John McCain and Racism: In a New Ad, McCain Plays the Race Card in the Way That Jesse Helms or George Wallace Might Have

In perhaps the grossest ad of the political season (see the ad at the bottom of this post), John McCain isn’t even subtle about the way he uses visual images and racial stereotypes to manipulate white racial anxiety.

The ad opens with Obama cocking his head like an incomprehending monkey—as if he is intellectually incapable of understanding the complexities of the issues before him.

Then the ad visually links Obama to a seemingly corrupt and incompetent big-grinning urban black man—and then abruptly shifts again to an image of an elderly white female who looks as if the two previously depicted black men have violated her home and stolen her life savings.

And John McCain approves this message.

As would George Wallace.

As would Jesse Helms.

This is the lowest any American politician can go—visually endorsing racial stereotypes and stoking the fires of racial fear to frighten elderly white voters to the polls.

And McCain just went there.


We need to redouble our efforts up to election day to see that this type of politicking is not rewarded.

It is worthy of George Wallace’s Alabama in the 1950s—or Jesse Helms’ South Carolina in the 1960s—not 21st century America.

And just to be clear: If you watch the ad closely, you would think that Franklin Raines, a former Clinton cabinet official (and someone who is NOT a formal Obama campaign advisor on housing policy) somehow caused the economic collapse of the housing industry and made off with millions.

But Raines is in no way connected with the collapse of Fannie Mae, and the millions that he made was as a corporate CEO of Fannie Mae up until 2004. Raines, in other words, has been unconnected to Fannie Mae in its current crisis.

The extent of his contact with the Obama campaign appears to be little more than the occasional informal phone call with Obama’s formal housing advisors.

Yet the ad falsely represents Raines as somehow being in Obama’s inner circle—and even his chief advisor—and having his ear on housing policy and the economy.

In fact, Raines denies that he has ever even advised Barack Obama.

So, obviously, he is being used in the ad for ONE reason: He is black.

Here’s the ad:

And to help us remember what it is we’re fighting for, and that America can be better than this, here’s Martin Luther King:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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4 Responses to John McCain and Racism: In a New Ad, McCain Plays the Race Card in the Way That Jesse Helms or George Wallace Might Have

  1. Actually, Obama’s been playing race himself.

    Just to criticism Obama, or to show pictures of his black allies, is to engerder cries of racism…

  2. santitafarella says:


    Franklin Raines is NOT one of obama’s “black allies.” He is NOT connected to Obama’s campaign inner circle of advisors—and he has denied even ever speaking to Obama about housing matters, or offering him formal advice.

    The link between Obama and Raines is based on a claim that raines had spoken to advisors who advise Obama on housing policy matters.

    Thus a second degree removal from the candidate is made out to give an impression that Obama has a chief advisor who is black, and corrupt.

    The inescapable conclusion is that McCain is trying to link Obama to this man because he is black—and uses the image of a downtrodden elderly white woman in the ad to evoke white fear and resentment.

    When candidates use racist code and appeals we need to call them out on it. And I will continue to do so.

    It’s not a comfortable subject to raise, and I don’t like raising it.

    But I, personally, won’t stand by at a comfy distance and watch this kind of grossness enter our public discourse, and be silent, and look the other way, and not speak my mind about it.

  3. keating5part2 says:

    All Mccain has left is to smear, lie and mock. Mccain has proven himself to be a dishonorable man through out this campaign and has probably always been this way since his academy days. I am beginning to wonder if he was equally dishonorable while he was a POW – far too many people say he was less than honorable during that time.

  4. Gary Simmons says:

    John McCain tapped little-known Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate. Palin has been governor of her state less than two years. Was this a brilliance or buffoonery? McCain’s running mate was a major distraction before the VP debate, an object of ridicule and a potential drag on the ticket because of her faltering press interviews or other mistakes. McCain plans her out to rallies to attack Senator Obama, but not answer questions to reporters for fear of more mistakes. The Republican Party celebrated a victory in VP debate; not because their candidate won, but because she didn’t foul up?
    American already knew that Palin lacked experience in the economy, foreign policy and defense matters, but assumed she would be a quick study. Does America need an attractive folksy student (who’s surrounded by Bush’s people) or someone who can step in right away?
    During her fall 2006 campaign for governor, Palin appeared to embrace the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere,” even after Alaska had been held up for ridicule by McCain and others for what was seen as a wasteful boondoggle, a $233 million bridge that would replace ferry service connecting Gravina Island and its Ketchikan airport to mainland Ketchikan. A year later, as criticism of earmarks mounted, Palin began to speak out against earmarks. Though she took the federal money to fund Alaska earmarks, she diverted the money for the Ketchikan bridge to other projects.
    Gov. Sarah Palin may have abused her power in seeking to have then-public safety manager Walt Monegan fire her brother-in-law. The Legislature’s investigator, retired state prosecutor Steve Branchflower, is expected to complete his report by Friday into whether Gov. Sarah Palin abused her power by trying to force the firing of a state trooper involved in a child custody battle with her sister. Palin fired Monegan a year after she, her husband and key advisers began questioning him about getting rid of the state trooper. Sarah Palin originally agreed to cooperate with the Legislature’s investigation. But after she joined the GOP ticket, she said the probe had become tainted by politics and filed a complaint against herself with the personnel board, which she says has the proper authority to investigate ethics allegations against the governor. Todd Palin is still resisting the legislative subpoena, agreeing instead to an interview by the personnel board investigator. The personnel board is under control of the Executive branch. The governor has the power to fire any member of the three-member panel for cause.
    Alaska’s proclaimed anti-corruption crusader, Governor Palin’s relationship with the state’s senior senator Ted Stevens may be under question. Stevens was indicted in July 2008 on seven counts of corruption. Palin’s name is listed on 2003 incorporation papers of the “Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service, Inc.,” a 527 group that could raise unlimited funds from corporate donors. There is no record in IRS filings as to how much the group eventually raised. Palin held a joint news conference with him in July, before he was indicted, to make clear she had not abandoned him politically. Stevens had been helpful to Palin during her run for governor. They filmed a campaign commercial during the 2006 race. The ad was removed from Palin’s gubernatorial campaign web site once she was announced as Mccain’s running mate. Earlier this year, Palin sent to Stevens, a proposal for 31 earmarks totaling $197 million. This is more, per person, than any other state.
    “Gov. Palin has made a career of holding herself to the highest standards of ethics, but she accepted contributions from two Alaska politicians implicated in a federal corruption probe. As soon as the governor learned of the donations today, she immediately decided to donate them to charity,” campaign spokesman Taylor Griffin said. Palin took aim at gift-giving to state officials as part of her ethics agenda but has kept more than $25,000 in gifts in the 20 months she has been governor, The Washington Post reported. A review of state records shows that gifts came from industry executives, municipalities and a cultural center whose board includes officials from some of the largest mining interests in Alaska, according to the newspaper. The Post reported that the 41 gifts Palin accepted included artwork, free travel, a gold-nugget pin valued at $1,200, a $2,200 ivory puffin mask, a woven grass fan worth $300 and a $150 ivory necklace
    Palin’s alleged attitudes towards African Americans due to a recent disclosure that she made racially insensitive statements of her intention to not hire any blacks during her gubernatorial administration. In an illuminating post dated September 12, 2008 on the internet blog Electronic Village, the writer comments on Gov. Palin snub of Alaskan African American citizens who invited her to the annual Juneteenth celebration, an event which all past Alaskan governors had attended.
    Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a “task that is from God.” In an address last June, the Republican vice presidential candidate also urged ministry students to pray for a plan to build a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state, calling it “God’s will.” In addition, in so many words Palin suggested that the US would go to war with Russia over Georgia or the Ukraine (that could be a nuclear war). One can see that Palin knows all about God, the devil and hell. At a rally in California, she stated, “There’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t support other women,”
    Guilt by association will not allow Palin to point the finger at Senator Obama with regards to Ayers and Wright, because she has skeletons in her own closet (Steven and Monegan). Has McCain camp forgotten about the Keating Five, Rick Renzi, Walter Reed Army Medical Center controversy and “NO to MLK Holiday.” Let us not forget, that John McCain was punished for his actions by Congress, Ayers was never found guilty of anything.
    Senator McCain ot of touch with America. He told reporters in Michigan how much he loved American cars, but it was discovered that he owns a Volkswagen, a Lexus, a Honda and a Toyota. He owns 14 homes and 13 cars. McCain is not up for the job as the President of the United States. He makes a fine senator and should stay there in the senate. Even as a senator, he had to defend himself from “asleep in Congress claims.”
    Whether he is at home or abroad, at times McCain can appear to be short on details. In some instances, he has made misstatements or eyebrow-raising comments during the long days of campaigning in front of cameras and microphones.
    McCain and Palin can only win the election, if McCarthy, uh, McCain can convince America to continue the war in Iraq or start a new one somewhere in the world. If John McCain would wear a bracelet for every man or woman killed in Iraq because of his and Bush war; he would have to wear some on his ankles. Politico highlights the bigger problem: “Some of McCain’s most visible and engaged advisers have advanced positions that appear to conflict with the Arizona senator’s stances on hot-button topics ranging from climate change and oil drilling to tax cuts, contraception and education.”
    As we near November 4th, Sen. John McCain’s campaign is adopting the aggressive dirty tactics. Where will the dirty tactics end? Will McCain bring up that Michelle Obama said, “For the first time in her life she is proud to be American? No, McCain cannot go there because his wife is an ex drug addict. Palin’s husband was arrest for a DUI, and she had a 17 year old unmarried pregnant daughter. Where will the stupidity end? Perhaps, the McCain campaign forgot that they should not throw stones in a glass house.
    Honestly ask yourself this question. All the four candidates; which one is not up for the task on day one? It is as if McCain gave no thought to his vice presidential selection. McCain has done many things in his campaign on impulse as if he was a young maverick sowing his political oats. Whether it was suspending his campaign and fly to Washington to save the failing economy single-handedly, or admit to not be sound on the economy, but his worse blunder was choosing Palin. We should not a man with quick reactions and bad judgment run our country. If you need an example, look where we are today in our country. (Job loss, home loss, investment loss and an economy in danger) If you are satisfied with the economy today, Vote McCain-Palin! If you are not satisfied with the economy today, say no to BUSH 44. Vote Obama-Biden 2008.

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