By Sikivu Hutchinson
Cindy McCain has spoken. Shellacked white blond hair bristling with outrage, the beermeister lit into Barack Obama recently at an election rally, accusing him of voting against troop supply funding for soldiers in Iraq and thus endangering her enlisted son. The beermeister’s liberation from St John power suit-cosseted trophy wife to mother bear-firebrand has been hastened by Sarah Palin’s transformation into the self-styled attack dog of the McCain campaign. The visual choreography of McCain events now spotlights the two in tandem—Palin rallying the Christian soldiers onward with her nationalist screeds on homeland security while the beermeister hovers close behind in all her Stepford glory. Snatching a page from their nativist 19th century white feminist forebears, the beermeister and the demagogue evoke a nightmare vision of black insurgency. Linking Obama to William Ayers and domestic terrorism, Palin exhorted that “this is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America,” to her rapt audiences. Despite all his efforts to distance himself from a black agenda, the assiduously race-averse Obama is still playing as a fist in the air black Muslim to the American Legionnaires in East Overshoe. In response to Palin’s innuendo, lynch mob chants of “terrorist,” “treason” and “kill him” have been gleefully hurled at Obama, eliciting the usual tepid condemnations from the McCain camp. McCain’s contempt for Obama as lawn jockey crashing the country club was on snarling display during Tuesday’s debate when the uber male American war hero couldn’t bring himself to look at the Senator and infamously referred to him as “that one.” In a desperate attempt to reverse his falling poll numbers, McCain melds xenophobic and Orientalist rhetoric, conjuring up the dark inscrutable treasonous other when he asks “who is the real Barack Obama.”
Yet it is Palin who is the great white hope, mobilizing the faithful in the hinterlands while exploiting the far right electorate’s bloodlust. And what better messenger to paint Obama as a black subversive than Palin, whose pro-death views would even prohibit a woman from getting an abortion in cases of rape and incest? Far right prohibitions on women exercising rights over their own bodies and destinies have a direct correlation with the preservation of God, country and the virtues of white womanhood. Nationhood and the territorialization of white femininity have always been inextricably linked in the American imagination. D.W. Griffith’s anti-Reconstruction epic Birth of a Nation, based on Thomas Dixon’s The Clansman, associated black rule with miscegenation and the rape of white women. Racial terrorism against Reconstruction-era black legislators was justified on the grounds of protecting the Union from the scourge of race-mixing and a slide into anarchy. Insofar as an Obama presidency foreshadows these primal threats to home and hearth it won’t matter that McCain backs welfare handouts for the Wall Street and multinationals and shrugs off his ignorance about how many houses he has while morphing into a populist.
By evoking this symbolism, the McCain-Palin doubletalk express taps into the deepest reservoirs of white racial angst. It has become a truism among many white left progressives that working class whites are essentially voting against their class interests when they vote conservative, but are they really? The scores of white Democrat undecided voters and the all white legions who throng to the McCain-Palin circus tent revivals prove that white class solidarity has been, and always will be, about the the defense of the homeland from the incursions of the other.
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