and Tea Party rallies—at protests embraced by many in the GOP and Fox News—we have often been told that the numbers of such adherents is very, very low. Or even, that racism is dead in America since, as Will Cain of The Blaze told Bill Maher last Friday with a straight face, the US elected a black president.
On the other hand, how do you explain that Birtherism was never a “fringe” faction within the GOP? In fact, all manner of polls have shown that actually at least half of Republicans embrace or once embraced the meme that Obama was not born in America. The latest poll I saw still pegged that “fringe” at an unhealthy 40 percent of all Republicans.
One of the great mainstream media fails of the past two years, right up to the GOP convention, was ignoring Birtherism as a near-majority view in the modern GOP—and refusing to probe what that means.
I’m reminded of all this today by the the shocking (except, it’s not) story out of Morgan Hill, California, courtesy of a local TV report. It seems one fine fella has erected a chair in front of his home along with a teleprompter, perhaps in homage to Clint Eastwood. So far so good. But with this twist: on the chair are two watermelons, and hanging from it is a noose. Nearby a go-back-to-Kenya sign.
Oh, one more thing: Another sign, “Mitt Romney for President.”
Follow the link and you will see a photo of the display and find certainly the quote of the week, if not year. A neighbor says that the chair and watermelon, etc., is okay but maybe “the noose is a little over the edge.” Video here. The homeowner, in the video, says the “display speaks for itself” and he had no problem if images were circulated widely.
Strange fruit, indeed.
Of course, this is not to say that most Romney backers are out and out racists. But it would be nice if the media, belatedly, explored the remaining strength of Birtherism—and what it reveals.
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In other news, hear me talk about another amazing campaign—the wild hugely influential 1934 governor’s race in California starring socialist Upton Sinclair—on NPR’s On the Media this week, related to my book. This campaign inspired the birth of the modern political campaign, including the first use of the screen for attacks ads—created by Hollywood saint, Irving Thalberg.