It really disturbs a lot of white people when a white person of consequence, like a former president, launches a salvo or two against white racism.
(Talk about your thin skins.) In the early 1960s, the white hooligans always saved their most savage blows for the white freedom riders because
their presence on integrated buses in the Deep South represented an inescapable renunciation to the very notion of white superiority. Well, a
softer self-rejection occurred near the end of last year when ex-President Jimmy Carter opined on television and radio that a lot of the venomous
criticism against the nation’s first black commander-in-chief had spewed into the public dialogue more often because of the color of Obama’s skin
rather than because of the content of his policy initiatives.
Being called out by a black leader is easily dismissed by white audiences, as the rantings of a “militant” or an “angry” attention seeker. But when
the white majority is denounced by one of their own, it’s not so easily stuffed back into the bottle public ambivalence. President Carter’s
observations actually were quite tame considering that the threats against the current White House occupant have quadrupled in the last year
according to what’s been released by the Secret Service. Have we already forgotten the name of the self-styled preacher from out west who actually
broadcast a message that President Obama should be killed?
The first anniversary of that infamous—“You lie!”– outburst from Congressman Joe Wilson during President Obama’s congressional address is almost
upon us. Looking back upon that ugly ‘aha’ moment was just preamble for what was to come during the rest of the year.
Can any of us forget last summer’s surly mobs trying to beat health care reform into the political dust? The so-called “Tea Party” activists drew
pictures of President Obama with a Hitler-like mustache or had him dressed in a Nazi era uniform making it abundantly clear that their rage
canceled all chance for reasonable debate. Whipped to a frenzy by their right-wing radio barkers, the Tea Party mobs fussed and cussed straight
through fall into the holiday season.
So intense was the criticism and scrutiny of each and every White House policy decision that as Labor Day approached and President Obama announced
a speech for school age children (just as earlier Republican presidents had done) a political firestorm erupted that only flamed out when the
actual text of the address showed it contained exhortations for youth to stay in class and work hard to improve their grades.
Practically every nomination sent to the Senate has been held up by inordinate delays including the men and whom who by now should have been named
to federal prosecutorial posts and judgeships across the country. Even the war on terror has not been exempt for the conservatives’ diatribes.
The top post for securing the nation’s air travel head of the Transportation Safety Administration or TSA has been left vacant due to a southern
GOP Senator’ repeated blocking the nominee for fear he would allow unionization of federal workers. Finally, late last week, that nominee (who just
happens to be an African American) became fed up and dropped out of consideration.
To be sure, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson know their audience. In just one year after a little more than one-third of white America
voted for Barack Obama, the white majority has turned.
Last week in a poll published in the New York Times it showed Obama had the lowest approval rating among whites at the end of his first year in
office than any president in the 30 years that the Times and CBS News have collected such data. And the gap between Obama the others (Carter,
Reagan Clinton, Bush [the father] and the younger Bush) is significant, ranging from 10 to 36 percentage points.
Furthermore, added the Times, a Quinnipiac University poll, released just days earlier, found that most whites think Obama’s first year as
president has been mainly a failure. A plurality of whites even said that Obama has been a worse president than George W. Bush.
“If indeed, being Negro-lite made Obama palatable to white voters, as Senator Harry Reid was spanked for saying, that charm has worn off. Whites
are fuming at him,” concluded the Times’ columnist.
His personal popularity generally still hovers above the midpoint, but the president’s policies and his handling of the office, in particular
health care reform, have fallen sharply even among Americans of color.
For one solid year a nearly all-white Republican monolith has made opposition to the Democrats’ health care overhaul a virtual litmus test of party
loyalty. When the House and Senate voted on their versions of the legislation late last year, only one Republican congressman, a backbencher from
Louisiana, voted yes.
The grand eloquence that served Obama so well in the 2008 campaign just does not stand up in the hurly burly world of piecing together legislation
in an environment infested with special interests and office holders who value re-election above even their first born. It’s high time for this
White House to understand the limitations of white tolerance and design strategies that put the whole country first by putting Republicans on the
[Next Week: Why President Obama should stop cuddling up to Republicans.]