by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier
Political strategists understand that “people don’t vote for, they vote against”. The reverse psychology of campaigning is to get 51 percent of the electorate to vote against the opposition. Obviously, attack ads target specific groups to turn them against rivals, and the “race card” is one method of attack.
Pennsylvania’s Senate race is between Dr. Mehmet Oz, a TV personality turned Republican office seeker, and the current lieutenant governor, Democrat John Fetterman.
A poll from Franklin & Marshall College showed Fetterman leading Oz by 13 percent. Other polls also have Fetterman up by double digits. About 11 percent of Pennsylvania’s voters are Black. It was speculated a high Black voter turnout would guarantee Fetterman edges Oz in a close contest.
But the Franklin & Marshall poll pointed out the percentage of non-White voters who had no preference between Fetterman and Oz was double that of White voters. The pollsters believe this large amount of indifference from a minority group that votes 90-percent Democratic will hurt Fetterman and help Oz.
Instead of letting the indifference take its natural course, the Oz campaign tried to encourage more of it.
Oz’s campaign spent half a million on a 30-second TV ad and a 15-second digital ad to inform voters about a nine-year-old racial incident involving Fetterman. The TV ad stated that when Fetterman was the mayor of Braddock, PA, he chased down an innocent Black man (who was jogging) with a shotgun and falsely accused him of triggering a confrontation with the police.
The attack ad ended by telling the viewers Fetterman was reckless, risky, and wrong for Pennsylvania.
But the majority of Blacks don’t vote for the Democrats, they vote against the Republicans. So, when a Republican plays the “race card”, Blacks know it’s not an attempt to be the lesser of two evils to gain their vote. Blacks automatically suspect that the Republican candidate is trying to discourage Blacks from voting at all, and the Republican playing the “race card” will be accused of voter suppression, which is always worse than the racial misdeed of the Democrat.
Once Oz’s attack ad aired, Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, a Democratic organizer in Philadelphia, told the media that following the primaries he predicted that the Republicans would weaponize the Fetterman incident to keep Black voters at home.
David A. Love wrote an opinion piece called: I’m a Black Philadelphia Voter. Oz is hoping that people like me stay home in November.
Love wrote, “This latest GOP strategy and the underlying incident highlights two things. The first is the depth Republicans will go to suppress the Black voters they are not interested in winning over. Secondly, the campaign punctuates the fact that White people, Democratic politicians and purported allies of the Black community must own up to their mistakes and do better.”
Love’s second point is mute because the Black jogger Fetterman falsely imprisoned with a shotgun supports Fetterman’s campaign and said, “It’s inhumane to believe one mistake should define a man’s life. I hope [Fetterman] gets to be senator.” Therefore, all that remains is Love’s first point that the Republicans are up to their old racist tricks and are trying to disenfranchise Black voters.
Instead of Oz’s attack ad encouraging indifference, it will inspire more Blacks to vote, not for Fetterman, but against the Republican effort to “suppress” the Black vote.