Political Racism

This entry was posted by on Friday, 29 July, 2011 at

I occasionally hear the accusation that conservatives and/or Republicans (if one wants to make the distinction) want to see President Obama fail because “He’s Black,” and that Republicans, especially “the Tea Party”, are nothing but racists.

Now, while I am sure that many conservatives do happen to be racist (the “birther movement” comes to mind), but that is hardly a defining characteristic of the whole. Here is what I think happened: Obama’s election was an enormous symbolic victory. Many people probably voted for him specifically because he is Black; I would not be surprised if many people voted for the first and only time in their lives simply because he is Black. Even people who supported his policies, or those would have automatically voted for the Democratic candidate regardless, no doubt felt a little extra proud about their choice. Like Jackie Robinson, who was not necessarily the greatest baseball player even in his own time, the fact that Obama was the first Black president will most likely be historically more significant than anything else he does as president. I also think that many people were fully expecting the same sort of backlash against Obama that Jackie Robinson faced.

Therefore, if one believes either openly or subconsciously that the most important thing about Obama is that he is Black, then obviously an attack of any kind must be for that reason. Yet I think you have to objectively ask: exactly who is the racist in that scenario?

The last Democratic president prior to Obama was Clinton, whom the Republicans tried to run out of office. Yet Clinton was (that particular issue aside) in many areas more conservative than Obama. The Democrat before that was Carter, whom I have frequently heard refered to by conservatives as “The Useless One” or something similar. However, both Carter and Clinton were white, Southern Baptists, so the objection to them was obviously not fueled by racism. It turns out that Republicans just really dislike liberals.

In fact, returning to the “birther” idea, while that particular accusation would never have worked against a white president, I suspect that at least some people supported it simply as any excuse to get rid of a liberal president. I believe that most intelligent, respected conservatives tried to distance themselves from the idea as an embarrassing distraction from the real issues. One might even argue that the liberally biased media gave the issue more attention than it deserved for exactly the same reason.

Republicans do not want to see Obama fail. Even conservatives who may or may not have respect for the man or his policies can still be proud at least that the racial barrier to the presidency has been broken. I have never heard this point argued before, but to me it seems that the fact that right now, in America as it is today, a Black man born in obscurity is capable of rising to the highest office in the land is actually more in line with conservative ideology than liberal. (Though I admit that it is entirely possible that I am missing part of the story there.)

Republicans want Obama to succeed. The catch is that they will judge Obama’s success or failure based upon how well he conforms to conservative policies and principles. Under such criteria, he is most certain to fail.

One Response to “Political Racism”

  1. anil

    Don’t you think this is the sort of thing that should rise and fall on the evidence, not just on some theoretical argument? As you admit, *some* Obama-haters out there are clearly racist. And why should it be possible for people to be a little extra proud of voting for a black person, but not for another person to be a little extra disgusted at the idea of voting for a black person? The arguments are completely symmetrical, yet you assume the only reason anyone has to cry *racism* is because they themselves are seeing through a false prism of race. Its an old trick – the people talking about racism are the *real* racists. But you haven’t ruled out the possibility that the people being called racist are in fact racist. In fact, you concede that some of them are. So how much is there? How much of the criticism Obama gets is irrational? Why is it ok to make a blanket statement that “Republicans want Obama to succeed” when its not to say “Republicans are racist”? How do you know? (I could point you to evidence from a number of active Republican Congressman who’ve made it very clear their *number one* priority is for Obama *not to succeed*). (And, no, I don’t recall *any* Republican Congresspeople actually trying to distance themselves from the birther “issue”)(http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/08/this_is_not_an_onion_parody_of.html)

    All this is by the by, because I think we both agree that some, but not all, criticisms of Obama are grounded in racism. The problem I have with today’s Republican party is that I have no idea what the legitimate arguments are supposed to be. What are these conservative policies and principles under which Obama is a failure? Can I have them explained to me in advance? Because it sure seems like every time Obama proposes what used to be a moderate or Conservative idea, that idea becomes anathema to Conservatives. In those conditions, its not odd to wonder if Obama is “certain to fail” because of who he is, and not because of what he does.

    On another topic – you should come visit!

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