Roger L. Simon

Obama and the Tea Party—the race card keeps on turning

In an an excerpt (linked in red on Drudge) from his new book, Family and Freedom: Presidents and African Americans in the White House, US News journalist Kenneth T. Walsh writes:

But Obama, in his most candid moments, acknowledged that race was still a problem. In May 2010, he told guests at a private White House dinner that race was probably a key component in the rising opposition to his presidency from conservatives, especially right-wing activists in the anti-incumbent “Tea Party” movement that was then surging across the country. Many middle-class and working-class whites felt aggrieved and resentful that the federal government was helping other groups, including bankers, automakers, irresponsible people who had defaulted on their mortgages, and the poor, but wasn’t helping them nearly enough, he said.

A guest suggested that when Tea Party activists said they wanted to “take back” their country, their real motivation was to stir up anger and anxiety at having a black president, and Obama didn’t dispute the idea. He agreed that there was a “subterranean agenda” in the anti-Obama movement—a racially biased one—that was unfortunate. But he sadly conceded that there was little he could do about it.

That was May 2010, according to Walsh. Ironically, only a few days before, on April 29, 2010, your humble scribe wrote the following:

The real reason liberals accuse Tea Partiers of racism is that contemporary America-style liberalism is in rigor mortis. Liberals have nothing else to say or do. Accusations of racism are their last resort.

The European debt crisis — first Greece, then Portugal and now Spain (and Belgium, Ireland and Italy, evidently) — has shown the welfare state to be an unsustainable economic system. The US, UK and Japan, according to the same Financial Times report, are also on similar paths of impoverishment through entitlements.

Many of us have known this for a long time, just from simple math. Entitlements are in essence a Ponzi scheme. Now we have to face that and do something serious about it or our economy (the world economy) will fall apart.

Liberals, leftists or progressives — whatever they choose to call themselves — have a great deal of trouble accepting this. To do so they would have to question a host of positions they have not examined for years, if ever, not to mention have to engage in discussions that could threaten their livelihood and jeopardize their personal and family associations.

Thus the traditional wish to kill the messenger who brings the bad news: the Tea Partiers. And the easiest way to kill them — the most obvious and hoariest of methods – is to accuse them of racism.

When I wrote that, it was a month after Andrew Breitbart issued his as yet unanswered $100,000 challenge for evidence of racism at a Tea Party demonstration. So this is now already a relatively old debate. And the same arguments keep coming up again and again. The left keeps accusing the right of racism and the right keeps denying it, demanding evidence, which is never forthcoming. Not once. But that doesn’t stop the left. They continue the accusations — and the president, at least according to Walsh, believes them.

As I also wrote, the left has a kind of a nostalgia for racism, for a simpler time when it was a lot easier to define right and wrong in our society. As a former sixties civil rights worker, I can empathize with this nostalgia. But it’s time to get over it. We have to move on from accusations of racism, which has been a social taboo for decades now, and allow the laws to do their work. The race card is as rancid and reactionary as Louis Farrakhan.

Obama, I think, recognizes this to some extent. As Walsh also notes, he wants to be a post-racial president, or did anyway, but unfortunately he’s the kind of guy who apparently can’t stop himself from putting people in tired pigeon-holes. He just can’t shake free of obvious preconceptions. He seems to accept clichés because they are convenient or because they exonerate him in uncomfortable situations. Tea Partiers are therefore racists, not people seeking to curtail government spending. These are the types, we were informed stereotypically by the then presidential candidate, who cling to their guns and religion.

But as an agnostic who doesn’t own a gun, I think Obama’s the one with the problem. Actually he has a number of them, pretty bad ones indeed, foreign and domestic, and they have nothing to do with race and everything to do with his policies. He should be addressing those. But, if he does want to grow on a racial front, expand his mind, as it were, he should spend less time with his chichi White House guests and more with some African American Tea Partiers. Pajamas Media would be pleased to introduce him to a few.