Politics

11.06.12

“Revenge”

I meant to write about this over the weekend, but Romney making a big deal out of Obama’s use of the word “revenge” the other day was pathetic.

In case you didn’t see the original clip, here it is. He was giving his stump speech. He said something about Romney. Some people started booing. He said no, no; don’t boo. Vote. Voting is the best revenge.

It’s obviously just a saying. Living well is the best revenge. More generally, action is better revenge than words, is what it means. And the word “revenge” in this adage is understood to be other-than-literal.

But a black man saying the word “revenge”! Wow! It’s only the lurid paranoia of some white people that made this controversial. And naturally Romney’s team pounced on trying to play on this paranoia, feed it, stoke it, make it seem to white voters in the final weekend that Obama’s campaign is fundamentally about revenge against them.

This hasn’t been a horribly racialized campaign, but all the same, Romney sent a few signals when he felt he could get away with them—the loaded mention of “Obamacare” at the NAACP meeting, for instance, designed to ensure (in my view) that white Fox viewers would see him being booed by black people and thus “bravely” standing up to them.

That this hasn’t descended into Jesse Helms land has nothing to do with anyone’s character on the conservative side, but only to do with the fact that they have by and large concluded that we live in a society now where the backlash against that would be greater than the frontlash for it. So that’s a very good thing indeed, and that’s the result of work liberals have done over decades to make it so.

By the way, also on the subject of race, I see a couple of conservative commenters buzzing excitedly about the expected Bradley Effect today, which would mean that polls were inflating Obama’s numbers, because a certain percentage of white poll respondents were lying to pollsters, saying they’d be willing to vote for the black man when they really were not. This would have the end effect, of course, of elevating Romney’s percentages nationally and in crucial states.

But there was no Bradley Effect in 2008. Sorry bout that.