Politics can be a very different game in the USA. In the UK, anyone wanting to get their party elected and thus take a tilt at the top job would never, but never, patronise any minority, whether based on race, religion or any other recognisable criterion, and would never, but never, characterise that minority as being lazy and workshy. But that is exactly how Newt Gingrich has just won the South Carolina primary.
Or rather, the former House Speaker won the Republican South Carolina primary: there may not even be a Democrat one, given the almost certain nomination of Barack Obama for the upcoming Presidential race. And the GOP field in SC was hardly inspirational: Gingrich’s opposition was bland former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, libertarian Ron Paul, and evangelical Christian Rick Santorum.
Moreover, the second of Newt’s two-pronged attack was to lay into what he called the “liberal media”, casting himself as someone wronged by all those nasty things called “questions”. In this, he embodied Olbermann’s dictum: “the right exists in a perpetual state of victimhood”. This was lapped up by those voters that are overwhelmingly white and working class.
There is, of course, a problem with this approach: it might play well in Republican voting parts of the South, but elsewhere will poison the well with a vengeance. It is one thing to call Obama a “food stamp President” out on the Southern Primary stump, but quite another to call him out to his face come the Main Event. Not even the old warrior Gingrich will dare do that.
As the NYT put it, the GOP “allowed itself to be manipulated by the lowest form of campaigning ... Gingrich exploited racial resentment and hatred of the news media ... pulled the race into the gutter, where he found considerable support ... lectured a black questioner at Monday’s debate about the amount of Federal handouts to blacks, suggesting their work ethic was questionable”.
Further, Gingrich accused the media of an “anti religion bias”. And those thinking that it’s only the NYT saying this, consider this sentiment from Tim Stanley at the Telegraph: “Newt Gingrich is ... a receptacle for all of the paranoia and ugliness that can be found in the Republican heartland”. He won’t do as well with these tactics in Florida – less than ten days away – and certainly not in Michigan.
Because this is just another of those desperate attempts to stir up race hatred by not directly mentioning race. Obama has been smeared as “hard left”, “Socialist”, “Marxist”, accused of being a Muslim, not being born in the USA, and much more, when what the accusers wanted to say, but could not, was that he was not white. Added to that is the Gingrich “food stamp” and “lazy” smear.
He’s a desperate man, pitching to a desperate party. And he’ll lose – desperately.