Thursday, March 03, 2011


Amid all the real news stories coming out today, here's one that's going to be stirring up resentment in certain precincts literally for years to come: a report from U.S. News about a book on race and the presidency from one of its reporters. Headline?

Obama Says Race a Key Component in Tea Party Protests

Key quote?

...But Obama, in his most candid moments, acknowledged that race was still a problem. In May 2010, he told guests at a private White House dinner that race was probably a key component in the rising opposition to his presidency from conservatives, especially right-wing activists in the anti-incumbent "Tea Party" movement that was then surging across the country. Many middle-class and working-class whites felt aggrieved and resentful that the federal government was helping other groups, including bankers, automakers, irresponsible people who had defaulted on their mortgages, and the poor, but wasn't helping them nearly enough, he said.

A guest suggested that when Tea Party activists said they wanted to "take back" their country, their real motivation was to stir up anger and anxiety at having a black president, and Obama didn't dispute the idea. He agreed that there was a "subterranean agenda" in the anti-Obama movement -- a racially biased one -- that was unfortunate. But he sadly conceded that there was little he could do about it....

This is the kind of thing that the right never, ever forgets, or gets over. It's going to be like Obama's "cling to guns or religion" remark, or like the 2009 Homeland Security Department report on right-wing extremism. It's going to be cited repeatedly on the right. A phrase from this -- I'm guessing "subterranean agenda," even though it appears not even to have been Obama's own phrase -- will start showing up in Republican politicians' speeches and on right-wing protest signs; it will go unexplained because everyone on the right will understand the reference, which will fill them all with rage.

Already this is the lead story at Fox Nation -- and, of course, you can forget about nuance being a part of the presentation there: at FN, racism is no longer a "key component" of the tea party, in Obama's eyes. The headline is:

Obama Says Tea Party Is Racist in New Book

Zandar's right, of course:

And the Republican party is embracing that wholeheartedly as evidenced by Mike Huckabee this week, serving up heaping piles of red meat to Republicans (and heaping piles of bullpucky to everyone else) saying the President "growing up in Kenya" gave him an "anti-colonial" and "anti-American" viewpoint. It's not hard hearing the dog whistle of racial politics when they are being delivered with a megaphone.

And how quickly we've forgotten the overt racism while looking to justify the more subtle examples. And of course, if you point that out, you're the racist. Just as it was in 2009 and 2010, expect "the only racist here is Obama" to continue to be the centerpiece of the winger "argument" against him.

But one upshot is going to be a redoubling of efforts to prove the GOP isn't racist. I think that absolutely means a VP candidate who's not a Euro-American, probably Marco Rubio or Nikki Haley or Bobby Jindal New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, or perhaps an African-American such as Allen West or Herman Cain (Cain actually outpolled Haley Barbour in a recent presidential poll of GOP voters in the South, of all places, if barely).

I continue to think the right-wing attitude toward race is complicated -- they exempt "their" non-whites (all the above-named plus Clarence Thomas) from "otherness," while "elitist" whites (not big businessmen but, rather, culturally sophisticated liberals and moderates) are deemed to be nearly as suspiciously "other" as the "Kenyan" Obama is. In any case, they're going to seethe about this, and they're going to start wearing "subterranean agenda" as a badge of honor the way they now wear "bitter clinger."

And I figure the "Did Obama hurt himself with this remark?" non-right-wing Beltway-insider discussions will start on this Sunday's talk shows.

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