Nine most racist moments of the 2012 election

The "47 percent" is only the tip of the iceberg -- and the election is still weeks away

Published October 16, 2012 1:26PM (EDT)

Tucker Carlson                    (Wikipedia)
Tucker Carlson (Wikipedia)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet The son of a Wisconsin candidate for Senate turned heads over the weekend when he indulged in a favorite Republican pastime: appealing to racism to get out the vote. But that moment was only the latest in a campaign chock full of race-bating  appeals and utterances the Republican Party has been using to try to defeat Democrats.

The subtle appeals to racism, reminiscent of President Nixon's "Southern Strategy," help pave the way for the more outrageous forms of blatant racism.

From the coded appeals to the blatant manifestations, here are 9 racist things that have happened during the 2012 election campaign.

1. Wisconsin Senate Candidate's Son: We Can Send Obama ‘Back to Kenya’

The website Buzzfeed reports that yesterday morning, Jason Thompson told a crowd of supporters at a brunch that “we have the opportunity to send President Obama back to Chicago — or Kenya.” Thompson is the son of former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson, who is now running for Senate. In attendance at the brunch was Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

After Thompson said the Kenya remark, a woman in the audience shouted out, “we are taking donations for that Kenya trip.” A tenet of so-called birtherism is the belief that Obama was born in Kenya instead of the U.S.

2. Right-Wing Media Air ‘07 Tape of Obama

After the infamous “47 percent” remarks Romney made, the right attempted to fire back with their own “secret” video of President Obama. It failed miserably and helped reveal the right-wing media’s racist playbook.

On October 2, conservative pundit Tucker Carlson released what his website, The Daily Caller, called a “racially charged and at times angry speech.” It was Obama speaking in 2007 about the failure of the federal government to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and he also praised his former preacher Jeremiah Wright.

Carlson attacked Obama for “using an accent he almost never adopts in public” and for participating in a rally “closer to an Al Sharpton rally than a conventional campaign event.”

The race-baiting stayed constant when Carlson appeared on Sean Hannity’s show.

The problem was that the speech was already reported on in 2007--and the media didn’t seem to make much of it.

3. Newt Gingrich on Obama: ‘The Food Stamp President’

Back when Gingrich still thought he had a shot at becoming the GOP’s standard-bearer, he tried tapping into white racial anxiety and ginning up racist lies. Perhaps the biggest one was when he claimed that Obama was “the best food-stamp president in American history.”

Gingrich was referring to the fact that food stamp use has increased in the midst of a devastating economic recession. But Gingrich was playing on the racial stereotype that blacks are dependent on government aid--a stereotype that is dead wrong, given the fact that “about 34 percent of food-stamp recipients are white,” as Bloomberg News reported at the time.

4. Racist Slogans on Stickers

In March 2012, the Christian Science Monitor reported that racism “appears to be rearing its head higher than in the 2008 election campaign.”

One example they point to is the popularity of racist stickers. The news outlet reports on a viral video showed “a car sporting a bumper sticker that says ‘Don't Re-N-- in 2012’ (fill in the blanks with half of the word that many African-Americans consider to be perhaps more inflammatory than any other). Some question whether the video depicts a real or a photo-shopped car and slogan, but the fact remains that the bumper sticker is the No. 1 best-seller at, where it sells for $3.”

5. Voter Suppression Efforts

Across the country, the GOP has been pursuing a crusade against the non-existent problem of voter fraud. The GOP has instituted various forms of voter suppression aimed at preventing Democratic-leaning blocs from voting. People of color are especially hurt by laws looking to restrict voting.

Last month, Think Progress reported that “a new study by the Advancement Project estimates that voter purges and ID requirements being enacted in over 20 states could disenfranchise at least 10 million Hispanic citizens.”

The Brennan Center for Justice further notes the racial problems with voter identification laws. “The impact of ID requirements is even greater for the elderly, students, people with disabilities, low-income individuals, and people of color,” the center notes. “African Americans have driver’s licenses at half the rate of whites, and the disparity increases among younger voters; only 22% of black men aged 18-24 had a valid driver’s license. Not only are minority voters less likely to possess photo ID, but they are also more likely than white voters to be selectively asked for ID at the polls.”

6. Lynching Empty Chairs

In September, incidents of mock lynchings of President Obama emerged in the news media. As NBC News reported at the time:

At least two recent incidents in which empty chairs were hung from trees by rope have critics decrying what they say are racially offensive displays meant to symbolize the “lynching” of President Barack Obama.

In Austin, Texas, a homeowner hung an empty folding chair from a tree branch in front of his house and later attached an American flag to it. He reportedly told a Democratic political blogger who said she had concerns, “You can take it and go straight to hell and take Obama with you.”

In Centreville, Va., an empty chair with a sign reading “Nobama” was strung from a tree in or near a park. “In short, this appears to be a crude metaphor for the lynching of President Obama,” wrote the blogger who posted the photo.

The image of an empty chair has been associated with Obama ever since Clint Eastwood’s headline-grabbing, non-conformist speech at the Republican National Convention three weeks ago in Tampa, Fla.

7. Romney’s Welfare Lie

Mitt Romney has been touring the country and spouting this totally false talking point: that President Obama has gutted the work requirement required by President Clinton’s welfare reform.

AlterNet’s Joshua Holland called the talking point “the big, racist lie at the center of the Romney-Ryan campaign.” Holland explains that Romney has been running “these ads to white voters that, ‘you paid for that,’ with lots of images of black people getting welfare benefits and what not. It’s not subtle at all.”

He also interviewed The Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore on the welfare claim, who noted that the claim was totally false.

8. Shirt at Romney Rally: 'Put the White Back in the White House'

Buzzfeed spotted a white man wearing that shirt with a Romney/Ryan sticker tacked on at the top of the shirt for good measure. The Romney campaign reacted by saying that the t-shirt was "reprehensible and has no place in this election."

9. Throwing Nuts at Black Camerwoman

The Republican Party’s convention in Florida was supposed to inform the public about who Mitt Romney is. While the convention attempted to do that, it also revealed the GOP’s racism.

The most blatant example of this occurred to a black CNN camerawoman. At the convention, attendees started throwing nuts at her and said, “this is how we feed the animals.”

By Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a staff reporter at Mondoweiss and the World editor at AlterNet. His work has also appeared in The Daily Beast, the Electronic Intifada, Extra! and Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2012 Elections Alternet Kenya Newt Gingrich Sean Hannity The 47 Percent Tucker Carlson Voter Suppression