In 2008, Barack Obama won the presidency over John McCain by decisive margins in both the popular vote and the Electoral College. Noting that this victory was achieved by record turnouts among minority, young voters and to a lesser extent, women and the well-educated, analysts were quick to interpret this as a signal of the dawning of what they called “post-racial America”.
While that certainly was true among the aforementioned blocs of voters, it is now clear that it was far from a valid assessment when applied to the people who cast their ballots for John McCain. Within that group, you had significant numbers of individuals whose behavior over the last six years has marked them as out-and-out racists, whatever else they may be.
In the last half-dozen years, we have witnessed mock-ups of the president as an African tribesman, “Sambo” and a monkey (1). Placards inscribed with “Put the ‘white’ back in the White House” and worse were actively held high at conservative rallies. Any achievement by the president was either disparaged or dismissed derisively. For example, the killing of Osama Bin Laden was written off as something that “Even Jimmy Carter (2) could have done” and cutting the deficit to under a trillion dollars for the first time in years was greeted with “not good enough”.
Joining the overt racists were their enablers in the conservative media and blogosphere who steadfastly refused to condemn behaviors like those cited immediately above. Even worse, they often nurtured it with jabs and innuendos of their own.
Conservatives of your blogger’s acquaintance have maintained that Obama has “divided America”. What a distortion of reality and the history of blatant racism already referenced here. All that the president did was dare to run for an office that has never been held by anyone other than a middle-aged White man, and get himself elected. That, by itself would have been sufficient to cleave us into factions. But, once in office, he then gradually proceeded to champion the rights of minorities long viewed with disdain by the same racist elements; notably gays. That advocacy only served to bring out more of the worst in these people.
America will move forward; once extended, rights cannot be revoked or denied. But, there will be resistance from the racists, bigots and homophobics who will oppose this progress every step of the way. For them, the Founding Fathers’ concept of working towards “…a more perfect union….” holds little meaning.
1. The “Sambo” and “monkey” characterizations have a long history of being associated with racism in our country.
2. Until Obama came along, Jimmy Carter was conservatives’ favorite “whipping boy” who they viewed as the most incompetent of all US presidents.