The Romney-Ryan “white skin strategy”

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An integral part of the Romney-Ryan election strategy is to exploit the racial misconceptions of white workers. The Republican objective is to move white workers from the Democratic to the Republican voting column on November 6.

Republican strategists, after doing the math, concluded that they have to do better than John McCain did four years ago among white workers if they stand a chance of winning in November.

Thus, interwoven to one degree or another into everything they say and do will be coded and not-so-coded racist messages.

We will hear that the president is not up to the intellectual task of leading the country in these difficult times. He has tried over the past four years, but he failed miserably and is “out of his league.” It’s time for a smart businessman who just happens to be “white” to step in and set the economy straight.

Romney, Ryan and their mouthpieces will also suggest that non-white Americans, thanks to the president, live off unearned handouts, checks signed by Uncle Sam and paid for by hard working “white American” taxpayers.

There have already been hints that the Obama administration is soft on welfare recipients (read: non-whites – even though the majority of welfare recipients are white), and there will be more such hints. In a similar vein, there will be suggestions that Obama is funneling an inexhaustible money line to unemployed workers (read: workers of color – even though, again, the majority are white) who, it is claimed by Republicans, could find work if they only tried.

We can also expect to hear from Republicans that “other” people are overrunning the country and trashing our traditional, that is, “white Anglo Saxon,” culture, thanks to the green light from the White House.

The right wing and its amplifiers in the media will argue too that President Obama prefers an “entitlement” society over an “opportunity” society.

They won’t necessarily mention people of color and immigrants, or “white” people for that matter (right-wing Republicans are usually more clever than that). But there is little question in the minds of most people who Romney, Ryan, and the Republicans are talking about in these contexts.  

Will the Republican Party be successful in using these racist myths to confuse white workers about who their friends and foes are, and thereby push them into the Romney-Ryan camp? It is still an open question.

My opinion is that they won’t be successful to the degree that they hope, but only if the labor and people’s movements aggressively reach out to white workers to show them that they have no skin in the Republicans’ “white skin strategy” game.

After all, if successful, that game, by bringing Romney, Ryan, and the Republicans to power, would set the stage for a class-wide, racist, anti-democratic attack the likes of which the working class and people never seen. It will make Reagan’s firing of the PATCO air traffic controllers seem like child’s play.

Under unrelenting assault will be every political, economic, and social gain – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment benefits, worker rights, affirmative action, reproductive rights, and more – won over the past century by working people and their allies.

The clock will be turned back to the 19th century when workers, people of color, and women had no rights that capital had to respect.

No section of the working class, including white workers, will receive an exemption. Those applying will be told “Exemption Denied.”

And jobs will be scarcer than ever. Indeed a new downturn is likely if Romney enters the White House, while corporate profits and the wealth of the 1 percent will soar!

Thus, buying into the racist myths and “voting white” comes at a high price for working people – too high. It may seem for some like the right thing to do, but nothing could be further from the truth.

A better future for white workers and their families lies in their recognition that they share common class and democratic values with workers and people of color.

It lies not in division along the color line, but in unity across the color line.

It lies in a common struggle of workers of all races and ethnicities to defeat Romney and his far-right corporate backers in November.

No, it won’t resolve the capitalist economic crisis that is punishing every section of the working class. But it is also true that there is no way out of this terrible economic situation unless the multi-racial working class first stands united at the ballot box against Romney and the Republican right, while keeping its eye on what’s at stake for working America. Indeed, no struggle is more important between now and November 6.

Photo: These workers – black, white, women – have the same interests at stake in November. Caterpillar strike picket line, near Joliet, Ill., Aug. 1, 2012. John Bachtell/PW


Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a long-time writer living in New York. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.