Obama has a white guy problem.
Recent polls show Obama struggling among white males without college degrees. Among white males that support the president, that number is 30 percent. This number is down nine points since Obama won the presidency in 2008.
With Governor Romney announcing Rep. (R-Wisc.) Paul Ryan as his running mate, it seems as though the Romney campaign is intent on hammering the Obama administration over this discrepancy—and it looks like Romney is not afraid to dabble in campaign ads tinged with racism.
In Romney’s new welfare ad, the governor claims that Obama wants to eliminate welfare reform by ignoring the work/training requirements for the assistance. This was a calculated risk by the Romney campaign to connect the nation’s first black president to the idea of the “welfare queen” that Ronald Reagan made infamous—despite Republican leaders pushing for the same reform.
Romney has to be careful when it comes to using racial undertones in his rhetoric because there are legitimate concerns about the consequences of white anxiety. It’s even more concerning that this rhetoric may be a trend within the Romney administration when a Romney surrogate makes the case that President Obama doesn’t understand the Anglo-Saxon heritage shared by the US and the UK.
With politicians stoking the flames of uncertainty and fear—that is, Rep. (R-Minn.) Michele Bachmann saying the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the US and Rep. (R-Fla.) Allen West claiming a number of the Democrats are secret communists—there is reason to be concerned that this rhetoric will fall on “soft ears.”
The Department of Homeland Security released a report detailing the threat of radical rightwing groups—some of whom are connected to the “Patriot” movement—,but was met with fierce opposition, especially from House Majority Leader John Boehner.
That report, “Right-Wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” written by 15-year-veteran and former analyst for the DHS Daryl Johnson, noted that the election of a black president in addition to economic anxieties could be enough to fuel the growth of rightwing extremist groups. The report added, “rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities (via DemocracyNow.org and the “Rightwing Extremist” report).”
Not only are economic woes contributing to racial anxieties, but the fact that “the census has forecast that non-Hispanic whites will be outnumbered in the United States by 2042, and social scientists consider that current status among infants a harbinger of the change (via TheWashingtonPost.com)” should further agitate rightwing retaliation.
Thanks to a divided political system where everything becomes a game of political chicken, many within the Republican Party, including media pundits, stomped out efforts by our intelligence programs to investigate the issue of rightwing extremism.
In the past two years, Americans have experienced the terror of a Mt. Rainier shootout, the murder of six colleagues to Rep. (D-Ariz.) Gabby Giffords, the Aurora massacre and the Sikh shooting. In three of the cases the assailants were former soldiers and/or recruits—exactly what the DHS report warned.
Picking Ryan as a running mate was a risky decision for the Romney campaign especially considering they aren’t polling well among blacks, Latinos and women. This choice was a conscious decision by the Romney campaign to pick a candidate well-versed in Congressional Budget statistics and the national deficit. This choice will put the onus back on the Obama administration to start discussing the economy again. This choice will also help the campaign lock up the white-male-without-a-college-education vote.
According to Politico.com,
“Ryan is the GOP’s Obama. Sorta. He’s young, works out like the fitness instructor he once was, debates rather than berates, and devours CBO reports like other people read People. Apart from tickling conservatives, he projects integrity and willingness to flout the orthodoxies of politics for a greater good — in this case deficit reduction. And, like Obama, he can drop the professor shtick — smile that smile — and make the ladies at the senior center swoon. He’s even got a few bipartisan crossover moves, like POTUS, having bucked his party by backing a gay and lesbian anti-discrimination law.”
Ryan is a good choice for Romney as he is someone who is more enthusiastic, communicative and prepared on matters of the economy, but how far will the Romney campaign go in order to grab the rest of the white-male-without-a-college-education vote? Will the campaign focus on economic policies and blame it on what they call an incompetent Obama administration or will the campaign continue to fan the flames of racial tension?