I can hear several people, including friends of mine, asserting that McCain and Palin are not being racist, they're just playing hardball. Which may indeed be the case, insofar as explicit racism -- they may not think Obama is inferior because of his race, but they are exploiting the very race/class lines that come from those assumptions. Kai Wright:
""It's as if the usual rules don't apply," he huffed in complaint about Obama's refusal to respond to smears masquerading as questions. "What does he plan for America? In short, who is the real Barack Obama?!"To really fully support such things requires a deeper exegesis than we have time for here. But I think the Southern Strategy that Daktari and I have been discussing is more alive and well than we suspected. I don't think it's such a conscious thing these days, but riling up an audience along the same lines as have been used for decades (and so aptly demonstrated in a key scene in To Kill a Mockingbird) can play into old, half-recognized prejudices and group-think that doesn't represent the feelings of the individual, but a less-rational, more hateful crowd-mind. We are very, very far from literal lynch mobs -- but the fact that McCain-Palin are playing on the same crowd dynamics that made such things acceptable for so long is nonetheless disturbing, whether they do it knowingly or not.
The crowd was ready with an answer. "A terrorist!" is the cry several observers heard from at least one McCain fan. Similar slurs flew at McCain camp rallies all week. Someone at a Sarah Palin event in Florida hollered "kill him!" when she repeated her now-infamous smear about Obama "palling around with terrorists." (It's unclear whether the supporter meant Obama or '60s-radical-turned-academic Bill Ayers, the terrorist pal in question.) The crowd eventually turned on the press galley covering the speech, shouting threats and taunts. A black camera crew member was told, "Sit down, boy."
By yesterday, Team McCain had cooled things down a bit. They at least kept the race baiting out of McCain and Palin's mouths—even if they still haven't stopped others on the platform from conspicuously repeating "Barack Hussein Obama." But the crowd's reactions this week lay bare the coded language McCain and Palin have deliberately used. The message from the McCain camp was clear: This Obama guy is different than you in "essential" ways. He represents people who aren't like you. Don't trust him. He is other."