“But no president in our nation’s history has ever been castigated, condemned, mocked, insulted, derided, and degraded on a scale even close to the constantly ugly attacks on President Obama. From the day he assumed office — indeed, even before he assumed office — he was subjected to unprecedented insults in often the most hateful terms.
He has been accused of being born in Kenya, of being a “secret Muslim,” of being complicit with the Muslim Brotherhood, of wearing a ring bearing a secret verse from the Koran, of having once been a Black Panther, of refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance, of seeking to confiscate all guns, of lying about just about everything he has ever said, ranging from Benghazi to the Affordable Care Act to immigration, of faking bin Laden’s death, and of funding his campaigns with drug money. It goes on and on and on. Even the President’s family is treated by his political enemies with disrespect and disdain.” – Geoffrey Stone, in the Huffington Post
President Obama has been a successful President by almost every measure. The economy has moved from the deepest point in the recession to sustained job growth. He has legislative triumphs, foreign policy success, and a relatively scandal-free Presidency. He was elected twice by relatively large margins. Yes, his party lost the midterms twice, but this last time had voting turn out at only 36%, meaning probably about 19% voted for the Republicans, hardly enough to counter his victories with a much larger turnout.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t reason to criticize him. The right certainly disagrees with him on many issues, and the left has been frustrated by his centrism unwillingness to really push on liberal causes. That goes with the territory of being a pragmatic centrist.
But given the clear racial divide still existing in the US, evidenced by the reaction to numerous cases of unarmed blacks being killed by police with no legal consequence, I believe the response to Obama is motivated in part by enduring racism.
That charge generates yelps of indignant “how dare you call me a racist” from Obama foes. No. You aren’t a racist if you oppose Obama. People left and right will oppose the “other side” all the time – that isn’t racism. What is racist is the way in which some critics of Obama attack his person, trying to denigrate the man, making it seem like he is unfit for the position he holds.
The causes of this are complex. To some it’s not overtly race, at least consciously. They see Obama as “different.” He’s not the kind of person we usually see as President. Not the wood splitting cowboy Ronald Reagan, or even the good old boy Bill Clinton. He’s urbane, intelligent, cosmopolitan, and doesn’t seem the type who would split wood or go to the corner bar to scream at the screen while watching football on a Sunday afternoon.
He’s also not a wealthy, respected businessman like Mitt Romney, nor is he even the southern moralist former Navy submarine commander like Jimmy Carter. He’s different. He’s black – but that isn’t all of it.
It is, however, part of it.
Obama symbolizes the changing nature of US politics and demographics. The future will have more Obamas and less Reagans. White males no longer determine who leads the country, or who sets its values. And just as many whites fear the rage from inner city youth and who thus try to blame the media and so-called ‘race baiters’ for the protests, they also fear the America that Obama symbolizes.
In many ways, Obama is like Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color barrier in baseball. He is doing a good job, but subject to unprecedented hate, vitriol and ridicule. He cannot respond in kind – that would be to play into the low level gutter politics of his opponents. He just has to do his job and let history make the call. And he is doing it very well.