By Robert Mann
David Duke, Jesse Helms and Lee Atwater would be proud. Those abominable race baiters (Helms and Atwater are dead) were undoubtedly the inspiration for a shocking television spot that Republican U.S Sen. David Vitter began running Tuesday on television stations and cable channels around Louisiana.
In the time it took one 30-second commercial to play, it was back to the (racist) future, Louisiana-style.
Vitter, who barely made it into the Nov. 21 runoff for governor with Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards, demonstrated that he will stop at nothing to win the governor’s office – including trying to drag the state back to its racist past.
Political observers in Baton Rouge expected the runoff to get nasty. Vitter was deeply wounded by a poor, 23 percent showing on election night (Oct. 24). He finished 17 points behind Edwards, who surprised almost everyone with a strong 40 percent showing, leading the field of four major candidates. Many observers now give Edwards an even chance, or better, at winning the Governor’s Mansion, something unfathomable just weeks ago.
Few, however, thought Vitter would go full-tilt Willie Horton on just the third day of the runoff election. But he did.
In the spot, paid for by Vitter’s campaign, photos of President Obama and Edwards (who have never met) are cleverly melded together to appear as if they are standing side by side. In a menacing voice, the announcer warns, “Voting for Edwards is like voting to make Obama Louisiana’s next governor. Want proof? Obama dangerously calls for releasing six thousand criminals from jail.
“Edwards joined Obama, promising at South
ern University he’ll release fifty-five hundred in Louisiana alone,” the spot continues. “Fifty-five hundred dangerous thugs, drug dealers, back into our streets.”
As anyone in Louisiana knows, Southern University is the state’s largest historically black university. And, as anyone who has studied racial politics over past decade can attest, “thug” is a loaded word – a racial dog-whistle that means, to many, a “black criminal.”
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