Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was recently caught on video telling guests at a dinner hosted by Americans for Prosperity that Republicans are “going to hang” Barack Obama. During what appeared to be prepared remarks, Romney used forms of the word “hang” three times.
The event was held in New Hampshire and the statement came in the following riff: “Reagan came up with this great thing about the ‘misery index’ and he hung that around Jimmy Carter’s neck and that had a lot to do with Jimmy Carter losing…Well, we’re going to have to hang the ‘Obama Misery Index’ around his neck…We’re gonna hang him with that.”
At the end of this “hanging” free-for-all, as the crowd whistled and cheered, Romney chuckled then added, “so to speak.” He laughed a bit more then said, “You have to be careful…”
If he knows such language reacts like dynamite, why wasn’t he careful?
While it’s true that Romney first relates the “hanging” analogy to former president, Jimmy Carter, it is clear that his intent was to link the same to President Obama. Why wouldn’t it occur to Romney, or any of his political consultants, that such an analogy is inappropriate? Just as you wouldn’t hear a male opponent saying he’s going to “beat up” or “strip down” a female opponent, it behoves white candidates to steer clear from such explosive statements, particularly those with relationships to organizations that have a legacy of discriminating against black people. (Romney was well into adulthood before his Mormon church allowed blacks full membership in the late 1970’s).
Romney’s camp has sputtered in its attempt to explain his poor word choice, initially suggesting it was “a ridiculous exaggeration of his actual comments.” Romney’s spokeswoman Andrea Saul later said, “It is not what the governor meant and that was very clear in what he actually said.”
Frankly, it seemed quite clear that both Romney and his audience were aware of the “hanging” analogy’s double meaning. Is it possible that an American doesn’t immediately associate the word “hang” and a black man with this country’s history of lynchings? Especially, when the person making such statements is a part of a community that routinely uses problematic slurs and racially offensive suggestions language to pander to certain constituents?
Just this past week Republican Donald Trump demanded that Obama “show his papers,” just as freemen were required to do during slavery. The presidential hopeful then said that Obama wasn’t qualified to attend Harvard Law School, suggesting he was admitted because of Affirmative Action.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, which was waged over slavery. Romney has reminded us that while things change, the past is always with us.