Merlene Davis: Republican presidential hopefuls should try to get elected on issues, not fear mongering

In recent weeks, various contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, when surrounded by a crowd of white people, have taken potshots at black people.

Here are a couple of examples:

■ Newt Gingrich opined that inner-city families (read that as black) don't have a work ethic, so he plans to put young inner-city (read black) students to work as janitors in their schools. Gingrich later said the work wouldn't be hazardous.

■ At a recent political stop, Rick Santorum said, "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money." Santorum later said he didn't say "black." He said "blah."

■ Seeing Santorum steal some of his thunder and his potential votes, Gingrich last week said, "I'm prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps."

I don't want to even go into Rep. Ron Paul's alleged rants in his newsletter years ago, which he now says he didn't write.

What is going on here? Doesn't it seem like this political season is set in a Back to the Future sequel?

After all the sensitivity training we've sat through and all the years of attending school together, why are white politicians rolling back the years to an era when promoting a fear of black people was in vogue?

These are all intelligent people. Why has disparaging black people become the cornerstone of the Republican efforts to regain the White House?

Do they think characterizing black people as leeches will galvanize their base into a voting bloc that will oust a black president? I think they do.

Here are some statistics I've discovered: According to the 2010 census, some 26 percent of food stamp recipients are black, while 49 percent are white and 20 percent are Hispanic.

United States Department of Agriculture data gathered in fiscal year 2010 shows this ethnic breakdown: 35 percent of welfare participants are white, 22 percent black, 10 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Native American and 2 percent Asian.

So, why aren't the Republican candidates talking about the white welfare recipients? I think we know why. We all know what's happening here. These men are smart. They know the statistics. They are simply pandering to a set of voters who need to demonize a group in order to energize the masses.

By painting black people as a group that is taking what doesn't belong to them, what hasn't been earned, they can then perpetuate the belief that President Barack Obama is a poser as well.

That feeds into the birthers' belief that Obama shouldn't be in the White House because he isn't really an American. He doesn't have the right to govern this nation because he wasn't born here.

And if black people are the enemy, so then is Obama.

Tell me another reason intelligent people, vying to be the president of the greatest country on this planet, would perpetuate the lies that blacks are shiftless and lazy and need white people to save us from ourselves.

It is a familiar strategy. Just wait. As the campaigns weave through the Southern states and more evangelical strongholds, gays will be added to the list of boogeymen. And, depending on who is in the lead, so will Mormonism.

For the life of me, I don't understand why that has to be. Aren't political issues enough to get you elected these days?