Another triumph in post-racial healing from our Great Uniter of a President, delivered during a lengthy interview with the New Yorker:
Obama’s election was one of the great markers in the black freedom struggle. In the electoral realm, ironically, the country may be more racially divided than it has been in a generation. Obama lost among white voters in 2012 by a margin greater than any victor in American history. The popular opposition to the Administration comes largely from older whites who feel threatened, underemployed, overlooked, and disdained in a globalized economy and in an increasingly diverse country.
Obama’s drop in the polls in 2013 was especially grave among white voters. “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President,” Obama said. “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President.” The latter group has been less in evidence of late.
“There is a historic connection between some of the arguments that we have politically and the history of race in our country, and sometimes it’s hard to disentangle those issues,” he went on. “You can be somebody who, for very legitimate reasons, worries about the power of the federal government—that it’s distant, that it’s bureaucratic, that it’s not accountable—and as a consequence you think that more power should reside in the hands of state governments. But what’s also true, obviously, is that philosophy is wrapped up in the history of states’ rights in the context of the civil-rights movement and the Civil War and Calhoun. There’s a pretty long history there.
And so I think it’s important for progressives not to dismiss out of hand arguments against my Presidency or the Democratic Party or Bill Clinton or anybody just because there’s some overlap between those criticisms and the criticisms that traditionally were directed against those who were trying to bring about greater equality for African-Americans. The flip side is I think it’s important for conservatives to recognize and answer some of the problems that are posed by that history, so that they understand if I am concerned about leaving it up to states to expand Medicaid that it may not simply be because I am this power-hungry guy in Washington who wants to crush states’ rights but, rather, because we are one country and I think it is going to be important for the entire country to make sure that poor folks in Mississippi and not just Massachusetts are healthy.”
Let’s give the President credit for acknowledging that some measure of his support is based on racism, too. Voting for someone because of his skin color is racist, just as opposing someone primarily because of his skin color would be racist – a concept simple enough to grasp if we were talking about a white politician who received a good deal of unquestioning support because he was white. It’s equally unwise to vote for, or against, a candidate largely because of his race, without regard to his policies, performance in office, or other attributes. Campaigns for high political office are a terrible venue for the electorate to work out its racial hang-ups. Our modern government is too large for any voter to suspend his critical thinking skills and vote on any basis other than a relentless quest to find the best man or woman for the job.
In a nation where over a hundred million votes are cast in presidential elections, there will inevitably be votes case for superficial reasons, including bigotry. Someone out there voted against John McCain in 2008 because he’s old, or because his vice-presidential candidate was a woman. Someone voted against Mitt Romney in 2012 because he’s a Mormon, or because he’s white, or because they just didn’t like the sound of his voice.
But what Obama is doing here, with a few caveats to make his complaint sound more reasonable, is claiming that a significant amount of opposition to his agenda comes from pure racism, a slur he follows up by insinuating that states’ rights advocates are carrying on the work of the Confederacy. This is disgusting, and pathetic. Five years into his unpleasant Presidency, everyone who disapproves of him has an abundance of valid reasons based on his policies and conduct.
New Yorker interviewer David Remnick twists himself into a pretzel trying to make this twaddle sound like something other than a desperate politician slapping down the race card to de-legitimize his opponents. ”Obama lost among white voters in 2012 by a margin greater than any victor in American history?” There’s a tortured factoid for you. He won, but the white voters who lean Republican anyway, and just got four years of Obama’s policies rammed down their throats, were really opposed to his re-election! Must be racism!
“The popular opposition to the Administration comes largely from older whites who feel threatened, underemployed, overlooked, and disdained in a globalized economy and in an increasingly diverse country?” Which is another way of saying that his support comes primarily from younger people and minority voters, but of course it sounds less sinister when you put it that way. You don’t suppose those older white voters feel threatened, underemployed, overlooked, and disdained because they are threatened, underemployed, overlooked, and disdained by this President’s rhetoric and policies, do you? Are President Obama and his interviewer seriously going to suggest that five years of grinding double-digit real unemployment – the worst “recovery” in history – would be fine and dandy with everyone, if only a white guy had presided over it?
You’ve got to love the President’s cutesy-poo way of insinuating that resistance to his massive centralized super-State is driven by the ghosts of the Civil War and racist opposition to the civil-rights movement… by offhandedly advising his “progressive” admirers not to believe admiration for the Confederacy is the only reason small-government conservatives insist on states’ rights. Don’t dismiss those arguments out of hand just because some of the people who hold them think the wrong side won the Civil War, kids!
It’s long past time for us to acknowledge, as a society, that false allegations of racism are themselves racism. The President is asserting that a significant number of white people – enough of them to make his poll numbers fall of a cliff – are incapable of overcoming their deep-seated animosity towards black people. And he levels this judgment as a perfect example of thoughtless prejudice. He’s not responding to a horrible letter from a specific racially-obsessed constituent; he’s making a blanket statement about millions of people he doesn’t know, based solely on his invincible belief in his own magnificence, his conviction that no great body of voters can oppose his brilliant policy agenda or criticize his performance in office for legitimate, logical reasons. Five years on, a lot of the white people who voted for him in 2008 don’t approve of him… and that can only be a result of their barely-suppressed racial animosity floating back to the surface.
When you’ve got a record like Barack Obama’s, combined with a habit of smash-mouth “get in their faces” polarizing rhetoric, there is no reason to go psychoanalyzing the electorate to find unspoken reasons for opposition lurking in the sub-basements of their souls. This President works tirelessly to divide Americans. It really is a remarkable and shameful performance he’s turned in. The modern era has seen no chief executive more deliberately divisive, not in the sense of taking bold policy stances that galvanize the electorate, but by explicitly telling Americans to hate and fear each other. Race war, class war, questioning the patriotism and humanity of his opponents, turning employees against their employers (“You didn’t build that!”) and demonizing industries… on and on it goes, constantly encouraging Americans to square off in opposing camps and use the power of the inescapable central State to force each other into submission.
I guess it’s really out of line for us to see Barack Obama as a “power-hungry guy,” just because he ignores the legal limits of his office on a regular basis, claiming extra-Constitutional powers to declare Congress out of session and modify legislation on the fly. Maybe if the states enjoyed a proper balance of power with the federal government, the system wouldn’t require a dictatorial chief executive to function. Or maybe Obama is right, and we’d all cheerfully fall in line behind a dictator who looked different.