Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to face harsh criticism, at home and abroad, for remarks he made on Election Day warning that Arabs were being bused to the polls and voting in large numbers, threatening the future of the right-wing government. Netanyahu has since apologized to the Arab community. From a purely political perspective, however, the only thing that matters is that he won. That raises the question: what if Republicans had done something similar in 2008 and 2012?
What if, for example, Sen. John McCain had faced the American people squarely and said:
My fellow Americans, there are efforts underway by ACORN and other far-left groups to bus minority voters to the polls to elect Barack Obama, who attended a radical, racist church for 20 years where Jeremiah Wright preached America deserved 9/11. If elected, Obama promises to transform America into something the Founders never intended it to be. You need to go to the polls and save your country.
Certainly that would have provoked a backlash, and charges of racism. However, all of it would have been true, and it might have made a difference.
McCain did mention Bill Ayers eventually, but avoided any mention of Jeremiah Wright–which was the one topic that Democrats feared would make Obama vulnerable, the reason JournoList talked about smearing conservative reporters as racists, the subject for which David Axelrod had prepared a special campaign of disinformation that he never had to use.
It is not as if avoiding the topic of Jeremiah Wright spared McCain and Republicans from accusations of racism, in any case. In the years since Obama was elected on empty promises to heal the country’s divisions, he and his supporters have used race and accusations of racism to divide the country, mobilize their own party’s base, and demonize the opposition.
(The media have joined in. In 2012, Chris Matthews of MSNBC infamously opined that even the word “Chicago” was itself racist.)
Furthermore, Obama has done exactly what Netanyahu did, and what McCain (and Mitt Romney, in 2012) refrained from doing.
In 2008, he told black voters that his opponents were demonizing him by saying he “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.” In 2010, he tried to motivate Latino voters by telling them to “punish” their “enemies.” In 2012, the Obama campaign, via Vice President Joe Biden, told black voters that Romney would “put y’all back in chains” if he won.
As opposed to those fabulist fantasies, Netanyahu was actually referring to something real: a State Department-funded effort to increase Arab voter turnout at his own party’s expense.
If it is racist to single out Arab voter turnout, then it is also racist to turn out Arab voters specifically, meaning that the original racist sin began in the Obama administration.
Netanyahu’s crime was to fight back, unlike Obama’s domestic opponents, who surrender to his racial tactics.
That is not to say Netanyahu should have responded as he did. It is all right for political pundits to comment on thorny subjects such as ethnic turnout, but unseemly for the leader of a country to show voters the political sausage being made.
It is not even clear the tactic worked. While one report suggests that Bibi’s Arab remarks swung the election in his favor, his own pollster has said that internal numbers showed Netanyahu’s party already ahead 48 hours before the election.
Certainly, if McCain–or Romney, who played too cautiously after the first debate–had won after taking a few more politically incorrect risks, there might have been bridges to re-build.
Yet Obama never worried about such costs. He simply fought ugly, and won.
And arguably, Obama has caused more racial division after winning than McCain would have done if he had gone “full Bibi.”
McCain chose to lose with dignity rather than win ugly. Are we, as a nation, really better off?