It's All About The 'Other': Romney's Dog-Whistle Attack Ad

If there was any lingering doubt about whether Mitt Romney intended to run a campaign that resorted to all the usual right-wing racial dog whistles -- almost fully settled, really, by the way he handled his NAACP speech and afterward, nattering

If there was any lingering doubt about whether Mitt Romney intended to run a campaign that resorted to all the usual right-wing racial dog whistles -- almost fully settled, really, by the way he handled his NAACP speech and afterward, nattering on about how you black people Obama voters just want "free stuff" -- then his most recent attack should lay any doubts to rest.

It's kind of peculiar, because it actually shows the president to some advantage: Not only can he sing pretty well, but the song he's singing is an old-fashioned soul homage to monogamy, Al Green's "Let's Stay Together." (Full disclosure: "Let's Stay Together" is "our song" for my wife and I, performed on demand by the band at our wedding in 1989. It worked!)

But that's not how the Romney people see it. Gary Silverman at Financial Times thought it was all very peculiar too, so he sniffed around a little to find out what they were thinking:

One of the better answers I have found comes from a well-known supporter of Mr Romney – Suzy Welch, former editor in chief of the Harvard Business Review, and wife of Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. In an appearance on CNN with her husband, Mrs Welch suggested that Mr Obama’s personal style and choice of musical material define him as a member of a “different America”. I would imagine this is why Mr Romney’s campaign included the snippet of Mr Obama singing “Let’s Stay Together” at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. They hoped it would convey his otherness.

“It’s the difference between the songs that they’re singing,” Mrs Welch said. “Mitt Romney didn’t exactly do a beautiful job on that song, but think about what he’s singing, OK? I mean it’s that patriotic song and he goes all the way through it. Then you’ve got the very cool Barack Obama singing Al Green. That is the two different Americas. Isn’t it?

Yeah, evidently, there are two Americas:

  • Cloistered white people who are so fearful of all things nonwhite that they find something ominous and threatening and Other-ly in an old R&B song.
  • And the rest of us.

As Paul Krugman suggests, who'd have ever thought Al Green would be viewed as a threat to the American way of life?

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