By MARC McDONALD
Like his hero, Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich has become a master of using subtle racist messaging techniques to rally support on the campaign trail.
And like Rush Limbaugh, Gingrich has learned to skillfully dance around the "N" word and other racist language, without actually using overt racist language. At the same time, Gingrich uses race-baiting language that would warm the heart of any KKK member. Recall when Gingrich made his bizarre claim that President Obama has a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview?
But nowhere is this racist appeal more potent than when Republicans imply that the government is "taking hard-working white people's money and handing it out to lazy black people." Like attacks on affirmative action, this is a proven technique that rallies deluded white working-class voters to the party of billionaires in election after election.
Of course, Reagan was hardly the first racist Republican politician. But he was the first to realize that using racism to appeal to bigoted white voters works best if it is subtle.
In 1976, Reagan gave a presidential campaign speech in which he attacked a "welfare queen" from Chicago's South Side. Reagan never explicitly said that this "welfare queen" was black. But then, again, he didn't need to. His speech skillfully got that message across to white voters.
And it proved to be a powerful message. Many Republican voters continue to believe to this day the twisted fantasy that there are millions of lazy blacks who live all their lives off welfare. (Never mind the fact that nobody lives off welfare indefinitely, thanks to Bill Clinton's 1996 "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act," which gutted the welfare system).
Of course, tens of millions of Republican voters don't grasp this reality, any more than they grasp the reality of Global Warming or evolution.
Like Reagan, Gingrich has learned that there is no better way to rally "Conservative" white voters than subtle race-baiting propaganda techniques. He has begun attacking Obama as "the food stamp president."
True, Gingrich didn't specify that the food stamp recipients were black. But he didn't need to, any more than Reagan needed to when, in 1976, he talked about a "strapping young buck" using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks at the grocery store.
Of course, like Limbaugh, Gingrich vehemently denies that he is a racist. And indeed, his despicable racist techniques do raise a question: just what does it mean to be called a "racist" in 21st century America? As far as I can tell, you're not really considered a racist unless you're stupid enough to use the "N" word near a tape recorder.
And even then, it's debatable as to whether that would really hurt your career these days. Mel Gibson, for example, continues to make movies and earn multi-million-dollar paychecks. And former L.A. cop Mark Fuhrman has enjoyed a nice lucrative career, between writing books and hosting radio programs.
In today's America, if one dons a white hood and joins the KKK, they're considered racist.
And yet the subtle racist techniques employed by the likes of Gingrich, Reagan and Limbaugh are actually just as contemptible as anything that goes on at a Klan rally. In fact, I give the KKK credit for one thing: they're at least upfront and honest about their racism. The likes of Gingrich and Limbaugh are nothing more than race-baiting cowards.