“This Is Really About Tearing Obama Down”

Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson

“I think the Republicans have calculated who’s going to vote this November,” Chris Matthews said on Hardball the other night. “….The angry people are going to vote.”

Matthews didn’t say so. But the “angry people” are white folks. Most of them are anyway. Come election day, the Republicans are counting on them big-time.

Matthews has the GOP pegged. But it wasn’t a scoop. To quote the immortal Yogi Berra, “It’s deja vu all over again.”

For close to 50 years, Republicans have been playing the race card. It started with the GOP’s Southern Strategy” of the 1960s. The plan was to exploit white anger over historic civil rights bills passed by a Democratic-majority Congress and championed by a Democratic president (and supported by several moderate and liberal Northern and Western Republicans).

These “white backlash” voters flocked to the GOP; the erstwhile Democratic “Solid South” turned Republican Red. Growing ever conservative, the GOP went on to become the white people’s party and not just in Dixie.

A lot of “white backlash” voters are still around. They hate even the idea of an African American president. The Republicans know it and are campaigning accordingly, with help from the reliably Republican right-wing media. The Shirley Sherrod smear job is their latest fraud.

Meanwhile, President Obama is still tiptoeing around the other side’s race-baiting. Perhaps he thinks it would be too impolitic or too off message to call the hand of these bigots, though they despise him viscerally.

Eugene Robinson did toss down the gauntlet in his Washington Post column. “After the Shirley Sherrod episode, there’s no longer any need to mince words: A cynical right-wing propaganda machine is peddling the poisonous fiction that when African-Americans or other minorities reach positions of power, they seek some kind of revenge against whites,” the Pulitzer Prize winning pundit wrote.

He reloaded and fired again: “A few of the purveyors of this bigoted nonsense might actually believe it. Most of them, however, are merely seeking political gain by inviting white voters to question the motives and good faith of the nation’s first African-American president. This is really about tearing Barack Obama down.

“….These allegations of anti-white racism are being deliberately hyped and exaggerated because they are designed to make whites fearful. It won’t work with most people, of course, but it works with some—enough, perhaps, to help erode Obama’s political standing and damage his party’s prospects at the polls.”

I’ll add a Presbyterian “amen” to that. (It really drives the bigots nuts that so many other white people voted for Obama.)

After his column was published, Robinson appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Lawrence O’Donnell subbed for the host.

O’Donnell agreed with his guest that politics is behind the pandering to racism. It was evident during the presidential campaign of 2008, he added.

“Right-wing radio talk show hosts were talking about …reparations for slavery if you elect [Obama]…,” O’Donnell recalled. “They were ginning up their audiences about all sorts of possibilities of ‘reverse racism’…These very same radio talk show hosts wanted people to vote for the Republican candidate for president, which they presumably will want again in 2012. They presumably want voters to vote for Republicans this fall. Much of this talk is designed to work electorally against Democrats.”

Robinson agreed. “The focal point is Barack Obama, the first African American president. It is designed to weaken him, to weaken his political position and that of his party.”

“In his column and on Countdown, Robinson urged the president to stand up to the bigots and their “reverse racism” scam.

“….The Sherrod case has fully exposed the right-wing campaign to use racial fear to destroy Obama’s presidency, and I hope the effect is to finally stiffen some spines in the administration,” he wrote. “The way to deal with bullies is to confront them, not run away.”

Double “Amen.”

Berry Craig

Published by the LA Progressive on July 24, 2010
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About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, the recording secretary for the Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, and the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. He is a native of Mayfield, Ky., where he lives with his wife of 33 years and their 20-year-old son.