Ishmael Reed
Ishmael Reed’s latest book is “Going Too Far: Essays About America’s Nervous Breakdown,” published by Baraka Books.
(Photo: Tennessee Reed)

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REASON 31: Because the Republican Party is pre-Galilean.

We have to re-elect President Obama because the country can’t be turned over to people who are anti-Science, anti-Intellectual, and who deny facts and evidence.

Though flawed, severely, Thomas Jefferson represents one tradition, and another European founding father, Cotton Mather, represents another. President Obama continues to embrace the Enlightenment championed by Jefferson, while the Republican Party includes the Matherites, people who play to fear and stigmatize difference. In Mather’s day it was women and Native Americans. Today it’s Muslims, Mexicans, and the oldie but goodies, blacks.

The reason that the Republican Party is bereft of ideas is because millions of whites have permitted them to coast along by using appeals to race, The Southern Strategy, which began—as I point out in my July Playboy article—with President Eisenhower, not Nixon. The Southern Strategy is being used against the president, and some of the ads opposing him, which show the vulnerability of whites under black rule and which Willie-Horton the Welfare issue, come as no surprise since Larry McCarthy, the originator of the Willie Horton ad, works for a Romney Super Pac. Willie Horton was part of an early black bogeyman project that was meant to scare whites with the image of the black rapist, who might go from door to door, as one ad warned. This ad helped to elect George Bush, Sr.

President Obama has also faced opposition from the racist diehards and Holocaust deniers who fill the ranks of the Tea Party, a media creation formed by Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch, whose New York Post depicted the president as a murdered chimp, and who fired Susan Guzman when she protested. Fox News is not the only network which is working full time to defeat the president, but CNN actually made an alliance with the Tea Party Express, which is headed by a man who believes that the president is a Muslim.

The president has deflected this ugly opposition—the vile posters, armed men showing up at his rallies, his being associated with food stamps, his wife and daughters described as prostitutes, a federal judge joking about his mother having sex with a dog—with an admirably cool, even self-deprecating manner. When the Republican Party thought it funny to use valuable convention time to show an actor talking to a chair, a scene that was sad, insulting of the presidential office and even a little depraved, the president said that he admired the actor. His black critics—who have zero support among blacks but get a lot of time on cable—demand the impossible of a president who can’t act like Eldridge Cleaver and be president of the United States.

He’s more like Jackie Robinson and Booker T. Washington than Malcolm X. He is a pragmatist who looks to the future while the Republican Party is tied to an America that never was. Their critics accuse them of wanting to return the country to the 1950s. This is an insult to the 1950s, when New York became the arts capital of the world, where experiments taking place in Thelonius Monk’s house became a new Jazz and a Golden Age of American writing occurred as a result of an enlightened WPA program that subsidized literature and theater, only to be ended by the same Republican obstinacy that the president confronts. As president, Romney wants to end The National Endowment for the Arts. Revealing.

I’d say that today’s Republican Party is pre-Galilean. It is offering a Presidential candidate Mitt Romney who joked about Global Warming three days after a report was released saying that “sea ice now covers less than 30 percent of the [Arctic] Ocean’s surface.” Like their Confederate antecedents, they believe that a woman’s reproductive equipment is their personal property. Like their real founding father, Cotton Mather, they see threats everywhere and promise more wars that rich men will again be able to avoid.

Even if they win by voter caging and outspending the president, they are wedded like the old South to a lost cause, while the president wins even if he loses.

Ishmael Reed
 Oakland, California

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