Thursday, June 26, 2008

Poisoning the well

Okay, that’s it. I’ve had it with this nonsense.

Here’s Senator Barack Obama warning about nefarious Republicans:
Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama said on Friday he expects Republicans to highlight the fact that he is black as part of an effort to make voters afraid of him.

... ”[The Republicans are going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?"

He said he was also set for Republicans to say "he's got a feisty wife," in trying to attack his wife Michelle.


Here’s Father Andrew Greeley making clear that the real reason people don’t vote for Obama - the only reason anyone has for not voting for Obama - is racism:
[I]s the voter a bigot who says -- to himself or others -- "He's too young for it," "I don't know anything about him," "He's an elitist," "He's just a lot of fancy talk," "The country isn't ready for a man like that," "He's weak in his support of Israel," "He's Muslim, possibly the anti-Christ!" Are these hints of lurking prejudice?

... Certainly there are solid political and personal reasons that some Americans might have had for voting against the senator that would not be in principle racist. He is one of the most "liberal" members of Congress. He stole the election from a woman who was entitled to it. He is one of the "boys" beating up on the female candidate. He is a not a patriot dedicated to final victory in Iraq. He is weak on national security. He lacks experience. He supports abortion. Yet behind these arguments, might racism lurk?


And Governor Kathleen Sibelius on those sneaky Republicans again:
Echoing comments by Barack Obama, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius predicted that Republicans would undertake "a major effort to try and frighten people about him" because of his race.

"That has been the Republican playbook for the last eight years," said Sebelius, an Obama ally. " 'He’s not qualified, he's somebody who should scare you. He's too liberaI.' "

The Kansas Democrat, often mentioned as a possible running mate for Obama, said those were all "code words" to try to make voters "uncomfortable."

"I don’t think anybody's going to go directly at the race issue, but that’s going to be an underlying theme," she said in an interview this week.


All equating perfectly legitimate concerns about Obama with racism. Well, that’s just ugly.

Even worse, it’s a policy that appears deliberately designed to have a chilling effect on the free expression of legitimate concerns. Do Obama supporters really want to suggest that people should vote for someone who is beyond criticism? Does that seem like a clever strategy? Do they actually think the American people are so stupid they can’t figure out that a President who rejects all criticism as without merit is not a good idea? Haven’t they been screaming their heads off about that very problem for the past, oh, four to eight years?

And if Obama does become President, what’s going to happen then? If Republicans criticize his policy decisions, are they going to be shouted down because their opposition to Obama’s health care plan or higher taxes or energy policies is really just a cover for racism? If someone in the media declares that President Obama is economically unsound or showing his inexperience or pursuing the wrong foreign policy, will he be yanked off the air because those are all code words for “black”?

Deep breath.

Obama, Greeley, and Sibelius say concerns about Obama are just cover-ups for racism, just code words for “Obama is black”. Well, I never got my decoder ring.

To me, “Obama is young, inexperienced, not qualified” does not mean “Obama is black”. It means Obama does not have enough time in executive or government positions.

To me, “Obama is somebody who should scare you, somebody you don’t know anything about, just a lot of fancy talk” does not mean “Obama is black”. It means I never heard of Obama until seven months ago and he wants to run the country for four years. It means Obama has such a scanty track record I can’t assess where he stands on issues based on what he’s done. It means Obama has had a recent run of position changes that exacerbate my concerns about where he really stands. It means Obama’s supporters are too unquestioning. It means his speeches are much more impressive when he gives them than they are when I read them.

To me, “Obama has a funny name” does not mean “Obama is black”. It means Obama has a funny name. Since my first name is unusual and my last name is downright hysterical, I can certainly sympathize. But a funny name is more likely to inspire uncontrollable laughter than terror.

If what Obama means is that Republicans are going to paint him as foreign or Muslim or whatever because his name is “un-American”, then, yes, I would consider that not racist, exactly, but certainly prejudiced.

To me, “Obama has a feisty wife” does not mean “Obama is black”. It means Obama has a feisty wife. If someone referred to me as “feisty”, that would be a compliment. I hope that if someone told my husband I was “feisty”, he’d take it as a compliment.

If what Obama means is that Republicans are going to hold him responsible for his wife’s less-popular statements, that’s another issue. But it’s not racist. After all, it’s certainly not unheard of for white candidates to be taken to task for their wives’ comments. (Cookies, anyone? I've been home baking all day.)

To me, “Obama is too liberal, one of the most liberal members of Congress” does not mean “Obama is black”. (Ever heard of Clarence Thomas? No? How about Ted Kennedy?) It means Obama wants to raise taxes and spend lots of money. It means Obama ranked most liberal in 2007 based on that thing the National Journal does when it ranks senators. Heck, coming from a Republican, it just means, “Obama is a Democrat.”

To me, “Obama is an elitist” does not mean “Obama is black.” (Although isn’t it nice we’ve gotten to a point where someone can claim it does? Black=elite - pretty cool.) It means Obama sounded like a condescending, ill-informed sociology professor when he made his bitter/cling comment.

To me, “Obama is weak in his support of Israel” does not mean “Obama is black.” It means Obama has said some things about the Palestinians that - in the overheated crucible that is the Mideast - sound less firm than Israel’s supporters would like. It also means Obama seems a little overoptimistic about the reasonableness of Israel’s enemies.

To me, “Obama is not a patriot dedicated to final victory in Iraq” does not mean “Obama is black.” It means that statement needs to be unpacked. “Obama is not a patriot” doesn’t mean anything - it’s just a standard campaign line like “My guy is dedicated, your guy is ambitious” or “My guy is trustworthy, your guy is a liar.” “Obama is not dedicated to final victory in Iraq” means “Obama is not dedicated to final victory in Iraq - like virtually every other national Democratic figure and literally millions of his fellow Americans of all races.”

To me, “Obama stole the election from a woman who was entitled to it” does not mean “Obama is black.” It means the speaker is an angry Clinton supporter. Trust me, they would have been just as angry at John Edwards.

To me, “Obama is one of the ‘boys’ beating up on the female candidate does not mean “Obama is black.” It means, “Obama is a sexist pig.”

To me, “Obama supports abortion” does not mean “Obama is black.” It means the Democrats have women’s votes locked up and there’s no way he’s throwing away that advantage.

And what about the remaining statements? “The country isn't ready for a man like that”; “Obama is black”, “Obama is Muslim, possibly the anti-Christ!” Well, those aren’t racist either. As they stand, they are - in order - ambiguous; how he has self-identifed; inaccurate; and really stupid. With a little of the right fluffing up, though, they might very well be racist:

The country isn’t ready for a man like that:
If the real meaning is, “The country isn’t ready for a President who’s black” that’s the statement Greeley himself was making - it means the speaker thinks his fellow Americans are racist.

If the real meaning is, “I”m not ready for a President who’s black” that’s racist.

Obama is black:
If the rest of the statement is “I won’t vote for Obama because he’s black” or “Don’t vote for Obama because he’s black”, that’s racist.

Obama is a Muslim:
If the rest of the statement is “Obama is a Muslim because he’s black”, that’s racist.

If the rest of the statement is “Obama is a Muslim because his father was a Muslim” that’s incorrect. And un-American.

If the rest of the statement is “Strict Muslims will consider Obama a Muslim because his father was a Muslim and therefore he’ll be considered an apostate and OMG!” that’s not my problem, Obama’s problem, or America’s problem. Around here, we don’t let religious fanatics tell us who to vote for.

If the rest of the statement is, “I won’t vote for Obama because he’s a Muslim” or “Don’t vote for Obama because he’s a Muslim”, that’s still inaccurate. And it is, again, not racist, exactly, but prejudiced. (It is also not unique to Muslims - not everyone was happy about Romney’s Mormonism or Lieberman’s Judaism - but I’m pretty sure it’s more pronounced for Muslims right now than for other religions. Although I do wonder how the electorate would react to a Buddhist or Hindu candidate. Or an atheist candidate.)

Obama is probably the anti-Christ:
If the rest of the statement is, “Obama is the anti-Christ because he’s black.”, that’s racist. (And idiotic. Everyone knows the anti-Christ has blond hair and blue eyes. Don’t these guys read the “Left Behind” series?)

If the rest of the statement is, “I won’t vote for Obama because he’s the anti-Christ” or “Don’t vote for Obama because he’s the anti-Christ”, that’s not racist. But it is still idiotic.

2 comments:

S said...

What a fine post, well written and totally on point. As a Hillary supporter there was virtually no comment one could make about Senator Obama's qualifications or his stands on the the issues that was not answered with, "You must be a racist." I was a bit surprised, however, at Senator Obama's trotting out such a thinly veiled race card so early.

Elise said...

Thanks, s. I, too, was surprised at these statements by Obama. He's run such a tightly orchestrated campaign and I really can't see the advantage in his talking about this now.