Saturday, September 19, 2009

Counter-Productive Charges of Racism

Regarding the accusations that the strong opposition to Obama is based in racism, I've got a big question: Whether or not this is true, what's the point?  Where's the strategy here, exactly?  Is it that we're trying to influence people into supporting Obama's agenda by making them think that it'll repudiate the racists?  Is that the plan?  Or do we imagine that these accusations will make Obama's critics stop criticizing him?  Is that it?

I mean, if there's some wise strategy here, I'd like it explained to me, because I'm just not getting it.  And from my viewpoint, this is a BIG LOSER for us.  Because Republicans and the media don't WANT a substantive debate on healthcare reform.  It bores the media and Republicans know they'll lose that debate. So they both want a really personal debate full of insults and smears, and this "Obama's critics are racist" debate is right up their alley.  And rather than discussing the merits of Obama's proposal, the Republicans gleefully attack us for "playing the race card" and insist that we're unfairly smearing all "real" Americans; while the media has fun describing the mud fight that ensues.

And that's exactly what we're getting.  Jimmy Carter could cure cancer and the media couldn't care less, but if he mentions that Republicans are racist, it's frontpage news.  Similarly, as Carpetbagger points out, Obama is making an aggressive push on healthcare reform, yet the media is entirely focused on his statement that he doesn't think these accusations are true.  So instead of pushing his agenda on healthcare reform, he's stuck refuting a dumbass comment that Carter made.

And just as a reminder, Carter said that Joe Wilson's "You Lie" comment was proof that people hate Obama because he's black.  Because yeah, Republicans never accused Clinton of lying or, ya know, impeach him for it.  And is it possible that Carter doesn't realize how widely despised he is among conservatives?  It's not just black presidents from Illinois they hate.  They hate southern white presidents too...if they're Democrats.

Obama Gets It

And why is Obama saying that he doesn't think this is racism?  To hear some liberals tell it, it's because he screwed up and decided to not go there; and this gives conservatives free reign to be as racist as they want to be.  And these libs inexplicably believe that this is a winning hand for Republicans, for reasons I can't possibly fathom.

I mean, if racist attacks on Obama are good enough to sink healthcare reform with people who would otherwise support it, this country is screwed up far more than anything Obama can do.  Sure, racist attacks will work on racists, but uh, we weren't going to get the racists anyway.  And everyone else will be offended by them, whether or not Obama labels them racist.  But all the same, these libs insist that Obama is the only one who can stop these attacks, and is too wimpy to do so.

But that's not it all.  Whether or not Obama thinks his opponents are racist, he won't say it because he gets it.  He understands that if he accuses his opponents of racism, that's all the debate is going to be about.  Once he opens that can of worms, that'll be the only can he's allowed to open.  And even when he refuses to play along, he's still besieged with questions on racist attacks and it's all the media wants to report.

And while they gleefully report that Obama rejected such accusations, they'd be even happier if he supported them.  They don't want to report the news; they want a bloodbath.  They want a knockdown, drag-out, no-holds barred fistfight and nothing does that better than a good old fashioned race war.  That'd really give them something to talk about when they get drunk after work.

Making it Personal

And while Obama is wise enough to avoid that mess, some liberals continue to knock him for that perceived error.  But I'm fairly sure that this is because they're also not particularly interested in policy debates.  They also enjoy a knockdown, drag-out fight; and for as much as they take strong policy positions, it's because it makes their political attacks easier.  They support an immediate switch to a single-payer plan, not because it's the best idea (I don't think it is), but because it's the strongest position which would ensure the biggest fight.  Worst of all, they really don't care about winning policy debates (in fact, they generally dismiss the very idea that such victories are possible); they just want to attack their opponents.

And they'll attack anyone who suggests otherwise as being a weak-kneed sellout who won't take the fight to the Republicans.  Because, deep down, that's all they really want.  And so they'll continue to knock Obama for not joining them in smearing conservatives as racists, not because they have some grand strategy in doing so, but because it makes them feel better to call their opponents racist.  And rather than seeing any strategy in Obama's move not to (because strategy isn't anything they're interested in), they'll see his denials as being more of the same weak-kneed appeasement they see in everything he does.   And if you defend him in this way, then you're a sellout apologist for Obama.

And hey, if I'm wrong, feel free to explain this strategy to me.  I'd love to hear how a race war will improve our chances of getting healthcare reform.  But again, I can't imagine how that could possibly work.  Liberals have the advantage when we can make substantive policy debates, while Republicans have the advantage when we have personal mudfights.  Not that we win every policy debate or lose every mudfight; merely that, in the grand scheme of things, liberalism is about the issues while conservativism is about fighting.  And if we go toe-to-toe with them on every battle, even if we win that fight, we lose the debate.

And so while we shouldn't ignore the attacks on us, we shouldn't make the debate about the attacks; and a debate on race will most assuredly suck all the air out of any other debate.  So far, Obama has been quite deft in remembering this.


Mike Goldman said...

I think perhaps it is worth having the recognition of the issue out there, that race does play a role in American politics cannot really be doubted.

With that having been said, it certainly should not be the terms of the debate.

To shush it, however, would be counterproductive. Address it head on and then move past it. Barack Obama himself has done this, and rather deftly.

John Fulton said...

Yes, I don't see how Obama wins with accusations of racism either. The whole strategy against healthcare has been delaying tactics, and any distraction, whatever the source, plays into that.

And, as you point out, the root of the problem isn't necessarily that there is unthinking (sometimes racist) opposition to Obama, it's that the media loves to cover a messy fight more than a policy discussion, no matter how critical the policy discussion is. Why should we help them be distracted?

Your description of some liberals reminds me of what I was hearing from Norman Goldman (guest-hosting on the Ed Schultz Show) today. He's calling Obama a wimp and clinton-esque because he's talking bipartisanship and not fighting Republicans enough.

Few seem to realize how difficult major policy changes like health reform are. I'm amazed how close we are to it right now. The idea of the public option has gotten through and is popular and may be part of some viable legislation. That's a phenomenal difference from just 1 short year ago.

But, I guess it doesn't matter unless Joe Wilson is made to apologize.

Inspector Clouseau said...

The reason that society is incapable of addressing the racial issue is because we view it from the wrong perspective. We talk all around the fundamental, underlying reasons for racism, and make it an emotional issue. How does one expect to cure the cancer without focusing on the cancerous cells? Focusing on the symptoms is an ineffective mechanism to employ. Consider this.