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3 Ways Racism Still Drives the Tea Party's Efforts to Destroy President Obama

To fail to understand this most basic of realities is to fail to understand American politics in the Age of Obama.

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The Tea Party GOP also gave legitimacy to the Birther narrative (a lie that a majority of Republicans believed), which is prefaced on the absurd suggestion that a black person is somehow not quintessentially “American.”

Once their bigoted well-springs were exposed, and in a veritable slap to the face of the African American community, the Birthers moved on to suggest that President Obama, a highly accomplished Harvard graduate and University of Chicago Professor was given special treatment because of his race, and not qualified for the academic honors he clearly earned.

Perhaps most shockingly, the Republican Party ran campaign ads during the 2008 elections which argued that  President Obama should learn to “respect” Sarah Palin—an act of political demagoguery that spoke directly to the pernicious idea cultivated in the Jim Crow imagination that black men had best behave around white women or there would be unspecified and “unpleasant” consequences.

Currently, one of the most common and recurring Right-wing attacks on Barack Obama is that he is a type of “ black dandy,” living the high life, partying in the White House, incompetent, and wasting the people’s money as he travels the world with Michelle Obama—of note, a first lady who has also been subject to vicious racist attacks on her femininity, appearance, and personhood.

These claims are the Lengua Franca of the Right-wing media. Listeners and viewers who are immersed in this echo chamber, and subject to its daily diet of vitriol and misinformation, will of course—and quite reasonably from their perspective—view Barack Obama as a tyrant, a fool, and a man who wants to destroy “real America.” Patriotism would demand his removal in order to save The Republic. Given the tenor and tone of the racial caricatures used to savage the first Black President of the United States, how could Tea Party Conservatives come to any other conclusion?

Connecting the Dots: In the Time of the Great Recession this is About Much More Than Race

The Right-wing media and the Tea Party GOP have launched an assault on the basic legitimacy of President Obama because he is a Democrat. Their disdain for him is amplified because he is African American.

The symbolism embodied by America’s first Black President is too much for many in the Tea Party GOP to bear because it signals a sea change in America’s demographics, and the ushering in of a world in which white folks may not be the center of all things, and for all time—thus the Tea Party Conservative yearnings to “take America back” to a more “simple” past of White hopes, dreams, and nostalgic memories.

As we try to make sense of the Age of Obama, the debt ceiling debacle with its resulting and unprecedented downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by Standard & Poor’s, and look forward to the politics that will come in the months leading up to the 2012 election, the dynamics of partisanship, extreme ideology, and racism will only become more evident and important.

Do not be mistaken: this is also about “much more than race.” Here we cannot forget how African Americans have long been the “the miner’s canary” for this country. While white racial resentment is driving Tea Party hostility to President Barack Obama, the effects of their intractability and legislative hostage taking will be felt by Americans across the color line.

The austerity policies that will result from a debt ceiling bill which balances the federal budget on the backs of the working classes and the poor, while excluding the rich from any burden, are merely just sequels to Reagan era domestic approaches that starved and decimated America’s central cities, as well as gutted the country’s unions and middle classes. The evisceration of the black middle class by the Great Recession is an eerie foreshadowing of what is already happening to White America.