3 Ways Racism Still Drives the Tea Party's Efforts to Destroy President Obama
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These shifts in language paralleled the introduction of such ubiquitous phrases as “big government” by Ronald Reagan into the American political lexicon. The conservative mantras of “limited” or “small government,” and a belief that the State is always the problem and never the solution, has led to any number of deleterious public policy outcomes, most notably the Great Recession. The willingness of the Right to assault public unions has also been tied to a sense that the government sector disproportionately employs people of color.
Consequently, they are both undeserving of the wages and job security once enjoyed by workers in such positions. Public unions are therefore made easy targets for austerity initiatives and ruthless budget cutbacks.
Furthermore, in the free market fundamentalist worldview of the Tea Party GOP, unions are evil and the cause of the Great Recession--as opposed to reckless tax policies and a new Gilded Age where wealth and income are concentrated in the hands of the very few richest Americans at levels not seen since the 1920s.
Research also suggests that those most likely to respond to the language of “small” or “limited” government” are also heavily motivated by a sense of white racial grievance and racial resentment. This language is ostensibly race neutral and colorblind. However, much of the support for these policies is based on a latent understanding that “big government” exists to serve the whims of people of color, “illegal immigrants,” people who live in cities, or the poor—and not white Americans.
As Reagan famously deployed the language of “the welfare queen,” he also furthered a narrative that people of color, and those who lived in America’s inner cities, were more likely to be poor because they possessed “bad culture” (as opposed to structural inequalities in the labor market). The face of poverty in the public imagination was therefore transformed from a white one in the 1950s and 1960s to black and brown by the 1980s. The poor were therefore undeserving, and their situation was the result of moral failings, as opposed to changes in the global economy.
The racialized narrative surrounding poverty programs and the social safety net is still present today. But, it has been transposed onto white Americans who are experiencing hardship in the Great Recession, as well as their advocates who want a fairer and more equal distribution of resources in American society. Conservatives now talk about “productive Americans” and “class warfare” while the unemployed are framed by the Ayn Rand influenced Tea Party GOP as “lazy” or not “productive.”
The Right-wing media has successfully painted the social safety net as an enabling and motivation-crippling support, one akin to a drug or alcohol addiction, as opposed to a hallmark of a good and decent society.
The Third Element: We Want Him to Fail! Barack Obama is Just an Angry, Arrogant, Uppity, White People Hating Black Elitist
The Right-wing media sharpened their character assassination knives with President Bill Clinton. With President Barack Obama they have intensified their assault, and have added overt and subtle appeals to white racism to their already overflowing bag of tricks. If a listener carefully follows the narratives surrounding President Obama on Conservative talk radio, across the Right-wing blogosphere, or on Fox News, a picture has been developed which has wholly undermined his competence, legitimacy, and fitness to be President. More than ideological sniping, the Right-wing has used racial caricatures that are deeply rooted in the worst shadows of American political and cultural memory to assail the country’s first black President.
For example, Conservative media has declared Barack Obama to be “arrogant” and “lazy.” In a naked example of white racism which questions the very maturity and adulthood of black men, President Obama has been called a “boy” and “man child” by the Right. These are very specific slurs that have been commonly used against black Americans as a way to question their basic competence. Obama has also been tarred as “uppity,” a description almost exclusively used to describe black Americans who “do not know their place.”