Obamaâ€™s Agenda and Rights Attacks Interconnected
Conservative extremists are attempting to annihilate President Obama who at times, gives them additional ammunition. He is being hit from several fronts on a host of issues in addition to healthcare reform, including immigration, Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism, missile deployment, LGBT and the financial bailouts.
The motivation for the current scurrilous campaign against Obama is, in significant measure, racially motivated, Obama's denial to the contrary, notwithstanding. Of course, there are other contributing factors such as conservatives' basic dissatisfaction with Obama and a growing number of liberals/progressives and firm Black supporters who are increasingly concerned with his policies.
The president's healthcare reform proposals have generated the most negative fallout, although Rep. Joe Wilson's (Republican, S.C.) "You lie" salvo may run a close second. Disrupting town hall meetings was obviously a planned strategy that engaged thousands of people. It was widely reported that some at those meetings were armed, but no reports of anyone being charged with violating the law.
The anti-Obama town halls and tea parties converged with kindred souls to form a formidable conservative base. Obviously, the economic meltdown hit the poor and middle-class hardest and many whites who voted for Obama out of desperation now seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, are joining fellow conservatives. Obama as an adversary again, no longer even a temporary ally.
Joe Wilson's outburst, called racism by former President Jimmy Carter actually boosted his re-election efforts. As of two weeks ago, Wilson had raised $1.5 million and is considered a hero by the conservative fringe. He is a "new Confederate," who praises, "the patriots who turned town halls into chaos."
America's fundamental racism is a major factor in the anti-Obama equation and many whites have great difficulty accepting a Black man at the helm. The campaign leading up to the president's speech to the nation's public school students illustrates this point. Near hysteria developed over Obama's purported intention to spew "socialism," thereby poisoning the minds of millions of children (white) instantaneously. Utter nonsense.
Conservative talk show hosts and other rightists like Hugh Hewitt, Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, former representative Dick Army, et al, strongly denigrate Obama and his policies. They are also substantially of one accord on abortion, immigration and separation of state and church and collectively, constitute what some refer to as, "the cathedral from which the talk show catechism derives." (Former talk show host Mark Williams' personal blog describes the president as "an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug-Racist in Chief."
Two weeks ago, the widespread spinoff of the conservative fringe was evident when thousands rallied and railed against government spending and "bogus" healthcare reform. Their chants and posters included "You lie, you lie," and "Obama Bin Lyin." Real classy!
Conservative extremists have adopted tactics and strategies of the civil rights movement. Fox News' Glenn Beck refers to "white victimhood" and accuses Obama of having "a deep-seated hatred for white people and the white culture." Frank Ricci, the New Haven firefighter says President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court even though she discriminated against him in an appellate case because he is white; give him a towel.
Many Blacks are increasingly disappointed, if not disillusioned, with Obama's skirting the race issue and not discernibly addressing their concerns. Other supporters feel his denying and minimizing race is "presidential" and that to do otherwise would jeopardize his overall support and effectiveness, a fundamentally flawed argument.
Increasingly, Obama is perceived as troubling and enigmatic by detractors and supporters. His reversals and waffling on key issues are causing widespread consternation. For Blacks, especially, Obama's tendency to skirt race-related issues is viewed as a lack of concern for issues of primary importance to them.
During last weekend's media blitz, intended to shore up support for his healthcare plans, President Obama insisted that fear of change and the growing role of government, not racism, are more significant. He said that this summer (of discontent) reflected the kind of turmoil that is common "when presidents are trying to bring about big changes." He disagreed with President Carter's contention that racism underlies the extremely harsh attacks on him. Taking the long view of his critics' motivation and typically sidestepping race, Obama offered, "This is an argument that has gone on for the history of this Republic, and that is, What's the right role of government, and that argument always invokes passion."
President Obama is in denial when it comes to the continuing prominence of race in America. For Blacks and many others, he has failed to confront his most strident critics' racism. Coupled with his accommodation on issues of principle, there is spreading legitimate concern that should this persist, Obama may prove to be but a shadow of the audacity and hope he so eloquently intoned.
Professor Ron Walters, University of Maryland, captures the salience and solemnity of the moment: "If President Obama fails to speak out, then who is supposed to exercise the moral leadership?"
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail