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“The Message Is Always The Same”: The Race-Baiting Continues

I’ve been holding off on writing something about the bizarre spectacle of the Derrick Bell “exposé” that has consumed the nuttier corners of the right in the last couple of days, simply because it’s so weird and pathetic that I wasn’t sure exactly how to talk about it beyond simple ridicule.

In case you missed it, here’s the story, briefly: Just before he died, conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart said his web enterprises would soon release an explosive video that would transform the 2012 election by revealing Barack Obama’s radical ties.

The video turned out to be of something that was not only utterly unremarkable, but had been reported before. In 1991, when Obama was a student at Harvard Law School, the school was embroiled in a controversy over the under-representation of minorities on the faculty. Derrick Bell, the first black tenured professor at the school and a widely admired figure in legal circles, announced that he would take a leave until the school made efforts to hire more minority faculty. Obama spoke at a rally in support of Bell, and in support of more minorities on the faculty. And that’s the shocking revelation. Oh, and one more thing that conservatives are up in arms about—they hugged. Really.

Over at Breitbart’s web site, I count eight separate pieces on Derrick Bell (who died last year), trying to make the case that he was some kind of insane radical pushing radical theories of radicalism, all with the intention of oppressing white people, which is obviously what Barack Obama is up to as well. Just to get a flavor, here’s an excerpt from one of the articles:

Racialism is so woven into the thinking of Bell, and many believe Barack Obama, any white individual, regardless of ideology or personal attribute lacks the ability to understand and relate racism in America. Consequently, the notion of racial quotas is not simply based upon some idea of equality of opportunity, they must be imposed as white’s [sic] are inferior to blacks in an area Bell and Obama see as critical. While we like to think of equality as color blind, that is not the view Bell shared as a “truth” Obama embraced and encouraged others to do, as well.

You’ll notice the chain of logic, though I use that term loosely: Here’s an exaggeration of something Derrick Bell once said, “many believe” Obama thinks in the same way, here’s a leap to a parody of policies Obama doesn’t actually support, here’s a conclusion about how Obama hates white people and wants to screw them.

From the beginning of Breitbart’s enterprise, race-baiting was a key element of his attack on Barack Obama, one that continues even after his death. And he always had plenty of company, from Glenn Beck saying Obama “has a deep-seated hatred of white people,” to Rush Limbaugh’s repeated insistence to his white listeners that Obama was motivated by racial hatred in everything he did. “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations,” Limbaugh proclaimed. “The days of [minorities] not having any power are over, and they are angry,” he said. “And they want to use their power as a means of retribution. That’s what Obama’s about, gang.” When in 2009 he found a story about a white kid getting beaten up by a black kid on a school bus, Limbaugh said, “In Obama’s America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, ‘Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on.'” And yes, he did that last part in an exaggerated “black” accent.

The message is always the same: Obama and the blacks are mad, and they’re coming for you. Yet people like the Breitbart folks and Limbaugh have two problems. First, they’re running out of material. There aren’t any more shocking revelations to be had. The best they can do is try to make mountains of racial resentment out of the most innocuous molehills, like the fact that Obama supported Derrick Bell’s effort to diversify the faculty when he was a law student. And second, by now anyone who can be convinced that Obama is a secret Black Panther never thought otherwise. The guy has been president for three years. Americans are pretty familiar with him. He hasn’t actually started herding white people into concentration camps, and it’s an awfully tough sell to tell people that he might any day now.

This is a version of the larger problem conservatives have as we get into the 2012 election. The argument many of them will be making, in various forms, is this: Forget about what Obama has actually done. That doesn’t tell you anything. Let me tell you a story about his secret desires, his wicked thoughts, his venomous heart. That’s what your decision should be based on. You hear it from media bloviators, you hear it from interest groups, like the NRA screeching that if he’s re-elected Obama will outlaw guns, and you hear it from Mitt Romney, who is forever claiming that deep down Obama doesn’t much love America and wants to turn it into a European-style social-welfare state. Who are you going to believe, them, me, or or your own eyes?

Watching this stuff is immensely dispiriting, I’ll grant you. But it should be some consolation that it doesn’t seem to be working.

 

By: Paul Waldman, The American Prospect, March 9, 2012

March 10, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Extraordinary Paranoid Fantasies”: Barack Obama, The Alien President

They say that President Obama is a Muslim, but if he isn’t, he’s a secularist who is waging war on religion. On some days he’s a Nazi, but on most others he’s merely a socialist. His especially creative opponents see him as having a “Kenyan anti-colonial worldview,” while the less adventurous say that he’s an elitist who spent too much time in Cambridge, Hyde Park and other excessively academic precincts.

Whatever our president is, he is never allowed to be a garden-variety American who plays basketball and golf, has a remarkably old-fashioned family life and, in the manner we regularly recommend to our kids, got ahead by getting a good education.

Please forgive this outburst. It’s simply astonishing that a man in his fourth year as our president continues to be the object of the most extraordinary paranoid fantasies. A significant part of his opposition still cannot accept that Obama is a rather moderate politician quite conventional in his tastes and his interests. And now that the economy is improving, short-circuiting easy criticisms, Obama’s adversaries are reheating all the old tropes and cliches and slanders.

True, some of this is driven by cable television (a venue in which I acknowledge regularly participating). Attacks designed to gin up the conservative base are quickly recycled to gin up outrage within Obama’s own base. Moreover, Obama is not the first president caught up in the rank unpleasantness of this particularly unforgiving political moment. A quick Google search will unearth references to George W. Bush as a “Nazi,” and Bill Clinton’s Republican opponents went so far as to impeach him in a shameful episode of extreme partisanship.

On those Hitler metaphors: Can we please agree to a voluntary cross-party ban on invoking the Fuhrer in the context of American politics? Only dictators who commit genocide against millions qualify for this odious comparison. It trivializes Hitler’s crimes to use Nazi references as everyday epithets.

But there is something especially rancid about the never-ending efforts to turn Obama into a stranger, an alien, a Manchurian Candidate with a diabolical hidden agenda. Are we trying to undo all the good it did us with the rest of the world when we elected an African American with a middle name popular among Muslims?

In my experience, even Americans who voted against Obama were proud that our nation showed friend and foe alike that we are a special place. We know it’s wrong to judge people by their race or lineage, and we so value religious freedom and openness that we elected a Christian convert who is the son of a Muslim father and an agnostic mother to lead us at one of our most difficult moments.

Yet many in the anti-Obama camp just can’t stop themselves from playing on fears that electing a man who defies old stereotypes was a terrible mistake. Thus did the Rev. Franklin Graham assert Tuesday on MSNBC not only that Muslims regard Obama as “a son of Islam” (because his father was Muslim) but also that “under President Obama, the Muslims of the world, he seems to be more concerned about them than the Christians that are being murdered in the Muslim countries.” Graham slightly softened his comments on CNN Wednesday, but it remains troubling that he chose to turn a legitimate concern about the persecution of Christians into a slander.

In the meantime, Republican presidential candidates want to take a disagreement over whether and how contraception should be covered in plans issued under the new health-care law and turn it into a war against religion itself. “Unfortunately, possibly because of the people the president hangs around with, and their agenda, their secular agenda — they have fought against religion,” declared Mitt Romney, who pursued a similar line of attack in Wednesday night’s debate.

It’s another breathtaking slander to label Obama’s choice as an attack on religion altogether — and I say this as someone who strongly opposed the president’s initial decision not to offer any accommodation to religiously affiliated institutions on contraception. And how strange it is that Obama’s critics imply that he’s a Muslim and also condemn him as a secularist. He must be terribly clever — maybe it’s that fancy education of his — to be both.

As for Obama as a socialist, ponder two numbers: 13,005, which the Dow Jones average hit this week, up from a low point of 6,547 in March 2009. Some socialist.

We are blessed with the freedom to say whatever we want about our president. But those who cast Obama as something other than one of us don’t understand him and don’t understand what it means to be American.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 22, 2012

February 23, 2012 Posted by | Birthers, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yearning For A Whiter America: Michele Bachmann’s Misplaced Immigration Nostalgia

In both of this month’s Republican presidential debates, Rep. Michele Bachmann hailed what she evidently believes was the golden age of American immigration — the period before the mid-1960s when, she said, “immigration law worked beautifully.”

Ms. Bachmann’s nostalgia is touching but misplaced, unless she really pines for a return to laws that explicitly favored white immigrants from a handful of Northern European countries while excluding or disadvantaging Jews, Asians, Africans and practically everyone else.

Ms. Bachmann didn’t frame it that way, of course. She blamed “liberal members of Congress” for upsetting a system that she characterized as requiring immigrants to have money, sponsors, and clean health and criminal records. In Ms. Bachmann’s world, those immigrants would learn American history and to speak English.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 fundamentally changed the system of immigration in this country but not in the way Ms. Bachmann evidently imagines. That law, pushed by Democrats including Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Emanuel Celler (D-N.Y.), threw out four decades of immigration quotas whose explicit goal was to emulate America’s ethnic balance as it stood in the year 1890, when the country remained overwhelmingly white.

Specifically, the 1965 measure ended a legal regime dating from the early 1920s that generally shut out Asians (especially Japanese) and capped immigration from Latin America, Eastern and Southern Europe, and other areas at very low levels. The effect was to overhaul that hidebound, exclusive quota system. The new system, whose cornerstone gave preference to family reunification and job skills, broadened what had been a narrow pool of immigrants to include soaring numbers of newcomers from Asia and Latin America.

The shift has contributed to the nation’s diversity, dynamism and rich cultural kaleidoscope even as it challenged society, especially schools, to accommodate waves of new Americans whose looks, language and customs were unfamiliar to their neighbors.

By talking about sponsorship, English-language competency and the like, Ms. Bachmann is either confused or deliberately misleading. Most legal immigrants are still required to have family or employer sponsors, as they did in the gauzy past she idealizes. As for learning English, American history and the like, those were, and remain, requirements for citizenship, not immigration.

Ms. Bachmann, whose campaign did not respond to a request for comment, may not care for the changes and effects wrought by the 1965 bill; many other critics on the right do not. Patrick Buchanan, for example, has blamed the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech on the immigration overhaul, noting that the gunman “was among the 864,000 Koreans here as a result of the Immigration Act of 1965, which threw the nation’s doors open to the greatest invasion in history, an invasion opposed by a majority of our people.” If Ms. Bachmann shares such views, let her address the issue honestly and head on, not in code.

 

By: Editorial Board, The Washington Post, September 15, 2011

September 17, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Democrats, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Immigrants, Immigration, Liberty, Politics, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Days Of Our Lives”: Race And Conservative Nostalgia

Reihan Salam says that cranky old white conservative nostalgics aren’t racists they’re just white people who are nostalgic for a whiter, more racist America:

One thing that is undeniably true is that American conservatives are overwhelmingly white in a country that is increasingly less so. As the number of Latinos and Asian-Americans has increased in coastal states like California, New York and New Jersey, many white Americans from these regions have moved inland or to the South. For at least some whites, particularly those over the age of 50, there is a sense that the country they grew up in is fading away, and that Americans with ancestors from Mexico or, as in my case, Bangladesh don’t share their religious, cultural and economic values. These white voters are looking for champions, for people who are unafraid to fight for the America they remember and love. It’s unfair to call this sentiment racist. But it does help explain at least some of our political divide.

This puts me in a mind of House Speaker John Boehner’s explicitly expressed view that the problem with President Obama is was that he and the 111th Congress were “snuffing out the America that I grew up in”.

As I said at the time, on its face it’s difficult to make sense of that. John Boehner was born in 1949. Does he feel nostalgic for the higher marginal tax rates of the America he grew up in? For the much larger labor union share of the workforce? The threat of global nuclear war? It’s difficult for me to evade the conclusion that on an emotional level, conservative nostalgics like Boehner are primarily driven by regret at the loss of social privilege by white men. In Boehner’s defense, I often hear white male progressives express nostalgia for the lost America of the 1950s and 1960s and think to myself “a black person or a woman wouldn’t put it like that.” But progressive nostalgics do at least have the high-tax, union-dominated economy and egalitarian income distribution as the things they like. But from a non-bigoted conservative point of view, what is there really to miss about the America John Boehner grew up it? The tax rates were high, but at least they didn’t let Jews into the country club?

 

By: Matthew Yglesias, ThinkProgress, August 19, 2011

August 19, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Immigrants, Jobs, Labor, Politics, Racism, Religion, Republicans, Right Wing, Taxes, Teaparty, Unions, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Partisanship, Ideology And Race Influence Attitudes Toward Obama

‘Birtherism’ is on the decline following the release of the President’s long form birth certificate. But it is nonetheless instructive to consider how the meme was accepted by so many conservatives. Alan I Abramowitz has what is likely be the definitive data-driven post on the subject up at Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Abramowitz weighs the data regarding the influence of partisanship, ideology and race on formation of the birther meme:

Until now, debates about the influence of racial attitudes on opinions of Obama have been severely hampered by a lack of survey data including relevant questions. However, the availability of a new data set now makes it possible to directly examine the impact of racial attitudes on whites’ evaluations of President Obama.The data used in this article come from the October 2010 wave of the American National Election Study Evaluations of Government and Society Survey (EGSS). The October 2010 survey was the first of several cross-sectional studies being conducted by ANES in 2010, 2011 and 2012 to test new instrumentation and measure public opinion between the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. The surveys are being conducted entirely on the Internet using nationally representative probability samples. Respondents are members of the Knowledge Networks KnowledgePanel, an omnibus panel of respondents recruited using telephone and address-based sampling methods who are provided free Internet access and equipment when necessary.

Evaluations of President Obama were measured by two questions, a five-point scale measuring positive versus negative feelings about the president and a seven-point scale measuring how strongly respondents liked or disliked him. The correlation between these two questions was a very strong .85, so I combined them into a single Obama rating scale with a range from 0 (extremely negative) to 10 (extremely positive). The mean score on this scale was 5.1 with a standard deviation of 3.6. About a third (34%) of respondents gave Obama a rating of 8 through 10 while 31% gave him a rating of 0 through 2. Thus, opinions of Obama were closely divided and highly polarized.

Abramowitz also notes that “Obama’s approval rating averaged 38% for whites compared with 59% for nonwhites including 85% for African Americans.” Turning to the question of ‘birther’ attitudes, Abramowitz examines the data and adds,

…Racial resentment had a strong impact on beliefs about his place of birth. While recent polling indicates that doubts about whether President Obama was born in the United States have diminished since he released his “long form” Hawaiian birth certificate, the “birther” myth has proven stubbornly resistant to evidence. In fact, 58% of white respondents in the EGSS expressed some doubt about whether Barack Obama was born in the United States including 28% who thought that he definitely or probably was not born in the United States.

Abramowitz concludes that “partisanship and ideology were the strongest predictors of overall evaluations of President Obama and opinions about his place of birth among white Americans” and that “regardless of party or ideology, whites who scored high on racial resentment had more negative opinions of Obama and were more likely to harbor doubts about whether he was born in the United States than whites who scored low on racial resentment.”

Given the tenacity of racial bias among a substantial segment of the public, President Obama’s approval ratings are all the more impressive, as is his ability to calmly navigate around the treacherous shoals of race in America.

By: Staff, The Democratic Strategist, May 24, 2011

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Conservatives, Democracy, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, President Obama, Racism, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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