The suddenly surging Gingrich upped his racially loaded pandering scorecard with the resurface of a handwritten first draft of a series of talks he prepared in 1993 a couple of years before his ascendancy to House Speaker for his prescription for “renewing American civilization”. Gingrich initially scrawled that while Asians, and presumably whites, understood how to build businesses and acquire wealth, Latinos were sorely lacking in wealth and business acumen and blacks were even more hopelessly ignorant of what it took to succeed in the business world. Gingrich cited no figures, studies, or research to document his blatant falsehood. But he really didn’t need to for two reasons. By the time a member of Gingrich’s staff typed up the notes and prepared the speech for delivery at the National Review Institute, the racially inflammatory digs had been scrubbed out. By the time he delivered the talks they appeared to be racially neutered and came off as just Gingrich pontificating on the his stock tout of free enterprise, personal strength and values, American resolve, and America’s alleged technological superiority.
The other reason Gingrich’s racial pandering passed under the public radar scope is that the GOP had long refined the art of racial code speak. So Gingrich simply entitled his talks “the five pillars of American civilization.” It was understood that talk of values, strength, enterprise, and technology punctuated with the caption “American civilization” was a not so subtle way of boasting of the alleged paramount role of whites in building American civilization and the alleged drain on building American civilization by Latinos, and especially blacks.
Gingrich’s “American civilization” talks were more than bigoted, historically skewed pretensions of original thought and scholarship. They were talked up and more importantly acted out in House Speaker Gingrich’s full throated attack on welfare, entitlements, and supposed runaway big government spending, all allegedly by Democrats. The dots from these themes connected directly back to the notion that blacks and Latinos were economic ignoramuses and chronic feeders at the government trough and that they had utterly failed to pull themselves up through business and entrepreneurship. The conclusion was inescapable that blacks and Latinos were dragging the government into a hopeless sinkhole of poverty and spending waste and this in turn put the free enterprise system in grave danger. Gingrich struck gold in those themes at the time. And at the height of his congressional power was able to bring government to a near screeching halt and whipsaw President Clinton into pecking even harder at reining in welfare, health care and education spending, and at times out GOPing the GOP in his talk of the Democrats taking the lead in taking the burden of government off the backs of the white middle class, and not placating minorities.
We fast forward nearly two decades and Gingrich hasn’t missed a beat. He reached back and recycled some of the old coded racially front-loaded themes with his attacks on welfare and food stamps. And despite his profuse denials that tossing these terms out had anything to do with race, he knew full well that the stereotypes are so deeply ingrained in the popular mind that the prototypical welfare and food stamp grifter is poor, black, and female that it isn’t necessary as two decades earlier to put black or Latino in front of the words. The mere mention of welfare and food stamps instantly pricks the emotional hot buttons of millions of Americans who consider these programs prime examples of the Democrats and President Obama’s government giveaway to minorities.
One could cite fact after fact that the majority of food stamp and welfare recipients are white, and that the food stamp rolls increased more under President George W. Bush than Obama. But these are facts and they seldom get in the way of stereotypes. There is absolutely no danger that the press and much of the public will tar former President Bush with the label “the food stamp president.”
There’s as yet no solid evidence that Gingrich’s presidential resurrection from what was thought to be an entombed candidacy and his even more dramatic surge to the top in the South Carolina primary and his bolt to the front in some polls in the upcoming Florida primary can be attributed to his crude play of the race card. But given the dump Obama at all cost rabid fanaticism of many ultra-conservatives, Tea Party leaders and followers, and plain, old school bigots, racial pandering can’t be discounted as a factor in the headwind apparently gaining force behind Gingrich’s presidential bid.
If that’s the case, Gingrich will keep recycling and spewing out the shop worn racial code themes as the pathway to the GOP presidential nomination. If that’s so, white supremacy would surely be on that same pathway back to the White House.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.
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