Will Real Race-Baiters Please Stand Up?

As GOP leaders sweep the latest Rev. Jeremiah Wright flap under the rug, racial politics thrive.

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"The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way," according to the proposal. Brian Baker, president and general counsel of the super PAC, admitted to the New York Times that "Joe Ricketts is prepared to spend significant resources in the 2012 election in both the presidential and congressional races."

What makes the exposure of Ricketts' proposal so important is that it shamelessly articulates the Republican strategy and playbook of the past four years: namely, to use latent racial animus as a way to achieve a 21st-century-style white redemption akin to the vicious disenfranchisement that removed newly elected African-American legislative officials from office in the post-Civil War era. That redemption invalidated votes of freedmen and opened the door to Jim Crow and all the racial disparities that still plague America's sociopolitical consciousness.

Ricketts tried to renounce the race-based tactics, despite one document that conveys his explicit preliminary approval to draft it. Presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney held a press conference last Thursday, saying that he disapproved. "I want to make it very clear: I repudiate that effort," Romney said. But he isn't blameless, as reports quickly surfaced that he, too, engaged in the wink-wink, nudge-nudge nod to racial animus.

Last February, in a radio interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Romney invoked the same racialized dog whistle that Davis planned to employ. In an effort to paint President Obama as an "other" lacking in traditional Christian values, Romney opined, "I'm not sure which is worse: him listening to Reverend Wright or him saying that we ... must be a less Christian nation."

Like Priebus, Romney failed to rise above the fray. He gave a halfhearted repudiation of Ricketts' plan by failing to disavow his own comments from February. "I stand by what I said, whatever it was," he told reporters. And in so "standing," Romney has proved that he, too, is not above race-baiting in order to gain the White House. Romney even sought to conflate the Ricketts campaign with the new Obama ads questioning the former governor's record at Bain Capital.

This is the Twilight Zone that the modern Republican Party has created: a world in which the ascent of the first African-American president has made it acceptable for conservatives to cry foul and play the victim. The double standards are everywhere in our political culture.

Rick Santorum was given a pass for saying, "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them other people's money." Newt Gingrich never apologized after he quipped that he would go to the NAACP and tell African Americans that they shouldn't be "satisfied with food stamps." Vicious attacks from conservatives seeking to undermine President Obama's authority and legitimacy are visible, from South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie!" during the State of the Union address to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's finger in Obama's face on the tarmac.

It didn't take a super PAC proposal to show Americans that race is always and everywhere the subtext of so many of the GOP's attacks on Barack Obama.

Edward Wyckoff Williams is an author, columnist and political analyst for MSNBC and a former investment banker. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Edward Wyckoff Williams is a contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, ABC, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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