Method to  the madness

Method to the madness

The GOP only benefits from increasing number of blatant racist attacks on Obama

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson 08/15/2013

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In quick succession over one week, a protester waves a sign that says “Bye, Bye Black Sheep” and a small chorus puts it to the popular ditty “Bye, Bye Blackbird” in front of Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, where President Obama spoke about housing finance reform. Then hundreds of attendees at a Missouri state fair roar with laughter and applause at a rodeo clown’s mocking of Obama. In Orlando, a knot of protesters wave racially insulting signs, including “Kenyan Go Home,” at Obama’s motorcade. And a Republican congressman hints that there’s sentiment among House Republicans for an Obama impeachment drive over questions about his American citizenship. 

These despicable and outrageous displays of racism should be condemned. But at least they’re honest in that the upfront bigots shredded the carefully honed script that has been the template for the racially sneaky and insidious attacks on Obama. 

The script reads like this: Whenever an elected official, a tea party figure or gobs of protesters wave their racially loaded signs and shout racially derogatory barbs at Obama, tea party and GOP leaders chalk it up to a fringe few, or cranks, and then wail about how it’s unfair to tar the tea party and the GOP as racist for the acts of a kooky few. They’d have a legitimate gripe except for two small points.
In 2012, a Brown University social scientist used polling experiments and an independent survey to identify a number of issues that have been bitterly contested by Obama and the GOP and are seemingly race neutral. They include: tax policy, health care reform, Supreme Court appointments and political party identification. He found that those with a racial antipathy toward blacks were more prone to oppose anything that Obama supported.

There’s method to the madness there. The relentless racial assault on Obama has been the one unyielding constant from the moment that Obama declared his presidential candidacy in 2007. This was not simply an unorganized, spontaneous expression of bigotry. It was subtly stoked and orchestrated by the GOP with the clear political aim of disrupting, destabilizing and rendering politically impotent Obama’s programs, initiatives and proposed legislation.

The final presidential vote in 2008 gave plenty of warning of the lethality of the GOP’s core conservative white constituency when aroused. Overall, Obama garnered slightly more than 40 percent of the white male vote. Among Southern and Midwestern white male voters, Obama made almost no impact. The only thing that even made Obama’s showing respectable in those states was the record turnout and percentage of black votes — all Democrat — that he won.

A Harvard post-election assessment of the 2008 vote found that race did factor into the presidential election and that it cost Obama three to five percent of the national popular vote. Put bluntly, if Obama had been white, the election would have been a rout. During the GOP presidential primary campaign, GOP candidates made sure of that with the stream of race-tinged remarks that Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney made about food stamps, welfare, work ethics and an “entitlement” society. Then there were the racially loaded newsletters from Ron Paul that resurfaced. When challenged, the candidates ducked, dodged and denied any racial intent. In the case of Paul’s newsletters, he denied ever penning them.

Obama’s 2012 reelection gave even more indication that little had changed. In fact, it got worse. The president received a smaller percentage of the overall white vote than he did in 2008, and that included a small but significant defection of younger white voters who backed him in 2008.

The tea party continues to take some heat for race baiting, witness the recent broadside from Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel, in which he branded them as “white crackers.” The attacks hit home, and they retooled and refined their attacks and slogans targeting the deficit, the budget, spending cuts and political scandals. This was carefully designed to yank the albatross of race off the backs of the tea party and the GOP. But that hardly meant race was off the GOP table as a major political weapon. They could have it both ways. Their shock troops in the streets, as they showed in front of the high school where Obama spoke, could hurl their racist taunts, and the GOP and tea party leaders could either stay mute or engage in plausible deniability, saying it’s really a few lone nuts, not us, who are racist.

Serenading Obama to the tune of “Bye, Bye Blackbird” and other clownish racist antics simply reconfirms the horrid fact that Obama’s public policy stances and battles will continue to be dogged by subtle and overt racial rips from the congenital Obama race baiters. And despite the fevered denials that race has anything to do with their Obama animus, there’s political method to the madness. 

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He also hosts the Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles, streamed on podcast on and internet TV broadcast on Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter:


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