Being a succesful politician requires being able to take an emotional posture. In recent elections, one key emotional posture is that of outrage. Something will trigger a posture of outrage and this will lead the person to make a remark that triggers a responsive posture of outrage and so on-until the news cycle dies down or is killed by a bigger outrage or story.
The most recent cycle of outrage involves the McCain camp and John Lewis. Seeing how some people in McCain and Palin events have taken a rather hostile turn towards Obama, Lewis remarked that McCain and Plain “are sowing the seeds of hatred and division.” He went on to draw an analogy between the current situation and the one involving George Wallace. He even asserted that Wallace created the conditions that lead to the terrible murder of four little girls when their church was bombed in Alabama. Lewis denies that he actually compared McCain or Palin to Wallace, but his remarks certainly appear to strongly suggest such a connection.
Not surprisingly, McCain took on a posture of outrage at this remark and insisted that Obama repudiate Lewis’ words. The call for repudiation is, of course, all part of the cycle of outrage.
McCain is, of course, not like George Wallace. There is no evidence that McCain has any racist or hateful tendencies. Further, he seems genuinely upset and angry when people make personal attacks against Obama that even hint at racism. I suspect that behind the orchestrated posture of outrage, Lewis’ remarks actually hurt McCain.
I’m not sure about Palin. She has a short track record and seemed to rather enjoy working the crowd up about Obama’s ties with Ayers. However, I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt. While Palin does not seem adverse to playing rough, there is no solid evidence that she is a racist or clearly intends to follow a path like that of Wallace. As such, Lewis’ remarks seem a bit unfair.
That said, Lewis’ remarks are understandable. The hostile words of some people at the McCain-Palin events no doubt brought up memories of an ugly time in American history. I found such behavior on the part of some McCain-Palin supporters worrisome and there is some reason to believe that race was a factor in them. For example, the woman who said that Obama was an Arab clearly did not think well of Arabs and perhaps she was considering using another word (perhaps one beginning with “n”). In any case, it was not a pretty moment. But what followed was a brighter moment-McCain spoke out in Obama’s defense and turned against that sort of hatred. As such, it is unfair to cast McCain as Wallace or to imply that he is a hate monger or racist. True, he has dabbled with negativity. But, he seems to be a man of character and clearly has no tolerance for intolerance.
Lewis is right to express concern about the nasty streak that has appeared. But, his comments against McCain were off the mark and unfair. As such, he should make amends with McCain and focus his words on those who deserve such remarks.