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GOP Uses Campaign Attack Lines With Racial Implications

As Republicans seize on crime as a leading issue in the final days before the midterm elections, they have deployed attack lines, terms and imagery that have injected race into contests across the U.S., reports the New York Times. In states as disparate as Wisconsin and New Mexico, ads have labeled a Black candidate as “different” and “dangerous” and darkened a white man’s hands as they portrayed him as a criminal. A survey of competitive contests, particularly those involving Black candidates, shows they are widespread as an important weapon in the 2022 Republican arsenal. In Wisconsin, where Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is Black, is the Democratic nominee for Senate, a National Republican Senatorial Committee ad targeting him ends by juxtaposing his face with those of three Democratic House members, all of them women of color, and the words “different” and “dangerous.”

In a mailer sent to state House districts in New Mexico, the state Republican Party darkened the hands of a barber shown giving a white child a haircut, next to the question, “Do you want a sex offender cutting your child’s hair?” In North Carolina, an ad against Cheri Beasley, the Democratic candidate for Senate, who is Black, features the anguished brother of a white state trooper killed a quarter-century ago by a Black man whom Beasley, then a defense lawyer, represented in court. The brother incredulously says that Beasley, pleading for the killer’s life, said “he was actually a good person.” While Republicans in 2018 stood by advertising that Democrats called racist, this year, they have responded with defiance, saying they see nothing untoward in their imagery and nothing to apologize for. “This is stupid, but not surprising,” said Chris Hartline, a spokesman for the Republican Senatorial Committee, whose ads in North Carolina and Wisconsin have prompted accusations of racism. “We’re using their own words and their own records. If they don’t like it, they should invent a time machine, go back in time and not embrace dumb-ass ideas that voters are rejecting.”

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