The Republican presidential contenders in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 2008 “played the race card” to prime white voters to support them. The “race card” is an integral part of the American capitalist political economy, which has used race historically as a divisive strategy for keeping the members of the subaltern classes divided. This political economy fostered a racist architecture anchored on various stereotypes and their associated images about blacks.
Prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, political ads made direct racist appeals to white voters framed around the stereotypes that provide the foundation of the racist architecture. In the post-Civil Rights Act era, a more subtle form of racial cuing has been used. Racialized political ads use blacks as scapegoats for political, economic, social and cultural problems.
Finally, the Obama election raised the issue of the utility of racialized political ads in future presidential elections, especially against the backdrop of what some see as the emergence of a “post-racial American society.” However, as the repository of evidence demonstrates, Obama’s election does not make racialized political advertisements obsolete. First, race played a pivotal role in the election of Obama. Second, establishment of a “post-racial American society” would require a fundamental transformation of the American capitalist political economy.