One of the notable aspects of the presidency of Barack Obama has been the blatant disrespect that the right wing of the right wing has been directed towards him, his administration, his policies and anything and everything that is associated with him. There can be no doubt that the spigot that has spewed this sewage has racism contaminating its source. The question now stands as Election Day arrives on November 6th – do Americans have the ability to overcome America’s original sin and vote rationally and in their own best interest?
It is true that the presidency of the United States has been a bull’s-eye for horrible insults and horrific personal attacks. George Washington was termed an idiot, Abraham Lincoln was likened to an ape and Franklin Roosevelt was rumored to be part of a global Zionist cabal. And certainly, the freedom of speech that is one of the foundations of democracy does result in personal attacks. Anyone who steps into the political ring should certainly wear their Big Boy or Big Girl Pants.
Nevertheless, an honest and thoughtful analysis of the sludge storm directed at President Obama will discern a difference from historical patterns of political attacks and criticism. The so-called “birther” controversy can serve as Exhibit A because it has meant so much more than a search for a birth certificate. It has been a concerted and focused effort to delegitimize the first black president of the United States.
Mitt Romney has “joked” about having no need to show his birth certificate (even though his own father was born in Mexico) sending out the same, tired, dog whistle – “Barack Obama is not one of us…..he’s black”. Rather than taking the high road, Mitt Romney has to wallow in the racially-tinged mud that has been tossed around by the birthers ever before President Obama was elected.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, Teapublicans and media outlets have managed to give a patina of respectability to the really awful behavior of Donald Trump with regards to President Obama. It is bad enough that he refueled the flagging birther crusade a year ago, his latest demand for the school transcripts of Barack Obama was insulting, disrespectful and stupid. But somewhere under that fake hair Donald Trump’s mind was working overtime to rebroadcast the dog whistle message – “Barack Obama is not one of us…he’s black and he could not possibly have honestly and legitimately attended Columbia University and Harvard Law School”.
Not to be outdone, Tagg Romney, the self-satisfied, pampered and entitled son of Mitt Romney was quoted as saying that he “wanted to take a swing” at President Obama. And while the Secret Service probably realized that Romney the Younger probably never threw a punch in his life, the disrespect offered by Tagg Romney was not followed by an apology from Tagg Romney, his father, the Teapublican Party or supporters of Mitt Romney. The dog whistle plays the tune – “Barack Obama is not one of us and I don’t care if he is president of the United States, he is black and is not worthy of even basic respect in our white right wing universe”.
Bringing up the rear, Sarah Palin and John Sununu seem to be in some kind of demented contest to come up with the most racially charged epithet to hurl at President Obama. John Sununu called the president “lazy” and claimed that he needed to learn how to “act like an American”. The Grizzly Mom decided to accuse President Obama of “shucking and jiving” when it came to Libya. The racist and racial implications of these statements and thousands more are clear and sad.
What is truly sad is that there are millions of white Americans who are prepared to vote against their own personal and family interest because their judgment has been clouded by the dog whistle politics practiced by Mitt Romney and the Teapublicans. Millions of white Americans are part of the 47% that Mitt Romney has derided and charged with lacking personal responsibility. Millions of white Americans are uninsured or underinsured and will suffer greatly if Obamacare is repealed.
And millions of white women will be given a real time history lesson of what life was like before reproductive rights were established. That life will be absent of choice, contraception services and not only will pregnancies from rape be the “will of God”, the outcome of any pregnancy will not be a woman’s choice.
It is sad that millions of white Americans might allow appeals to racism overcome their own instincts for survival and self-preservation. This election is not about race it is about the choice between competing visions for this country. Those who have chosen to make this election about race are the ones who have sought to cloud and blur their real message until they are able to seize power.
We can only hope that every American who votes does so with his/her eyes open and that we all can ignore the dog whistles.