Watters: Gingrich’s racism has no place in GOP campaign

Arabella Watters

Race has not been an issue in the White House for quite some time. For hundreds of years, the American government has been largely homogeneous; it is the lack of diversity in bipartisan politics which has historically gotten people talking. When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the issue of race was unavoidable.

Four years later, frustratingly, the United States is still just as divided by race as it always has been. I believe that politics should remain free from the discrimination that inevitably comes when race is involved.

As our first black president, Obama brought inspiration and possibility into a seemingly hopeless time. However, I don’t believe that Obama’s run for office was completely devoid of racial undertones.

To manipulate the general public based on the color of a candidate’s skin is as racist as it is for an opponent to argue that a candidate is incompetent because he is black. This has been a grievance of mine for some time.

Yet the public seemed to fall out of love with President Obama when a series of bombshells hit the United States: the unemployment rate climbed, our credit rating dipped and Obamacare hit society like a storm.

However, it is hard to avoid the issue of race when Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich appears on national television only to call President Obama “the food-stamp president” in front of millions of Americans.

No, Gingrich’s statement was not explicitly racist, but it might as well have been. It is no coincidence Gingrich decided to drop that insult the week before the South Carolina Primary.

In a state that is predominantly white, middle-class and staunchly conservative, Gingrich appealed to the disgusting racist undercurrent that runs through much of the United States. I am not saying South Carolina is a population of flaming racists, but it does have its conglomerate of right-wing conservatives.

Lo and behold, although Gingrich’s insult at Obama was poorly researched (36 percent of the 46 million people who are utilizing food stamps are in fact white) it worked. Gingrich swept South Carolina, gaining a whopping 40 percent of the vote and crushing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney into the ground.

The use of race on the campaign trail is revolting. Competence should be measured by the candidates’ abilities, not by what color their skin is.

Furthermore, it is disturbing that Gingrich has been able to gain momentum by leveraging President Obama’s racial identity as another part of his campaign. I respect the political process, but I don’t respect the idea that politicians believe it would be a clever plan to bring race into the equation.

President Obama’s ethnicity is already a “white elephant” in the room, especially when paired against the firm conservatives of the GOP. I hate the fact that being a Republican is instantly equated with being racist.

The opinions of diehard Republicans like Gingrich give people the impression that being a conservative is synonymous with being a bigot.

Unfortunately, I know that I am not the only moderate voter who is turned off by Gingrich’s views. In the same way that Romney has the lucrative opportunity to appeal to a bipartisan range of voters, Gingrich has the exact opposite appeal.

I could never imagine a liberal voting for him, simply because he is so offensive to minorities, homosexuals and women (in terms of reproductive rights). For that matter, Gingrich is probably off-putting to anybody who feels strongly about any issue that isn’t centered around white conservatism.

If Gingrich receives the Republican nomination, I can nearly guarantee that Obama will be re-elected. His views are incentives for any Democrat or liberal-leaning independent to vote for Obama again, simply because he is not Gingrich. If he receives the nomination, I will have a hard time filling out my ballot in November.

Arabella Watters is a Medill freshman. She can be reached at [email protected]

All opinions expressed in this column are solely the opinions of the columnist and do not reflect the views of The Daily Northwestern. If you would like to respond to the column, you may comment below, email the columnist or submit a 300-word letter to the editor to [email protected].