Column: Campaigns flood us with reductive racial rhetoric. How can we push back?
The racialized language of this election — and there’s little evidence of anything but what might be called the “tactical” use of this language by Democrats — has made it easier for Republicans to paint a picture of their opponents as being as hateful as possible toward Trump supporters, especially women and minority voters. In that, it’s not wrong to say they “want you to vote for him again.”
But they’re also making a claim that’s far bigger than their ability to turn your vote in. The claim is that they have every right to be upset that the country is so polarized. If only we could elect a better leader, right? So, if it were up to them, the country would just get better?
It’s really quite simple.
I’ll give you a little bit of history to back this up. The first major campaign ad of the modern era was the famous image of a young white woman, standing before a burning cross on her wall, being held by a nubile African-American teenager.
This was “Vote for Jim Crow,” in reference to the racist laws in the South that Jim Crow Democrats sought to repeal. By comparison, the image of the black man (a former NFL player, in fact) holding the African-American woman is the modern “Vote for Trump.” It’s less about burning crosses and more about wanting to see Trump elected.
For that, let’s go back to an earlier image from 1956 in the first of two elections in which a black man ran for president. The other was in 1980. Both involved a young, white woman (and, as I noted, many of those young, white women became mothers). In the earlier one, she was a nurse, and she was shown carrying a baby in a sling. By comparison, the image of a young white woman, walking in the snow after an evening out, with what appear to be empty bottles of beer around her, was