In my first ever post for MSNBC's new Lean Forward web site, I tackled America's favorite crazy grandpa, Mad Dawg Joe Biden, as he tossed some red meat to a mostly black crowd in Virginia this week. Papa Joe suggested that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wants to put folks "back in chains" with his fiscal policies. This means it's time for the over-the-top "playing the race (war) card" accusations (and counter-accusations) to begin!
Yet somehow, it all seems so familiar.
Here's a snippet:
Democrats who openly embrace similar code speak when talking to a friendly audience often endure a great deal of Republican caterwauling to the political referees (aka “the media”). This latest complaining is just another excuse for the GOP to repeat its own code words and continue to push the idea that Obama has some issue with white people – despite being half-white himself and raised by his white grandparents.
In modern politics, Democrats are punished more for pandering to their base in coded speech than the GOP, because there is this notion (which some Democrats encourage) that progressives, liberals, and others on the left are supposed to be “above” the name-calling of the right wing and should fight all their battles with their cheeks promptly turned the other way. This is a folly.
Code speak is as old as both political parties and politics itself. And give or take a hundred years or so, Democrats were the low-blow haymakers and the GOP were the stiff, old-money isolationists trying to act “above” the Dems political barbarism. The only thing that changed was the most stalwart Southern based low-blowers of the Democratic Party switched to the GOP after the party started to embrace a more inclusive, civil rights platform.
But just because you switch teams doesn’t mean you switch strategies. Lee Atwater knew what he was doing.