Monday 16 September 2019

Racist 'robocalls' expose a bitter midterms race as US goes to polls

Outrage over white supremacist campaign as president makes final stops on whirlwind tour

Tears: A Trump supporter cries as he arrives for a campaign rally at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Belgrade, Montana. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Tears: A Trump supporter cries as he arrives for a campaign rally at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Belgrade, Montana. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Julie Allen

An automated call to voters by a white supremacist group has highlighted the increasingly bitter rhetoric in the US midterms as the campaign enters its final stages.

Voters in Georgia were targeted with the message that impersonated Oprah Winfrey, a prominent supporter of Stacey Abrams, who is running to become the first black female governor in the US.

It compared the Democratic candidate to "a poor man's Aunt Jemima" who "white women can be tricked into voting for, especially the fat ones", and mocked Ms Winfrey as a "magical negro".

Aunt Jemima refers to a brand of US pancake mix linked to southern plantation racism.

The message was reportedly funded by TheRoadToPower.com, a video-streaming site that has been described as white supremacist by campaign groups. It is unclear how many people received the automated call.

The run-up to tomorrow's vote has been marred by violence. A series of pipebombs was last month sent to prominent critics of US President Donald Trump, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, and a massacre in a synagogue in Pennsylvania left 11 dead, for which a white supremacist was charged.

Democrat Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke helps his sister Charlotte erect a yard sign as they canvass door-to-door in Carrollton, Texas. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Democrat Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke helps his sister Charlotte erect a yard sign as they canvass door-to-door in Carrollton, Texas. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Outrage over the racist phone message came as Mr Trump campaigned in Georgia as part of his whirlwind tour of the US. He has visited 20 states since the start of October in an attempt to shore up support for "at-risk" Republicans in key areas.

Over the weekend, Mr Trump tweeted: "If you want to protect criminal aliens - vote Democrat. If you want to protect law-abiding Americans - vote Republican!"

Anti-migrant sentiment has grown during the campaign, with Mr Trump targeting a group of Central Americans attempting to reach the US border. The caravan of 4,000 migrants was yesterday making its way up through Mexico in the hope of being given asylum.

Early-voting figures for the midterms show record-breaking numbers in the tightly fought states of Tennessee, Texas and Florida.

In one of the country's most divisive races, Ms Abrams is vying to become the country's first African-American female governor. Her opponent, Brian Kemp, the current secretary of state for Georgia, condemned the call as "absolutely disgusting" and a message of "unbridled hate and unapologetic bigotry".

Similarly racist "robocalls" targeted voters in Florida, where black Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum is running for governor. It featured a man speaking in minstrel-style voice as monkeys screeched in the background.

Meanwhile, Mr Kemp - who holds a slight lead - has been accused of orchestrating his own dirty tricks campaign. A total of 53,000 people, around 70pc of them black, had their voter registrations suspended by his office. On Friday, a judge ruled that Mr Kemp must unblock more than 3,000 of those flagged as ineligible.

The US Supreme Court upheld a law passed in North Dakota, which requires voters to produce ID showing their current address at polling stations. Democrats said the rule could stop American Indians from voting, as they often live on reservations.

Mr Trump isn't on the ballot tomorrow, but midterm elections are typically a referendum on the occupant of the White House. A new NBC/ 'Wall Street Journal' poll yesterday showed Mr Trump's approval rating at 46pc, up a tick from 45pc in October. But 40pc say their vote tomorrow will be a signal of opposition to Mr Trump against 32pc who intend to vote to show support.

Some 59pc of registered voters say they want a "great deal" or "quite a bit" of change in the country's direction.

Mr Trump has rejected the idea that the election was a referendum on his presidency and that Democrats reclaiming the House would be a rebuke of him and his policies.

"No, I don't view this as for myself," Mr Trump said, before making the case that his campaigning has "made a big difference" in a handful of Senate races across the country.

"I think I've made a difference of five or six or seven. That's a big difference," he said, crediting his rallies for the influence. "These rallies are the best thing we've done. I think that the rallies have really been the thing that's caused this whole big fervour." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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