There’s been lots of talk in the news about the McCain campaign’s recent attacks against Obama, but I’ve seen almost nothing about the racially charged mail campaign that the Republican Governors Association is waging against Bev Perdue for North Carolina’s gubernatorial race.
About two weeks ago, I received a mail flier from the RGA that declares “Bev Perdue is Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Illegal Immigrants.” The ad shows a group of three tan-skinned men, one wearing an undershirt drenched with back sweat, superimposed on a red carpet and walking toward a “Welcome to North Carolina” sign. The inside of the pamphlet reveals the original photograph: The trio is cropped from a group of men and boys walking down a dirt road, presumably somewhere in Latin America. The inside goes on to blast Perdue for some of her pro-immigrant reform policies.
The negative portrayal of Latinos encourages people to vote with their prejudices—vote for Pat McCrory, it seems to say, if you don’t like these people. Of course, the ad includes a disclaimer stating: “not authorized by a candidate.”
I’m reminded of another racially charged ad campaign in North Carolina. In the 1950 Senate race, Willis Smith defeated the liberal incumbent, Frank Porter Graham, in a campaign that played on fears of integration and communism. A week before the primary run-off, the campaign distributed fliers that proclaimed, “White People Wake Up! Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife and daughters in your mills and factories?”
Scapegoating is always evil. Unfortunately, it’s also extremely effective in politics.
— Ben Smith