Politics in America can be mean, crude, nasty, and in many ways irrational. This is historic, going back at least to 1804 Burr/Hamilton duel that did in poor Alexander. But in many ways, the vitriol being waged against Barack Obama is making history, too – because much of it is beyond the pale, and even unprecedented in its viciousness.
The apparent reasons are obvious, but the real reasons are far more subtle, and worthy of exploring. Topping the “apparent” list would be the contention that he is a radical liberal, a tax-and-spend left-wing Democrat, or something on the edge of a Socialist. While this charge is easy to make, it really is not supported by the facts. Indeed, progressive Democrats criticize him for just the opposite – that he is essentially following in the footsteps of George Bush. In fact he has conceded all the Bush tax cuts; he fully executed Bush’s TARP program; he opted out of single-payer and/or even the public option in the Affordable Care Act (now deridingly called “Obamacare”); he kept Guantanamo open; and he has commenced offshore drilling. In short, he really has extended much of what Bush stood for, but that has not stopped the supposed portrayal of his liberal ways.
Then we have the absurd claims of the “Birthers.” Few if any of our former presidents have faced the charge that they were not “real” Americans. His middle name is Hussein, and his last name sounds like the despised (now departed) Osama. He went to Muslim school where he was exposed to … who knows what? Despite all evidence, even today there are those who hate Obama so much they still refute his citizenship.
Attached to that claim are the attacks on his loyalty. He did not put his hand over his heart during the playing of the national anthem; he did not have a flag lapel pin; his minister said angry things about our country; and Michele Bachmann charged that he had “anti-American” tendencies.
It’s not his policies
Politics and patriotism create just some of the vitriol spewed by the Obama haters, and while they appear to be the reason there is so much enmity for him, it is not his policies that have engendered the volume and intensity that borders on pure hate.
If not his policies, what of his color? That too would be an apparent reason, but while sheer bigotry may play a role, I do not believe that is the ultimate reason. However, it is related to the real reason. And what would that be?
In my opinion it is the xenophobic fear many (and mostly white) Americans have as our country changes from a largely white/European nation to one of color. Barack Obama is a metaphor, a symbol, a foreshadowing of that change. And to many white Americans that is unsettling, unpleasant, and frankly … scary! They hope, and believe that ridding the country of Obama will stop that trend, and as they say “take back our country.” These are telling words. Take back our country. To whom, from whom?
To start with, Obama is not just our first black president, he has that funny name. American presidents, of all historic parties, have had “solid European names” like Jefferson, Jackson, and more recently Johnson, Carter, Clinton and Bush. Not “Obama.” That’s the way it should be, according to conservative Americans. Moreover, Michelle Obama does not “look” like an American first lady. They were staid, “knew their place”… and were white! Again, as Michele Bachmann recently said: “everything I needed to know I learned in Iowa” – (note, not Indonesia, Chicago, or Columbia University). Iowa – that’s as American as apple pie, an America we still dream of.
While hostility toward a sitting president is not a new phenomenon, this one is different from the past. This time stifling immigration and stopping the coming change of “color” in America will not work. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, barring Chinese laborers from coming to the United States. The Immigration Act of 1924 established the national origins quota system, which was aimed at restricting southern and eastern Europeans; it also prohibited immigration of East Asians and Asian Indians. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished the national-origin quotas and opened the way for a surge in immigration. The result of this is what scares many Americans now.
Recent population growth driven by minorities
Non-Hispanic whites are projected to no longer make up the majority of the population by 2042, according to the Census Bureau. In 2050 they will compose just 46.3 percent of the population. Non-Hispanic whites made up 85 percent of the population in 1960. However, the U.S. population growth between 2000 and 2010 was driven almost exclusively by racial and ethnic minorities. And even worse news those who fear this change, it is projected that 82 percent of the increase in population from 2005 to 2050 will be due to that dreaded immigration.
No, the animus, the hostility, the enmity many now have against Obama is not legitimately based on his policies, politics, or agenda. It is based on something far deeper – a gut-wrenching fear of color change in our nation. The foreshadowing of an America we have not yet seen, but which is relentlessly approaching just over the horizon. Frankly, that is exceedingly frightening to a great many people; Barack Obama is simply the first one they can see coming over that hill. It really won’t change things; nevertheless, they desperately want him ousted in the futile hope that they can “take back our country.”
Myles Spicer of Minnetonka has spent his business career as a professional writer and owned several successful ad agencies over the past 45 years.