Exclusive final debate commentary
By Gloria J. Browne-Marshall
He stood before my college class and declared, “America was created for White people.” It was not the Deep South. Nor the 1950s. This episode took place, last year, in New York City. The feelings of this young White male student are probably felt among many in the constituency Willard “Mitt” Romney wishes to reach. While President Barack Obama may have the majority of female voters of all races, Romney is poised to lay claim to the White male voter. During his debate on foreign policy, Romney gave a call to arms to White-American men.
The candidates agreed. The President, as Commander-in- Chief, is responsible for keeping this nation safe. Our Constitution is clear. The President controls the military. However, Congress controls the funding for the military and declares war. Romney, having stoked the fears of economic demise, turned to terrorists at the door, nuclear war, and a bleak future to trigger the male alert. Such fear mongering is a very old political game. To which, negotiation and diplomacy are dismissed as appeasement.
“Nuclear” bombs were raised ten times by Romney and concerns about unknown ‘threats’ nine times. To my count, Romney used both ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’ at least raised four times, each. Explode, genocide, crippling, and kill were peppered throughout Romney’s foreign policy argument. Romney used the words ‘strong’ or ‘strength’ eleven times. He spoke about strength, force, and weakness. In other words, male-speak.
On paper, President Obama is the uber-male. He is the athlete and intellectual with actual foreign policy experience, including the successful capture of America’s most wanted killer. Yet, more ordinary White male voters will probably select Romney.
Romney. Now presented as the symbol of global strength, this management consultant is a socially awkward, business geek more comfortable with a spread sheet than interacting with his employees. Romney agreed with the President’s policy in Libya. Romney agreed with the sanctions against Iran. He then ignored the fact that American alliances in Asia, Africa, and Europe have never been stronger. Yet, without any foreign policy experience, he promises to thwart terrorist conspiracies and stamp out al Qaeda better than the sitting president.
Under the Obama Administration, America spends more on “our military than the next 10 countries combined: China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, you name it.” President Obama responded to Romney’s fretful appraisal of an America in danger due to fewer ships today than in 1947 with a quip about the military having fewer “bayonets and horses” as well. But, White men were not pleased with the President’s dismissal of additional naval ships, according to a CNN poll of male and female (not race-based) responses to issues in the debate.
There is an unspoken apprehension this country is not mature enough to discuss. Part of it is the economy. However, there is another threat inciting a deeper fear. The fear is among some, but not all, European-Americans. It is a fear of losing racial dominance at home and abroad.
President Obama represents this threat, incarnate. No navy ships, sanctions on Iran, or Five-Point Plan can address this fear. As this country browns and the world’s people of color gain technology and global markets, European- Americans are terrified of sharing power. As America resists racial modernity, the anxiety only builds.
Unlike Alabama’s infamous racialist Governor George Wallace, Romney will not lead a revival-like diatribe against interracial marriage, integrated schools, and the mongrelization of America. Romney’s alarm is subdued. “Take America Back.” As the student informed my class, this country rightfully belongs only to White Americans. “We Built It.”
NonAnglo-Saxons in America may never know what this country means to the heirs of those who sold their souls for a vested interest in this nation. For all of the American tributes to the U.S. Constitution, when threats arise, the ‘Rule of Law” is a guideline applied or dismissed, as needed. For, once a threat exists, strength and force become necessary evils. Strength and force were needed to subdue Native Americans and allow for America’s manifest destiny. Strength and force were needed to relegate Africans in America to perpetual labor. Strength and force created an American empire.
Fear of losing that empire is palpable. “Stand up for America.” Strength is required. Perhaps not physical strength; however, a strength of will is being demanded of White-males. These protectors are being asked to sustain this centuries-long investment in a White-controlled nation of immigrants. “Believe in America.”
Fear-mongering is hardly Romney’s original idea. He is merely the receptacle for ultra-conservatism. In exchange for providing an effective mechanism to convince White-American males of America’s danger, Romney receives an opportunity to become the most famous missionary for Mormonism in the history of his religion. The price must be worth it. Gratefully, I will never know.
Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, an Associate Professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College in New York City, is author of “Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present,” “The U.S. Constitution: An African- American Context,” and a journalist She is covering the U.S. Supreme Court and has attended three of the four presidential campaign debates. Her upcoming book is: “Black Women and the Law.”