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.