Bob Franken

King Features Column

(Obviously, since it’s Election Day, this column is dated, delayed a week from its newspaper release by the syndication deal. A post election piece will be offered to newspapers tomorrow.)

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You have to admit that Mitt Romney and his enablers have a lot of nerve. And a total lack of shame. How else to explain their gall in promoting him as the candidate of “change”? That’s what Romney’s doing in this final death throe of the campaign, telling an Iowa audience, for instance, that selecting him is “choosing real change, change that offers promise that the future will be better than the past.” He even said it with a straight face.
Let’s not mince any words: Romney represents change, all right — for the worse, a return to the “social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s,” as President Barack Obama put it. Obviously, Romney is being sarcastic about the stirring Obama “hope and change” mantra, or Sarah Palin’s “hopie changee thing,” if you prefer. It’s really been small change. Washington is still gripped by a special-interest pay-to-play stranglehold, but Romney pledges to double down on our financial inequities. If he follows through on his platform, the country would continue its deterioration into a nation divided between the super-rich and everybody else.
Socially, he and his party have so pandered to the hard-right extremists that he would be forced to reverse the progress that women, minorities and other oppressed citizens have fought so hard to gain. He has carefully cultivated a base that is caught up in an intolerant frenzy of birthism, jingoism and, yes, racism.
On the latter, The Associated Press conducted a very carefully crafted poll that determined “a slight majority” harbors explicit and/or implicit prejudice against blacks. The negative views were held by 51 percent of the respondents. What is particularly sad is that the number is up from 48 percent in 2008, the year we celebrated electing Obama president.

In so many ways, the GOP candidates, their handlers and surrogates continuously tap into this bigotry. I infuriated conservatives when I said on TV that some of them were trying “to appeal to voters who would love to see us return to the good old days of Jim Crow.” In fact, the Media Research Center, the far-right journalist watchdog group, included my description in this year’s dishonors list. Forgive the bragging.
Often, though, it is more subtle than that. When Colin Powell announced he would once again support Barack Obama, Romney bomb thrower John Sununu pounced with, “Frankly, when you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got an entirely different reason for preferring President Obama.” When pressed about the reason on CNN, he went on with, “Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.” It sort of makes one wonder if Sununu backs Romney because he’s a fellow white guy. Of course, the Romney campaign and then Sununu backed away, but not before he and they had pressed the bigot button. Once again.
AP calculated that the anti-black feelings could cost Obama 5 percent, while pro-black sentiment could gain him 3 percent. If this is as close as everyone predicts, a net loss of 2 percent could be huge. Add to that the continuing efforts by Republicans to suppress votes by minorities and other groups who traditionally favor Democrats, and we have a United States that is anything but United. Interfering with the precious right to cast a ballot truly would be a return to the “days of Jim Crow.”
Just before Election Day, most of us will change our clocks, rolling them back an hour. The change Romney represents would roll the nation back to its dark ages.

© 2012 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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