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Anti-Obama slogans with racist slants on the rise in Election 2012

The 2008 election was not devoid of racist anti-Obama sentiment, but racial slurs and offensive slogans seem to be balder this time – from a racially derogatory joke circulated by a US judge to crude bumper stickers.

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Now that a black man runs the White House, he adds, “politicians have more latitude to discuss public policy in a distorted and racist way and do so in a way that is simply given as a critique of government.”
Democrats, too, must take responsibility for playing the race card when it suits them, says Republican strategist David Johnson, who worked on Robert Dole’s 1988 presidential campaign. With support for Obama lagging behind 2008 levels, he says, Democrats such as Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York work to rally the party's political base by suggesting that the other side is racist.

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“It could make the difference [for] a Democrat who may not vote for a Republican candidate but ... also may not vote at all,” he says. Rousing such voters by charging that the president is being attacked because of his race can be a winning strategy for Democrats, Mr. Johnson adds.

The race issue intensified Tuesday amid reports that actor Robert De Niro, speaking at an Obama fundraiser attended by Michelle Obama in New York on Monday, questioned whether the "country is ready for a white first lady." The Gingrich campaign denounced the comment.

"The crowd approved," said Gingrich senior adviser Kiron Skinner, in a statement. "The media and many others would decry an equivalent comment by a conservative or a Republican supporter of a presidential candidate.

"As a senior adviser in Speaker Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign and as an African American woman, I stand against comments like DeNiro’s." 

The Obama campaign on Tuesday characterized De Niro's comment as "inappropriate."

The most egregious race-baiting often finds its widest audience through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Some of it remains anonymous, such as the owner of the domain name behind Stumpy’s Stickers. Stickatude is run by a Georgia paint-ball field owner, Paula Smith, who told Forbes.com over the weekend that she didn’t find the "Re-N--" sticker racist, but rather sees it as “cute.” 

As with the swift immolation of the Stumpy's Sticker website after outrage mounted over the weekend, social media can cut both ways. The slogan in question first appeared on a T-shirt two years ago on zazzle.com and was taken down in response to criticism.

While the viral power of an online video can spread hate messages faster than at any time in history, the technology can also help mitigate its impact, says media pundit Paul Levinson, author of “New New Media.” Outcry over racist or polarizing messages rises just as quickly as the original objectionable message, he says. “While new media can be used to amplify a hate message, it can also be used to shut it down.”

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