New America Media, Commentary, Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Idaho could never be mistaken as the poster state for a multicultural population mix. The state is mostly white, rural, hard-line conservative, and in some places has been a fertile nesting ground for an assorted array of kooky, far-out racist, paramilitary groups.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Palin took some heat for telling a meeting of Alaska's black leaders in April 2008 that she didn't have to hire any blacks. The black leaders had complained to Palin about the invisibility of blacks and minorities on her staff and in state governmental departments. Even more damning, she purportedly told the black leaders that she did not intend to hire any blacks. Palin's campaign manager and a staff representative hotly denied to this writer that Palin had made the comment. However, they quickly declared that Palin was absolutely color-blind in hiring and did not have to push any special programs to boost minority hiring. But there was a glaring paucity of blacks, Asians, Hispanics on her staff and relatively few in top state jobs. Also during the campaign, Palin was mute on the series of racist emails that some state employees sent out on state of Alaska email accounts.
Palin has lambasted Obama on the campaign trail as “palling around with terrorists," and "This is not a man who sees America as you see America and as I see America." This was another page from the GOP's old reliable playbook of racially tinged code words, phrases, and digs.
This didn't type Palin as a racial bigot. It did type her as the latest in the line of GOP politicians who have realized they can score big with a subtle play of the race card. During the past decade, a parade of Republican state and local officials, conservative talk show jocks and even some Republican bigwigs have made racist cracks. Their response, when called on the carpet, has always been the same. They make a duck-and dodge denial, claim that they were misquoted, or issue a weak, halfhearted apology. And each time the response from top Republicans is either silence, or, if the firestorm is great enough, to give the offender a much-delayed, mild verbal hand-slap.
Palin need not be troubled with apologies, or having to worry about reprimands from GOP leaders. They are scared stiff of her and the millions that she appeals to. This has been well evident in the blatantly racist signs, posters, and slogans and confederate flags and the separatist Texas lone star flags waved about at the Tea Party and taxpayer protest marches.
Palin gave another wink and nod to the bigots by almost single-handedly reviving the withered-on-the-vine, unabashedly racist tinged, birther campaign. She accomplished that neat trick with her remark to a conservative radio talk show host that it was "fair game" to question the validity of Obama's birth certificate.â¨â¨ Palin again fanned the latent bigotry among her fans with her Going Rogue book tour. She flatly said that she'd avoid the big city liberal media hot beds and tour in mostly small and mid-sized towns in the Heartland states. This was a not so subtle code guarantee that her audience would be overwhelmingly white, working class, and conservative. It was.
Palin’s folksy, anti-big government, anti-Washington political establishment pitch is finely calibrated to tug at the emotional strings of her constituency—white conservative, rural, and blue-collar workers and housewives. There is never the slightest hint—at least overt hint—of anything that remotely smacks of race in her stump speeches and interviews. But like all GOP politicians of the past who have stoked the racial fires to win and maintain office, Palin knows that overt mention of race is not necessary to tap the latent and open bigotry that drives much of the fervid opposition to President Obama.
In a recent townhall meeting, Obama pointedly knocked the Tea Party for, as he put it “misidentifying sort of who the culprits are here.” Palin doesn’t have that problem. The culprit in her and her supporters’ eyes is a black president. And she’s there to make sure that it stays that way.