I was on ABC World News last night, in a segment where I argued that, no, the opposition to President Obama is not about racism. Alas, I appear not to have persuaded former President Carter. Here’s an e-mail I sent this morning to someone who saw the ABC segment, and disagreed with me:
I don’t deny that there are SOME racists out there, but I do not believe that it is an appreciable part of the opposition to President Obama’s policies. Also, just because some of the people who oppose President Obama are crazy, doesn’t mean they are racist; just because they are crazy and call him Satan, doesn’t mean they are racist either. When you are President and you address controversial issues, you make enemies, including some crazy enemies; this President may make more than most, since he has a very ambitious and very liberal agenda.
Consider: (1) Bill Clinton was hated by many of the same people, and he was a white male Southerner; he was not cut any slack when he proposed HIS healthcare plan. (2) There are lots of people in opposition who are African American, and lots of African Americans [and members of other racial minority groups] whom the opposition likes: To give just a few examples, Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, is black; a darling of conservatives, Bobby Jindal, is South Asian; my boss, Linda Chavez, another popular conservative and administration critic, is Latina; and so forth. (3) The President himself, in a press conference earlier this year, indicated that he expected he would be judged according to his policies and their success or failure, not on his race; he’s right [and his press secretary affirmed his position yesterday]. (4) The supporters of healthcare reform were complaining that the President over the summer was NOT closely enough identified with the bill; so it’s a little odd for them to say that the opposition to the bill over the summer was a result of the President’s race. (4) I see that the latest person to blame racism for much of the opposition to President Obama is former President Carter; but I suspect that those opposing President Obama hold President Carter—another white male Southerner—in much greater contempt. (5) To the extent that the opposition has been ruder than the opposition to past Democratic presidents, it may be simply because American public life has gotten ruder. President Obama is being called nothing worse than his immediate successor was called; Serena Williams was not rude to the linesman because of the linesman’s race.
Again, I don’t deny that there are racists out there, but I don’t think it’s helpful to blame the heated opposition to President Obama on racism.