|A billboard in Idaho comparing Obama to the Aurora mass shooter.|
Messages such as the one above have been made against Obama since he took office. They say little about Obama. They say much about a segment of the country, what motivates its politics, and what its essential values really are. There is an intensity in the propaganda that attempts to discredit any human worth of Obama that has only one explanation. A good portion of the nation has reverted to the kind of racism that once was the province of the Klu Klux Klan, and many of Obama's opponents do not hesitate to use that old racist appeal against him.
When confronted with the racist basis for their attacks on Obama, they erupt in furious indignation and insist they are only using their right of free speech to make legitimate criticisms of the president. But they continue with ad hominem attacks that go far beyond any argument against policy and assail the worth and mental capacity of the person in speech that is deeply rooted in and resonates with the old language of racial hatred. The tactic is so commonplace that it is used by the right wing in much of its propaganda against any liberals.
Obama's failure to confront this speech is his big failure. He and his advisers have been reluctant to even acknowledge such speech because it might tear the country apart. But the country is already divided between those who long for the days of overt discrimination, segregation, and the enforcement of human classes that were the underpinnings of slavery, and those who think that the business of America is to promote freedom, equality, and justice for everyone.
Drew Westen in the Washington Post lists the three major mistakes made in dealing with the Republican opposition:
- Obama’s first mistake was inviting the Republicans to the table.
- The second mistake was squandering the goodwill that Americans felt toward the new president and their anxiety about an economy hemorrhaging three-quarters of a million jobs a month. That combination gave Obama, at the beginning of his term, a power to shape public policy that no one since Franklin Roosevelt had held. But instead of designing a stimulus that reflected the thinking of the country’s best economic minds, he cut their recommended numbers by a third and turned another third into inert tax cuts designed to appease Republican legislators whose primary aim was to defeat him.
- The third way the administration created opportunities for Republican obstructionism will someday become a business-school case study: It let a popular idea — a family doctor for every family — be recast as a losing ideological battle between intrusive government and freedom.
The GOP had just decimated the economy and had been repudiated by voters to such an extent that few Americans wanted to admit that they were registered Republicans. Yet Obama, with his penchant for unilateral bipartisanship, refused to speak ill of what they had done.
Westen sees this as a flaw among Democrats in general:
If self-interest and self-righteousness are at the heart of the Republican Party today, cowardice lies too close to the spine of the Democrats.The middle class is going to continue to be pushed into poverty unless someone is willing to name the villains, confront the racism, and speak openly of what underlies the motives of those who oppose them and wish them ill.