The Wrongs of the Right: Language, Race, and the Republican Party in the Age of Obama

The Wrongs of the Right: Language, Race, and the Republican Party in the Age of Obama

New York University Press
May 2014
232 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780814760543

Matthew W. Hughey, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

Gregory S. Parks, Assistant Professor of Law
Wake Forest University School of Law, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

On November 5, 2008, the nation awoke to a New York Times headline that read triumphantly: “OBAMA. Racial Barrier Falls in Heavy Turnout.” But new events quickly muted the exuberant declarations of a postracial era in America: from claims that Obama was born in Kenya and that he is not a true American, to depictions of Obama as a “Lyin African” and conservative cartoons that showed the new president surrounded by racist stereotypes like watermelons and fried chicken.

Despite the utopian proclamations that we are now live in a color-blind, postracial country, the grim reality is that implicit racial biases are more entrenched than ever. In Wrongs of the Right, Matthew W. Hughey and Gregory S. Parks set postracial claims into relief against a background of pre- and post-election racial animus directed at Obama, his administration, and African Americans. They provide an analysis of the political Right and their opposition to Obama from the vantage point of their rhetoric, a history of the evolution of the two-party system in relation to race, social scientific research on race and political ideology, and how racial fears, coded language, and implicit racism are drawn upon and manipulated by the political Right. Racial meanings are reservoirs rich in political currency, and the Right’s replaying of the race card remains a potent resource for othering the first black president in a context rife with Nativism, xenophobia, white racial fatigue, and serious racial inequality. And as Hughey and Parks show, race trumps politics and policies when it comes to political conservatives’ hostility toward Obama.


  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. The Grand Old Party and African Americans: A Brief Historical Overview
  • 2. Unsweet Tea and Labor Pains: The Tea Party, Birthers, and Obama
  • 3. A Fox in the Idiot Box: Right-Wing Talking Heads
  • 4. Political Party, Campaign Strategy, and Racial Messaging
  • 5. The Social Science of Political Ideology and Racial Attitudes
  • 6. Unconscious Race Bias and the Right: Its Meaning for Law in the Age of Obama
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Index
  • About the Authors
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