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John McCain Talks Black?
Posted on July 31st, 2008 by Garlin II -

Cliff Schecter is the author of The Real McCain: Why Conservatives Don't Trust Him, Why Independents Shouldn't, which was released this past May. The book is an insightful look into the political psyche of the Republican Presidential candidate.

I asked Cliff to talk with me about John McCain's record on issues of relevance to Black voters. With all of the talk in the news over the past couple of days about race in this election, his answers are interesting to say the least.

The Interview

Garlin Gilchrist II: In your view, what's been the most instructive example of John McCain's ideology to civil rights?

Cliff Schecter: First Garlin, thanks so much for providing these questions. And now onto business.

When it comes to Civil Rights, it's an easy one. While he has hired a white supremacist to work on his campaign, employed the man who created the racist ads against Harold Ford Jr. in 2006 and voted against MLK day, the one that sticks out is the Confederate Flag. And here is why: McCain has even admitted himself that he threw African Americans under the bus for political reasons in South Carolina in 2000. McCain blatantly changed his position on the Confederate Flag when he thought it would help get him votes-to appear more racist.

In January 2000, McCain said that "The Confederate flag is offensive in many, many ways, as we all know. It's a symbol of racism and slavery." Yet, three days later, after talking to consultants and deciding that winning was more important than civil rights, he changed his tune to "personally, I see the flag as a symbol of heritage." When the campaign was over, he admitted that if he had "answered honestly" he feared that he "could not win the South Carolina primary." So winning is what mattered. Not as important an issue in this country as the ongoing inequality and racism that African Americans are forced to endure.

GGII: What was McCain's explanation for not supporting the MLK holiday? Why does McCain voting against the MLK Holiday matter?

CS: I'll be damned if I know. He changes it all the time. Sometimes it is that he hadn't been exposed to "this issue." (I guess one needs to be beaten for trying to eat at a lunch counter to decide to enforce the Constitution). Other times it was about "state's rights,' that old song and dance that was used to justify slavery and Jim Crow.

One must remember that McCain not only opposed the federal holiday in 1983, but in 1987 supported Arizona Republican Governor Evan Mecham's decision to use an executive order to rescind the state MLK day passed by Democratic Governor Bruce Babbitt. In 1994, he supported stripping federal funds from the MLK Day Commission. So there is a pattern here.

GGII: McCain often praises the judicial ideology of Justice Scalia, which is an implicit endorsement of Clarence Thomas as well. This speaks to his thoughts on how the Supreme Court should be made up and be operated, and it's alarming for women and minorities.

CS: He has said that he would want to put justices on the court like Justice Alito. Which means say goodbye to federal enforcement of voting rights, civil rights and other equal rights measures that protect women and minorities. They'll want it to all go back to the states, which we discussed above. Another Alito on the Court is a truly scary proposition, and McCain is all for it.

GGII: Black folks and other minorities have been misled before by deliberate Republican Fundamentalist Christian appeals to them in the past, including in 2004. Since McCain doesn't have the solid support of this constituency, how has he attempted to court Black voters in the past? How will he try to court the Black vote in this election?

CS: He has courted black voters in the past by doing what he does on women's issues, environmental issues and many others, by sounding more moderate than he is. Much like President Bush, he'll show up for a few photo ops, and then gut Head Start or oppose affirmative action (and mislabel it quotas-also like Bush).

The difference is that McCain may not show up to churches as much, but he'll still go to schools, take pictures with African-American members of the military, etc., so show he "cares." In the end, especially since he is facing Barack Obama, you can expect him to receive a historically low African American share of the vote.

TS: What are McCain's past stances on US/UN Humanitarian efforts on the African continent? Darfur? Apartheid?

CS: McCain voted against any attempt to bring about an end to Apartheid at least 6 times by my count. In the mid-80s he voted against prohibiting U.S. exports to South Africa, against other sanctions measures directly against the South African state and additionally opposed efforts to punish corporations doing business there.

On Darfur he has written a number of op-eds with other senators, arguing for the U.S. to provide peacekeeping forces, logistical and financial support to efforts by the U.N. and for pushing the U.N. to act. But the truth is that what he has unleashed in Iraq has hindered any effort to improve the situation. We don't have the troops or the money because of that, and we certainly lack support from the rest of the world.

China buys oil there, but I have yet to see McCain think about pulling back on our trade with China in an effort to exert pressure (or any other economic pressure for that matter-now I may have missed something, but I have not seen it).

I think, like on many other issues, on Darfur McCain will talk big, but when it comes time to act, he is nowhere to be found.

This is just part of Cliff's exhaustive analysis of McCain and his record on just about everything. I'd encourage you to check out the book.

Race in the Race

I think that race is important in this race. I applauded Obama for confronting race headon a few months ago. I wished he would have done so earlier to preempt racist smears that have come against him.

I won't people to be clear on who McCain is and what a McCain Presidency would look like for the country as a whole, and for Black people in this country specifically. Covertly, and in some cases, overtly prejudiced practices and policies are no good to anyone, and their existence is proof-positive of the myth of the post-racial society. This election has the opportunity to create chances to have even more candid dialogues on race than we've ever had. During those conversations, we will see that John McCain is definitely not the answer, and we will also find opportunities to make solid and observable progress towards achieving true equality.

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