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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.

Just as they did with their poor coverage of  the Birther issue, and out of fear of a Conservative backlash, the mainstream media is loathe to speak truth to power and point out the obvious:  racial hostility is one of the primary forces driving the opposition of the Tea Party GOP to President Obama. This has been evident during the debt ceiling debate and on policy matters across the board. To fail to understand  this most basic of realities is to fail to understand American politics in the Age of Obama.

Having matured with the smear campaign against President Bill Clinton,  Right-wing talk radio and Fox News have created an echo chamber in which ideological purity is the premier value: this dynamic has amplified the tensions between Conservatives and the rest of the American people, and removed any possibility of finding a shared middle ground on issues of common concern. A normal politics of negotiation and compromise is imperiled because the terms of the debate are presented in dire, stark, and apocalyptic language.

As a result, extreme party polarization, when added to a political conversation in which the volume has been turned up way high by the Right-wing rage machine, has created a situation where the temptation to use racial appeals to destroy President Barack Obama is almost too great to resist.

There are several elements driving the Tea Party GOP’s efforts to “blacken” President Obama with the goal of limiting his ability to lead the country, and hobbling the Democratic Party at every turn.

The First Element: Why the Surprise? The Tea Party is Exactly Who They Have Always Shown Themselves to Be

The racial hostility of the Tea Party to the African American community and other people of color has been well-documented: the race baiting of their leaders in public meetings; racist private emails that are later exposed and made public; and the stereotypical caricatures of President Obama as a pimp, or the face on a faux food stamp featuring the White House and a patch of watermelons have been circulated by Tea Party organizations.

Of course, the signs at their rallies and meetings that equate  the President with an African witch doctor, Hitler (who is also not coincidentally a racial fascist), or that feature wicked slurs for black Americans (either written, or as yelled at Representative John Lewis) are more commonsense proof of how racial resentment, and an “us versus them” mentality, gives meaning to the Tea Party movement. In fact, a  prominent African American Republican Party representative in California recently resigned because he could no longer be part of an organization which gave cover to such repeated acts of prejudice and bigotry.

Public opinion data has also demonstrated that  Tea Party supporters are more likely to believe that African Americans are lazy, not hard-working, and that too much has been made of racism in American society. Providing important context, these attitudes are located within a broader political landscape, and likely shaped by a Right-wing media where the idea that Barack Obama is “anti-white,” that white people are somehow “oppressed,” or are “victims” in 21st century America, is a recurring theme.

Moreover, political scientists and sociologists have demonstrated that people who identify as  conservatives are more likely to hold racially resentful and hostile attitudes towards non-whites. This is not a claim that all Conservatives are racist; rather, that negative racial attitudes can drive one’s propensity to be Conservative politically.

Because the Tea Party is the Republican Party on steroids, these traits and impulses are amplified accordingly.