Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Harold Meyerson assures us that, when Republicans refer to "America," they're really making a bigoted statement. So when John McCain says that he's running to be President of the United States of America, you know that he's really attacking the cultural other. Meyerson outlines two "America"'s (e.a.):

Now, I mean to take nothing away from McCain's Americanness by noting that it's Obama's story that represents a triumph of specifically American identity over racial and religious identity. It was the lure of America, the shining city on a hill, that brought his black Kenyan father here, where he met Obama's white Kansan mother. It is because America is uniquely the land of immigrants and has moved beyond a racial caste system that Obama exists, has thrived and stands a good chance of being our next president.

That's not the America, though, that the Republicans refer to in proclaiming their own Americanness. For them, "American" is a term to be used as a wedge issue, a way to distinguish their more racially and religiously homogeneous party from the historically more polyglot Democrats.
(Never mind the fact that the new Republican governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, is himself the son of immigrants...)

Meyerson also claims that this bigoted appeal is the Republicans' only hope in the fall (since he believes that the voters don't agree and could never agree with Republicans/John McCain on any issue). Notice the neat little narrative sketched by this move: a potential loss by Obama in November would be the triumph of American bigotry! Thus, Obama's electoral victory and the success of American (if I can use the word "American") anti-racism are--conveniently for Meyerson and other Obama supporters--intertwined.

There's another alternative: Republicans could try to persuade Americans about the wisdom of their positions on certain issues. And the American people could even agree with them and vote for Republicans because of this agreement! But Meyerson, it seems, wants to discount the possibility of that debate.