IS IT BECAUSE HE'S BLACK?
I get into a lot of debates in comments about whether present-day Republican obstructionism and disrespect stem primarily from racism. I don't deny that racism is a significant component of right-wing thinking -- although I still say it's in a mutated form, because the wingers love Clarence Thomas and Allen West and were ready to embrace Herman Cain until Bachmann and Perry joined the presidential race. My argument has always been that right-wingers hate all of us to a great extent -- they may hate non-right-wing African-Americans more than they hate white liberals (although I'm not sure of that), but I think they have a larger list of people they hate than some of you seem to think they do.
I also think that the all-racism argument, taken to its logical conclusion, gets us to the same place that Beltway denialism gets us. The Beltway establishment thinks GOP anger is a phase, brought on by temporary tea party mania, and sooner or later it'll all blow over and the Republicans will dance and sing in 2016 as they make Jon Huntsman their nominee; the all-racism argument leads more or less to the same place -- it implies that if the next Democratic president is Hillary Clinton, say, or Andrew Cuomo, the Republicans will be much better behaved. Sorry, I don't believe that. I don't believe they're ever going to let any Democrat in the White House do anything Democratic unless we as a nation get to the point that we recognize their nihilism and take concrete steps to make it impossible for them to practice that nihilism (massive rejection at the polls, serious revision of Senate rules, angry crowds in the streets, and so on).
I also wonder if it's somehow comforting, in an odd way, to imagine Republicans as old-fashioned racists. It strikes me as similar to our view of Reagan and Bush (and Perry) as unsophisticated simpletons -- a view that's gotten us in trouble in the past, as we underestimated Republicans' low cunning and will to undermine the social contract. Racists -- hey, we beat those people, didn't we, in the 1960s? Or at least we (or our literal and spiritual forbears) dealt them some serious blows. And now society expresses disdain for racists. Call a group of people racists and you've pushed them to the margins, without much effort. In your own mind, you've turned them into aging throwbacks -- people history has passed by.
That's not how I see modern Republicans. I see them rolling over us, as we do nothing to stop them. I see them using racism and every other tool at their disposal to aggrandize the rich, crush the non-rich, and repeal the twentieth century -- they hit every conceivable hot button to get some of us to hate the rest of us in a way that allows the overdogs to come out on top: they tapped into preppy-hate to crush Kerry, they call on Jew-hate to demonize Soros, they even went for yokel-hate against Bill Clinton (even as they whined about liberals' supposed elitist hatred of rural people). So, sure, they use racism against Obama. They'll use whatever's at hand. And they switch sides whenever it suits them -- in the blink of an eye, anti-Hillary misogyny morphs into pro-Palin grrrl power.
Racism? I wish the problem were that simple.