John McCain’s condescending reference to Barack Obama in the second debate as "that one" represents more than just a minor gaffe, or an insensitivity on the part of the Republican candidate. The comment, originally made in reference to Obama’s voting record in the Senate, is actually representative of a larger, disturbing trend in Republican politics today. The party has grown increasingly more conservative in recent decades, to the point today where its authoritarian undertones are barely concealed. McCain’s dehumanization of Obama in the debates is the most poignant, although far from the only example of this trend. Apparently, John McCain sees the Democratic presidential candidate as not worth addressing by name. While McCain downgraded Obama’s status to the subhuman "other" in the second debate, he refused to even acknowledge Obama’s presence in their first meeting. This should strike viewers as quite disturbing, considering that the whole point of a debate is for each candidate to directly engage the other’s issues and stances.
Increasingly, right-wing conservatives and Republican political leaders are issuing dire warnings to the American public that they – and only they – are the legitimate rulers of the
– On the culture war front, Republicans and conservatives have been unrelenting in their religious fanaticism and racism. Residents of
– Right-wing pundits, echoed by major conservative political leaders, have warned that a victory for Barack Obama will be a victory for Islam, radical terrorism, and anti-Americanism. Right-wing radio pundits such as Michael Medved warn that a vote for the Democratic Party is essentially a vote for Osama bin Laden. McCain and others repeat the claim that withdrawal from
– Conservative legal officials have essentially declared war on the Democratic Party, not for violating the law, but due to their own ideological prejudices. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was recently exposed for allowing politically motivated prosecutions against prominent Democratic political officials. One statistical study from the
None of these right-wing hit jobs or smear tactics should strike voters as merely "more of the same" negative politicking in an election season. On major issues, Barack Obama has bent over backwards in his emphasis on the importance of bi-partisanship, cooperation between Democrats and Republicans, and the need for an end to negative campaigning. Obama and Biden, while making many critical statements of John McCain and Sarah Palin, have generally remained respectful and even tried to draw some comparisons between themselves and their Republican competitors. They’ve spoken of their deep respect and affinity for John McCain as a military man, and even voiced their support for the Republican’s "surge" as succeeding in decreasing violence in
The Democrats’ attempt to appeal across party lines has clearly not been the preferred tactic of the Republican Party. Angry over their likely loss of power in the upcoming election, they have become increasingly desperate in their attacks on the Democrats and the legitimacy of the two party state. This is particularly disturbing at a time when it is becoming harder and harder to discern concrete or substantive differences in the economic policies of the two parties. In reality, Obama and Biden’s vague references to "regulation" don’t amount to a whole lot when they fail to follow them up with actual policy proposals. That these Democrats are demonized by Republicans as sub-human, dangerous, or terrorist is more a sign of the growing extremism of conservatives than of the moral weakness or treachery of the Democrats. The Democratic Party today may be morally bankrupt, spineless, and bland, but none of those are anywhere near as dangerous as the Republican Party’s fundamentalist contempt for multi-party elections and bi-partisan politics.
Anthony DiMaggio teaches Politics of the Developing World and American Government at