The Wrongs of the Right

Language, Race, and the Republican Party in the Age of Obama

232 pages

May, 2014

ISBN: 9780814760543



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Matthew W. Hughey is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of six previous books, including White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists, and the Shared Meanings of Race

All books by Matthew W. Hughey

Gregory S. Parks is Assistant Professor of Law at Wake Forest University School of Law. He is the author of eight previous books, including Alpha Phi Alpha: A Legacy of Greatness, the Demands of Transcendence.

All books by Gregory S. Parks

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.


  • “The book provides a succinct summary of the historic ebb and flow of racism in US politics. The authors reveal the use of race as a political incendiary by the two primary parties and clearly illustrate the use of the four premises, previously mentioned, as they relate to the discourse surrounding President Obama’s campaign, election, and tenure. Summing Up: Highly Recommended.”


  • "A dissection of the language of the far right, showing the continued, although masked, biases inherent in their message. After a quick history of civil rights and racist attitudes, Hughey (Sociology/Univ. of Conn.; The White Savior Film: Content, Critics, and Consumption, 2014, etc.) and Parks (Law/Wake Forest Univ.; co-editor: Alpha Phi Alpha: A Legacy of Greatness, the Demands of Transcendence, 2011, etc.) show the process that continues the message while avoiding political incorrectness. There are four dimensions at play: black dysfunction, white patriotism, white paternalism and white victimhood. The authors show how these dimensions have grown sociologically and legally over the years, especially since the election of the first black president, Barack Obama. The “Southern strategy” was a child of the ultraconservative Dixiecrats in response to Harry Truman’s civil rights program. They laid the groundwork for the advent of the tea party, birthers and the radical right. All of these groups exhibit elements of racism and are anti-immigrant, pro-gun, anti-deficit, anti-Semitic and pro-religion in government. Hughey and Parks demonstrate the different ways in which outright hostility can be masked by implicit racial biases and coded words and phrases—e.g., welfare queen, inner city, states’ rights, entitlement society, welfare state and liberal bias. Decrying Obama as the affirmative action president, the disrespect of journalists and talking heads like Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, as well as the use of dehumanizing symbols are all methods of this so-called principled conservatism, a term the authors reject outright—'the banner of ‘post-racialism’ is devoid of ethical currency.' Many of the groups the authors investigate will find further fodder for their tirades, and liberals will doubtless get angry, but all should learn that there’s a limit to the insults American intelligence will tolerate."


  • "Hughey and Parks attempt to demonstrate that in a supposedly 'post-racial' society, our politics are permeated in both conscious and unconscious ways by the message that only whiteness equates to authentic Americanism . . . [I]t is hard to argue with most of what the authors have to say."

    Library Journal

  • "Covers very timely and important issues regarding racial and electoral politics in America. . . . Commentators and pundits whose job it is to make sense of contemporary politics and interested citizens will all want a book like this. It is scholarly and rigorous but very readable for a lay audience. In my mind, all books should try to attain this balance."

    —Melanye Price, Rutgers University

  • “This exhaustive assessment of the political Right’s exploitation of entrenched racial bias in the U.S. is essential reading for students and scholars of the presidency. The Wrongs of the Right blends convincing data with real world examples, and is suitable for both undergraduate and graduate courses.”

    —Caroline Heldman, Occidental College

  • "A valuable contribution in understanding the implications and interplay of race and politics in contemporary America. The presidency of America’s first African-American president is historic, with deep implications, and has taken some turns which reflect, not always well, on America dealing with its enduring issues of race. . . . Powerful and well done."

    —John Dombrink, University of California, Irvine