Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A potentially controversial post

Let’s face it. Much of the vocal opposition to President Barack Obama is racist in nature.

Contrary to what some critics might suggest, this isn't an easy allegation for me to make. I'm not a believer in the notion that every injustice against a minority is necessarily a race issue. Nor do I believe that all criticism of Obama is racist, or that everyone who opposes Obama is a racist by association. This allegation is not an attempt to trivialize any genuine, pressing concerns that anyone may have. But I do believe that many of the primary attacks made against Obama are inspired, at least in part, by an undercurrent of racism. And that such attacks undermine any real, healthy dissent that's part of every presidency.

This is most obvious in what critics choose to highlight about Obama. His birth certificate. His alleged Muslim upbringing. Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Michelle Obama saying she was proud of her country for the first time ever. Endless references to "Hussein," "Barry Soetoro" and "BHO." Then there are the caricatures: The monkey T-shirts in Florida. The depiction of Obama in whiteface as the Joker. The White House watermelon patch Photoshop circulated by a Republican official. The presidential portrait chart that illustrated Obama as a pair of eyes in the dark, also pushed by a GOP aide. The protest sign depicting Obama as a witch doctor. This is all a concerted attempt to prove Obama is Not One Of Us. This diverges wildly from elections past, when even the most caustic attacks fell along political/ideological lines. It even diverges from the other side of the 2008 election, when John McCain faced little scrutiny over his own birth in Panama.

Criticism of Obama's stances on the issues center mainly around expanding services to those on the margins, i.e., immigrants and the poor. The most common of these accusations is that Obama will impart socialism in the United States. Setting aside the fact that numerous government services (including the Armed Forces and the Postal Service) have always been socialist, the true flaw of this argument is its undercurrent: that socialism rewards lazy people as much as the productive class. Naturally, those who object loudest to supposed socialism are those who fancy themselves the productive class; conversely, they accuse advocates of social justice to be lazy themselves, or simply coddlers of such. It is from this stance that we often hear an admonition along the lines of, "When you get a job and pay taxes, you'll understand." As if the only people advocating for government support are freeloaders.

It's strikingly similar to the arguments against welfare, which accuse its recipients (usually in racially tinged stories) of government dependency. Terms such as “welfare queen” and “lazy people,” as well as the idea of dependency in general, are all intended to evoke minority stereotypes — blacks in particular.

It is, of course, uncouth to outright say that these programs (allegedly) coddle black people at the expense of the employed taxpayer, which is why such euphemisms, as thin as they are, exist. No one wants to be considered racist, at least outwardly, even if that’s exactly what they are. Their views are so repellent that even a free-speech society such as the U.S. largely condemns them. This inability to be direct has led to more than a year of creative (if not especially clever) ways to cover up the core prejudice.

To wit: this year’s tea parties.

The tea parties were billed as a nonpartisan protest against taxes in general. But not only was that stand a cop-out, it was a bad one. It would have served the teabaggers far better to take a firm stand against the president, because this was an anti-Obama movement at its core. No gathering of outraged conservatives and libertarians in 2009 can, or should, deny that. It's not only pathetic to deny such a connection, but it's also very telling about how even they view their beliefs. In brushing off the anti-Obama sentiment, those who spoke out came off as defensive and insincere in their intentions. And it afforded them scrutiny that ultimately derailed their legitimacy.

Facts don't back up the arguments the teabaggers made. If higher taxes really were the problem, these protests would have happened during the Bush administration, when the tax burden on the middle class increased. But the tea parties instead happened in early 2009, when President Obama and Congress had already passed income- and payroll-tax cuts on everyone earning under $250,000. Given that most of the protesters were not in that tax bracket, the basic premise of the tax protest had been undermined.

Furthermore, the idea that the government was too powerful and too spoiled with our money was disingenuous, given that nary a peep was made in the streets as Bush created the largest bureaucracy in U.S. history (Homeland Security) and that two wars and massive tax cuts ran up record deficits. Obama set a course to pare down the bureaucracy and reduce the scope of Bush's most controversial measures.

So what changed? What changed so diametrically that the same people who equated government dissent with treason suddenly saw it as a patriotic duty? As I've pointed out, it couldn't have been the tax burden. The only explanation is that a new president was in office. So what makes that racist?

Because if there had been any justified cause for that opposition, they would have been eager to admit it.

Even THEY realize that to take a stance on Obama based on visceral factors such as race is not socially acceptable. They have to couch what they say in more flowery language. It isn't about race. Hell, it isn't even about Obama, or party, or any specifics whatsoever. We just feel like we're Taxed Enough Already and that's that!

At that early point, Obama had yet to pitch, much less enact, much of his agenda. His most high-profile decisions had been the order to close Guantanamo Bay and the aforementioned tax shift.

Criticism of Obama has not shifted much since he first hit the national scene. It doesn’t show a particular flexibility as new issues and debates emerge. The buzzwords of ACORN, socialism, Obamacare, etc. were as prevalent a year ago as they are today, if more frequent now. All depict some sort of racial/economic bias perceived as a threat to the conservative power structure.

Then there’s the gun issue. Always a favorite when a Democrat is president, it has only ramped up under the Obama administration.

As it has been for more than a year now, sales of ammunition are up all across the country. Demand is so far through the stratosphere in some areas that some manufacturers have switched to a 24/7 production schedule, with one manufacturer saying he's never seen anything like it in his 30 years in the business. People say they are concerned that gun control legislation will curtail their ability to buy later, so they're stocking up now. But actions by Obama and Congress don't back up that fear; in fact, Obama recently signed legislation allowing concealed weapons in national parks. As far as rounding up all weapons goes, that's a pretty lame start. And Obama has never suggested a repeal of the Second Amendment; not only would that have eliminated him very early in the campaign, but virtually no Americans support it.

Additionally, some weapons owners have made a point of bringing loaded firearms to town hall meetings where Obama has been in attendance. They say they're doing this as an expression of Constitutional rights. But again, what's the point of such passive-aggressive action if it isn't an anti-Obama statement?

So what can be the real reason people are hoarding ammunition and carrying guns around the president? It's hard not to consider race, especially with the lack of other rationales. Anti-government paranoia, already high thanks to a combination of Reagan-prompted distrust and fears of a Bill Clinton planet, is reaching a new peak thanks to Obama. Whereas anti-Clinton rhetoric was based on the idea of black-helicopter encroachment (not entirely unjustified in the wake of Randy Weaver and Waco, if drastically overstated), anti-Obama fears have an almost supernatural bent. He's going to indoctrinate us. He's going to corrupt our children. He's going to redefine government. He took our cars and he's going to kill our grannies.

So the link between our first black president and record numbers of bullets sold cannot be explained away by any rational fears.

Then again, these are not rational fears. But they demand only the most rational attention. Far from being a favorite crutch of liberals, the race issue is very much a big deal with the Obama administration. Those criticizing Obama with the aforementioned notions would serve their cause better to focus on his actions rather than some caricature of what they think he is. It’s up to them not to play the metaphorical race card.


Robert Taylor said...

Bunch of conjecture, blanket statements and hot air. An editorial worthy of The NY Times.

Tom Alday said...

lol, I have to laugh that whenever Obama's poll numbers start to look shaky and his policies are getting hammered...out comes the race card!

Do liberals know how to play anything other than the race card and class warfare?

Michael said...

They may not be able to help themselves, according to a study that appeared November 24 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2009/1123/1?etoc). The study suggests that people mentally mentally alter politicians' skin tones to match how they feel about them. According to the study, conservatives were more likely to choose an image of President Obama showing him with a darker skin tone than he actually has, while liberals were more likely to choose an image where his skin tone had been lightened.

Ian McGibboney said...

Robert - Your self-evident statement has shown me the error of my ways.

Tom - I wrote most of this several months ago. Like I've asked you before, when was the last time you ever heard me talk about polls? I never do, but you do a lot whenever it conveniently keeps you from actually having to address a point.

Michael - That's an interesting study. Bizarre, too. It reminds me of the Time cover with the darkened O.J. Simpson back in the day. Though I'm surprised his supporters picked a lighter photo. Wouldn't have expected that.

Tom Alday said...

I love how just yesterday you crowed about how principled you were and how you only attacked your opponents polices...yet here you are not even 24 hours later labeling a whole swathe of people as racists based on made up "code words" and ammunition sales.

Then you have the gall to act indignant when I call you a hypocrite.

Ian McGibboney said...

It's not hypocrisy if it's fact, Tom. If you can point out to me specifically where I'm wrong, then maybe your intense and undying zeal to tag me as a hypocrite will finally bear some fruit. Otherwise, it's just name-calling.

You asked me several times how I could accuse you of racism over things you said in the past. I addressed them. Are you going to defend your past positions or are you just going to bleat?

Busplunge said...

It's all about fear, Ian.

Look where most of this anti-Obama stuff coming from -- south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

And, unfortunately, The Ozarks.

Tom Alday said...

I'm not going to give your false accusations a reply they don't deserve Ian.

I will ask you this, how did you make it through the Clinton years without being able to play the race card? It must have been very hard for you.

Liberal Rules Article II, Section 3: Only liberals are allowed to openly dislike their president, if anyone else expresses general dislike or are uncomfortable with the presidents extreme policies, and he happens to be black, they are a racist. case closed.

Ian, do you ever think maybe, JUST MAYBE, conservatives don't like Obama because he doesn't govern as a conservative? I know it sounds WAAAAAAY out there, but it's a possibility, right?

Ian McGibboney said...

"Ian, do you ever think maybe, JUST MAYBE, conservatives don't like Obama because he doesn't govern as a conservative?"

Did you even read my post? We're seeing sentiment we've never seen before. And it's hard not to attach racist imagery to it, because not only is it unprecedented, but it's also meaningless with the racial taint removed.

It's not a cop-out to allege racism. The real cop-out is saying these points are false and not backing it up. Have you ever stood up for anything in your life, Tom, or do you always deflect like a reactionary?

Ian McGibboney said...

And again...if it IS strictly about conservatism, then those people need to stand up to this hysterical desperation that's taken over the GOP. All I hear are the batty people.

And then they should explain how Bush and McCain are conservative in any traditional sense as well, given the unbelievable government expansion, foreign policy and morality politics each so strongly desired.

Tom Alday said...

I gotta envy the sack of a guy that labels a large portion of the country racist calling ME reactionary and whining about hysterical desperation.

And I'll clear up something that seems to be nagging you. The reason most conservatives didn't complain about Bush's non conservative polices is the same reason YOU don't complain about Obama non liberal policies, it all boils down to a "my guy right or wrong" mentality. Both sides display it. You know this yet you constantly wheel out this tired old canard as some kind of "gotcha!" when you sadly do the exact same thing.

Ian McGibboney said...

Tom, you seem to think labeling me as a hypocrite invalidates everything I said. Good luck with that.

By the way, I'm critical of Obama. I don't agree with his renewal of Patriot Act provisions, or his continued concessions to the GOP, who have no intention of either voting with him or letting him accomplish anything. See how easy that is? See how "socialism," "Obamacare" nor racist depictions ever came into play there? You and your ilk should try that sometime. Maybe you wouldn't all come across as irrational clowns.

Tom Alday said...

You may disagree with him behind the scenes on those things, but you never bring them up on your blog, nor would you ever have had I not forced you into doing so. You see, that's the "my guy right or wrong" syndrome, and you suffer from it. You are not immune.

I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out how the GOP, with minorities in both houses is not letting Obama "accomplish anything". When I see liberals make up this elaborate fantasy where a side with an unbreakable majority is held at bay by a vocal, but toothless minority I have to laugh. Talk about hysterical desperation and creating fear, gotta have that evil GOP boogeyman...even though in this case he doesn't exist.

Ian McGibboney said...

Tom, I've expressed my differences with Obama on several blogs. You'd know that if you ever actually read them. True, the blogs tend not to be long screeds against the man, nor do I make elaborate graphs twisting information to prove Obama is a failure. But those differences are there and adequate to debunk your simplistic claim.

As for conservative influence in Congress: just because the GOP is a minority party doesn't mean it has no power. The "blue dog" Democrats frustrate me, and the GOP still has a major hold over constituents and a virtual lock on framing the debate. That's the advantage the GOP has - they're lockstep to a fault. Democrats aren't.

To get back on the actual topic of this post, the one you repeatedly ignore: Where am I wrong about these representations? Or are you conceding the point? Unless you answer me otherwise, Tom, I'm going to assume that you have.

Busplunge said...

busplunge: Not Racism, Projection

NOLA Progressive said...

I honestly don't see how anyone can objectively look at this scenario and see, feel and hear the covert and often overt racism involved.

Much as Ian expressed in this post, I don't think it would be rationale or fair to paint every conservative or republican with a racist brush, but there is either a healthy spattering or the most vocal minority ever encountered by man kind here.

I don't need any excuses to justify poll numbers or the performance of a President I voted for. Unemployment is abysmal, we've spend obscene amounts of money on the Wall Street douchebags that put us in the situation we are in, we have currency issues, debt issues... I don't need racism to fathom why there are people out there who are angy with the government.

I also get that they weren't nearly so angry when a white guy was in the oval. Now this is where all the white guys (oh I'm white if any reader is wondering at this juncture) who are reading this get their feathers ruffled and guffaw about the "race card", but it's true.

Every last one of us has had a conversation with someone who doesn't like Obama and was unaware of our political views. Some of the sentiment that they let slip is extremely telling. Then there are all of the viral emails that float around full of Obama caricatures and innuendo. Scroll through one of those email forwards and take a look at the dozens and sometimes hundreds of comments that get passed along. They are thinly veiled, if veiled at all racism.

Tom, you are absolutely right about the "my guy mentality". I am also absolutely guilty of it. I am much less vociferous about shortcomings with Obama as compared to Bush. No doubt. This doesn't however explain away or excuse the rational tone and tenor of the opposition to our President. Now my argument here Tom is not that you specifically are a racist. Your objections to Obama, while I believe them to be misinformed and misguided are rooted in policy and fiscal dogma.

However, to deny what is right in front of us on so many levels is naive at best.