In an election in which so much is at stake, and so many crucial differences between the presidential tickets, our national conversation keeps getting stuck — and not by accident. It dawned on me this week that race and gender are the elephant (and donkey) in the room — they’re more often exploited in subtle and cynical ways than discussed honestly. You need only witness the side show about "lipstick" that Republicans are using to keep the campaign away from issues that affect Americans and our shared future.
The fake outrage about Obama’s "lipstick-on-a-pig" comment, combined with the suddenly discovered concerns about sexism from the anti-feminist right, have demonstrated once again how big a role gender plays in our politics. The same goes for race. I was listening to voters in York, Pennsylvania talking about race and politics on NPR, and was struck by hearing a couple of people suggest that the press has given Obama a free pass because he’s black. These ideas don’t come out of nowhere — they’re planted and spread via talk radio, the blogosphere and the entire right-wing media echo chamber. It’s the same poisonous and divisive race politics that drove Nixon’s "Southern strategy" and the Right’s Reagan-era mobilization of white working-class Americans with the idea of "special privileges for minorities."
Meanwhile, the Michigan Republican Party is taking voter suppression tactics honed by the GOP in recent years to a new low — recruiting volunteers to target the eligibility of African American voters whose homes are in foreclosure. These voter challenging schemes — like the voter identification requirements pushed by Republican legislators across the country — are designed to keep minority (and presumably likely Democratic) voters away from the polls. Have they no decency?
Given our recent political history, of course, it would be crazy to count on elemental decency from the strategists who are engineering voter suppression, spreading lies about Barack Obama and making charges they know to be false — and then complaining that the "liberal media" who amplify those bogus charges are somehow conspiring against them. George Orwell couldn’t keep up with this crew.
That’s where we — and you — come in. I’m not going to let the same people who opposed every advance made by the feminist movement get away with crying "sexism" any time someone examines Sarah Palin’s actual record. (Especially the ones who are wearing buttons like "The Hottest VP from the Coolest State.") We’re shining a spotlight on the utter hypocrisy of Religious Right leaders who have been trashing Sen. Obama’s faith for months but now say it’s off limits to examine Sarah Palin’s views on church-state separation.
And most importantly we are going to work hard to focus Americans attention on what is actually at stake in this election — the nation’s ability to survive four more years of Bush’s disastrous policies — or the ability of our constitutional freedoms to survive 40 years of a Supreme Court dominated by the kind of justices John McCain has promised Religious Right leaders to nominate for our highest court.
A McCain-Palin White House would put the Religious Right in the nation’s drivers’ seat in ways that would make the Bush administration look tame.
One last note — thanks to everyone who sent in pictures to go along with our “Sarah Palin doesn’t speak for me” sign-on letter. You can view a slideshow of some of the photos now here. If you want to send in your own, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. (And if you haven’t signed on to the letter yet, you can do so here.