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Saturday, October 27, 2007

 
Dogwhistling Dixie

by digby

You've all heard by now about the Obama campaign hiring "ex-gay" singer Donnie McClurkin for their South Carolina gospel tour and refusing to fire him when it became known. Here's the official explanation:

“The Obama campaign is trying to bridge real divides and bring people together. Two things are certain: We will never be able to bridge those divides if we are unwilling to listen to voices we don’t agree with, and we will never change anyone’s mind if we refuse to talk to him,” Griffs said in a statement.

Come on. What kind of turnip truck does this guy think we just fell head-first off of? This is obviously a very clumsy South Carolina "Sistah Soljah" which is really disappointing coming from Obama, the self-proclaimed healer of our blue and red wounds. The point of these exercises is to give a wink and a nod to bigots by picking out some despised element of your own coalition and demonstrating to targeted voters that you are against them too. Just because in this case it's aimed at conservative African Americans who don't like gays rather than racist whites who don't like African Americans doesn't make it any less ugly.

I would be skeptical of their intentions if the campaign had chosen by happenstance an African American pastor or gospel singer who was against gay marriage or even who believed that homosexuality was against biblical teachings. People can differ in their personal opinions and one can't be expected to sign on to every litmus test in order to perform for a campaign. But this man is a crusader for the idea that being gay is a disease, using himself as the example of one who has been cured. You can "talk" to someone like that but the divide will never be bridged. It's an assault on reason as well as an insult to gays.

This stuff doesn't happen by accident. Homeboy Lee Atwater, the Grand Vizier of the dark arts of the southern strategy and the man who made Willie Horton a household name, called South Carolina the "firewall" -- that's where a ruthless negative campaign could stop the momentum of any GOP insurgent who had the temerity to buck the Big Money Boyz's designated candidate. He perfected it in 1988 and his successor in ugly campaigning, Karl Rove, destroyed John McCain's surging campaign there in 2000. Atwater knew very well that South Carolina was a place that trafficked in race baiting and nasty attacks on patriotism and he used them to great effect. This history is known to everyone who has followed politics for the past two decades so it is simply not believable to me that Obama's campaign didn't do this purposefully. South Carolina is ground zero for American bigotry.

The truly ironic thing about it is that homophobia is the new black among many of the Southern heritage groups down south. It is itself a dogwhistle. I wrote about this some time back in this post I did on racist codes for FDL:

Perhaps the most obscure form of racist code speech is rampant neo-confederate homophobia. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. Anti-gay language, crude or not so crude, can be found in many neo-confederate tracts and articles. They often use the traditional language of anti-semitism. (All that "disease" talk. )I was confused by this for a while, wondering if the antebellum south had had an underground gay sub-culture that had been scorned as a southern tradition. But it is actually just another code for traditional bigotry which they base on this:

When I served on the State Textbook Committee, I asked each publisher, "what is your definition of family?" Almost without exception, the publishers, out of deference to the homosexual, lesbian, and feminist movements, define family as two or more people living together who care for one another. By their definition, any two people living together – men, women, married, unmarried – are now defined as a family.

The antebellum South was a society founded on the traditional family of husband, wife, and children. Even today, more than the rest of the US, the South is still more family oriented. Southerners still do not move as often as other people do. More than 75% of the people living in Alabama today were born in Alabama.

Because the South was, and is more family oriented, and because our definition of family is increasingly unacceptable to many Americans, all things Southern, including our concept of family, are attacked.

This convenient conflation of "traditional" southern culture and family, of course, ignores the fact that slave families were ruthlessly broken up. (And anyway the slaves had a mental defect that made them want to run away.) But, no matter. You can see how easily the neoconfederates have incorporated this "family values" rhetoric and substituted their overt racism with overt homophobia.


This is not something for Democrats to be playing around with in the name of "building bridges" and singing kumbaya. Obama is making a huge mistake and he should rectify it.

And I second Jane Hamsher in saying this:

Gotta give it up for Aravosis and the GLBT blogosphere. They have really hammered this thing, and the narrative has taken root in the traditional media — at a time when Obama can least afford to have this kind of backlash.


Play with bigots and reap the whirlwind.


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