Friday, January 22, 2010

He's an American. Deal and move on

Gary Younge in the Guardian discusses opposition to President Obama in economically depressed parts of America. His article leads off with:

One year after his election, Barack Obama's approval rating is lower at this stage than for any US president since Eisenhower. So why has the optimism surrounding his victory disappeared so suddenly?

But that's a bit misleading. Younge doesn't so much discuss people who were optimistic about Obama but have lost the faith. Instead he mostly talks about those elements of society who never gave him a chance in the first place. And the people he quotes keep coming back to the issue of race. But they dress it up all nice, not explicitly mentioning race but implying Obama's a Muslim or somehow not American.

Usually I'm annoyed when I hear things like "People who oppose Barack Obama just oppose him because he's black." Not only do I think there are plenty of people who oppose him from both the left and the right who aren't racist, but tarring people who disagree with you with the broad "racist" brush is a way of shutting out viewpoints that differ from yours. You don't like the guy I voted for? Then you're a bad person and I don't have to listen to you.

But come on. Would there be a "birther" movement if the President were Al Gore or John Kerry or John Edwards or Hillary Clinton? Would people be muttering "(s)he's not even a real American"? Would people reflexively be calling the President a Muslim?[1]

No, of course not. Part of it is Obama's skin color. But I think a big part of it is also his name. A lot of people can't get over his name. Hussein. Barack Hussein Obama. B. Hussein Obama. And quite frankly, attacking him based on his name is racist too. His name is his heritage.

Here's what I'd like to see.

Who are seen as leaders in right-wing anti-Obama "tea party" movements? Palin? Scott Brown? Beck? Limbaugh? Let's have somebody actually show some leadership.

I'd like to see a prominent somebody that these tea-party guys respect forcefully repudiate all of the race-based anti-Obama crap. I want to see them loudly and unequivocally say that the idea Obama was born in Kenya is nutty, that calling him a Muslim is just mindless name-calling, that implying he's less "American" because he's B. Hussein Obama is simply unacceptable.

That would be leadership. And if right-wing opposition to Obama and his agenda really is based on his economic agenda, fears of a huge national debt, and opposition to expanded government programs, then denouncing the nasty race-based rhetoric wouldn't weaken or compromise their message one bit.

Once again, if Beck or Palin or Limbaugh or Brown said this loudly and forcefully, that would be leadership.

[1] Actual American Muslims, take note: They're trying to insult President Obama by comparing him to you. But no need for you to take offense. Of course.

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