I have been asking this question as of late. Those of us who disagree with Obama’s policies and political style are quickly labeled racist. We just can’t stand to see a black man in the Oval Office is an often made claim.
Now let’s flip the script. Liberals-Progressives-Socialists are all upset with Obama. They’re upset with him for working with the Republicans on allowing the American taxpayers to keep the 2001 & 2003 tax rates. Obama left them out of the deal and the Democrats are cursing his name.
At the beginning of the debate, the far-left lunatics were ranting and blaming Republicans for wanting to extend the tax rates to everyone, including those evil rich folks who pay 73% of all federal taxes. When this tactic didn’t work, these socialist Democrats turned their ire towards the estate tax, commonly called the death tax. Democrats believe your estate should be taxed at 55%. The Republicans worked out a deal with Obama to only tax people’s estates at a 35% rate.
Now the left has turned on Obama over this deal. Are they racists for disagreeing with Obama? If not, how do those on the left justify labeling those on the right as racists for disagreeing with Obama’s policies?
James Taranto reports, via The Wall Street Journal:
“Man, oh man, oh man, ladies and gentlemen, the left, what a bunch of racists!” So said Rush Limbaugh last week, commenting on the progressive rebellion against President Obama: “I mean, they’re all over MSNBC. They are all over the New York Times, the Washington Post. I have never seen such a collection of racists, all these liberals criticizing Obama on this compromise on the tax bill. I mean, well, every bit of criticism of Obama’s always been said to be racist, hasn’t it?”
As NewsBusters.org reports, Ed Schultz of MSNBC took Limbaugh’s remark personally: “[Limbaugh] is now accusing me of being a racist,” the talking horse said on MSNBC’s “The Mr. Ed Show.”
This leads NB’s Noel Sheppard to observe: “Any person with even a room temperature intelligence quotient would know that Limbaugh was claiming racism because any time anyone on the right has criticized Barack Obama since the moment he threw his hat into the presidential candidacy ring in February 2007, said person has been accused of racism by the Left.” Sheppard thinks Schultz didn’t get the joke, which seems unlikely. After all, Limbaugh explained the joke.
But maybe it’s not entirely a joke. That thought is prompted by a pair of opinion pieces that appeared in liberal newspapers over the weekend, both by black writers: columnist Colbert King in the Washington Post on Saturday and novelist Ishmael Reed in the New York Times on Sunday. Neither man goes quite so far as to call Obama’s progressive critics racist, but both travel a significant distance in that direction.
Reed, it’s fair to say, accuses the progs of racial insensitivity. His central argument is that those who “criticize President Obama for keeping his cool”–who urge him “to ‘man up’ ” and start “slapping people left and right”–do not understand the cultural constraints under which black men operate in America: “If President Obama behaved that way, he’d be dismissed as an angry black militant with a deep hatred of white people.”
Reed then issues this warning:
When these progressives refer to themselves as Mr. Obama’s base, all they see is themselves. They ignore polls showing steadfast support for the president among blacks and Latinos. And now they are whispering about a primary challenge against the president. Brilliant! The kind of suicidal gesture that destroyed Jimmy Carter–and a way to lose the black vote forever.King sees the same danger for Democrats in a primary challenge. He thinks it “a pretty safe bet” that Obama would win the nomination anyway but argues that the president would emerge weakened in the fall:
If the left costs Obama his presidency in 2012, the Democratic Party as a whole will lose out.
Sabotage the nation’s first black president and the Democratic Party might as well bid farewell to its most loyal base of supporters: African Americans.To be sure, this is all highly speculative. Our guess is that the progs will rally behind Obama as soon as he has a legislative battle with the Republican House, and a year from now the talk of a primary challenge will be long forgotten. Obama may well win re-election, or lose it without rupturing the alliance between the two Democratic core constituencies, progressives and blacks. But the intensity of Reed’s and King’s pre-emptive defenses of Obama suggests that the bonds between those two very different (albeit overlapping) constituencies are weak.
Which brings us back to Rush Limbaugh’s “joke.” Let us recast it as a serious question: If harsh criticism of Obama from the right is racist, by what logic can one deny that harsh criticism of Obama from the left is also racist? Only by the logic of progressivism, summed up in an excellent Policy Review essay by Peter Berkowitz: “Progressivism’s vision of reform, progressives suppose, is vouched for by reason, by practice, and by the heart. It is equivalent for them to justice itself.” If you accept progressives’ self-definition as believers in justice, then it is a contradiction in terms to accuse them of racism.
As we have argued, the leftist charge that conservative opposition to Obama is racist is in part a cynical appeal to fear, aimed at persuading blacks to continue voting Democratic. But this could backfire. If Reed and King are right, there is no reason to assume that the progressives’ self-definition is widely accepted among blacks. Thus the progs’ harsh attacks on Obama are likely to look as racist as the conservatives’ attacks do.
In our view, progressives are largely innocent of the racism charge. As we argued Friday, they have turned against Obama because they are infantile, not because he is black. To put it more gently, their quarrel with Obama is over policy, not race–and that much they have in common with conservatives. Which of course was Limbaugh’s point.
Racism, however, is not the only form of bigotry. The defining characteristic of today’s progressive liberal is oikophobia: fear of and contempt for ordinary Americans, often disguised as a condescending solicitude of their supposed interests. The current black-prog rift reminds us that oikophobia is an equal-opportunity prejudice, directed against ordinary Americans regardless of race.