Civil rights icon and Georgia congressman John Lewis is accusing John McCain and Sarah Palin of stoking hate, likening the atmosphere at Republican campaign events to those featuring George Wallace, the segregationist former governor of Alabama and presidential candidate. McCain's campaign has responded with a statement in the candidate's name, urging Barack Obama to repudiate Lewis's comments.
"What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history," Lewis said in a statement issued today for Politico's Arena forum. "Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse."
Lewis didn't accuse McCain of imitating Wallace, but suggested there were similarities.
"George Wallace never threw a bomb," Lewis noted. "He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama." Read more...
Racial epithets, cries of "Treason!" and "Terrorist!" and "Kill him!"--It's not like we weren't warned. Remember the Republican National Convention's mocking, mean-spirited speeches and rabid crowds? That was just the appetizer--a preview of where a McCain-led party was willing to go to get what they want. The hate-baiting and othering has been turned up to 11 as the electoral map swings to Obama and McCain claws to hang on to his last shot at presidential power by any means necessary.
Even John McCain seemed shocked at how well his campaign tactics have worked, when a woman at a recent rally proclaimed Barack Obama "an Arab" whom she could never vote for. Don't be shocked, John. Your party, via the reptilian tactics of Karl Rove and the rantings of blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, has stoked anger, fear and intolerance in the most susceptible Americans. Your party and its foot soldiers have told these people they are right in their prejudices against anything and anyone that is different. You have sold their bigotry as the mark of the true American defending an imperiled country. Open-mindedness, intellectualism, multiculturalism and global thinking (and Soddomites, coloreds, A-rabs, European socialists and heathens) are dangerous to the American way of life: Republicans have been droning that message to the base for eight years.
It is no surprise, then, that a presidential candidate who is a self-identified black man with a foreign-sounding name, a Harvard degree, a father who was raised a Muslim, relatives of Kenyan and Indonesian ancestry, time spent living abroad, an accomplished and outspoken wife, and a black liberation theology-teaching former pastor, seems like the devil incarnate. Barack Obama is everything the Republican Party has been telling its base to be afraid off. Campaign ads and Sarah Palin speeches that imply Obama isn't like us and that he "pals around with terrorists," coupled with stump introductions that invoke Obama's middle name, Hussein, like a black magic incantation-- they are matches to powder keg. And half-hearted words about respect, mumbled into the floor are not going to put out the fire.