Most honest criticism of President Obama doesn't stem from racism or prejudice. When George Will claims, "As the president begins his second term, the signature achievement of his first term looks remarkably rickety," he's speaking from his own honest assessment of the ACA. Similarly, when Pat Buchanan asks, "Will Obamacare Be the Death of Liberalism?" he's voicing the genuine sentiment of millions of concerned citizens. However, conservative politics since President Obama's first term has blurred the lines between sincere analysis and surreptitious messages aimed at pandering to extremists. Whereas Republicans used to shy away from the mention of Willie Horton ads or the racially charged reference of welfare queens, today's GOP has embraced rhetoric that overtly communicates racist undertones. When Glenn Beck famously stated that President Obama had a "deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture," American politics entered a phase where paranoia trumped reasonable debate and dialogue.
The recent comment by Republican Congressman Mo Brooks about "the war on whites that's being launched by the Democratic Party" is the latest example of such racially charged hyperbole and highlights a political platform within the Tea Party. The Tea Party and staunch GOP conservatives have overtly proclaimed, in many instances, that President Obama's heritage should be verified and his motives questioned. Most importantly, the first African-American president has been painted as opposing the interests of white people, and while Glenn Beck has stated this verbatim, this sentiment has been a cornerstone of Tea Party politics.
It all started with accusations of Obama's birthplace, religion, and loyalty. It's telling that Bill Clinton and Al Gore never had to defend themselves from such assaults, but the first African-American president was subjected to this rhetoric immediately upon entering office. Ted Cruz's father stated in 2012 that, "We need to send Barack Obama back to Chicago, I'd like to send him back to Kenya." Sadly, others in the GOP have embraced this myth with even greater vigor. Even before the last election, a POLITICO article explained that most Republicans still believed Obama was born in another country:
Poll: 51 percent of GOP primary voters think Obama born abroad...
In a shocking finding, more than half of GOP primary voters believe President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, according to a new poll.
...Only 28 percent said they think the president was born in the United States -- a constitutional requirement to be president. Twenty-one percent said they were "not sure."
Among those who do not believe Obama was born in the United States, Mike Huckabee is their first choice for president, followed by Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and then Mitt Romney.
While Ted Cruz actually was born in another country, Obama's citizenship was questioned from his first day in office.
Then of course, during the 2008 presidential race, there was the issue of Reverend Wright and Obama's connection to a controversial sermon. Immediately after 9/11, Jerry Falwell blamed the attacks on:
"The pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America...I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"
While Pat Robertson agreed with him and both inferred we deserved the attacks, nobody ever linked Bush or any other Republican (who benefited from the campaign help of both pastors) to the absurdity of such statements. When an African-American preacher made a similar type of controversial statement, candidate Obama was eviscerated by conservative detractors. As exemplified by Rush Limbaugh on his radio show, Obama's connection to Reverend Wright was labeled as a negative aspect of his character:
Senator Obama, surely you knew of your pastor's background. You knew what he believed. You knew what he preached. You knew he was a race-baiter and a hatemonger. Yet you not only joined his church, you remained there for 20 years; you had this pastor marry you and your wife, and you had him baptize your children. Can you explain yourself, here?
The truth of the matter is that Reverend Wright's background, religious, and social views were no more egregious than other pastors questioning Romney's Christianity, or claiming children are being recruited to be gay, or threatening to burn a Koran. Sadly, when a black preacher says something controversial, not only is an African-American candidate for president tied to these comments, but this same candidate is simultaneously accused of being another religion.
The frenzy to discredit Obama's birth certificate and religion laid the foundation for the political opposition to his policies. Add in the passing of the ACA, lovingly referred to by conservatives as Obamacare, and you get the following thoughtful and eloquent analysis from Tea Party.net:
America is under attack from within. Over the last 4 ½ years, our nation has been transformed for the worse so much that one would hardly recognize it. We have a corrupt, Chicago politician in the White House who is bleeding our nation to death.
...He has pitted men against women, gay people against straight people, and used unAmerican, Marxist class warfare that has no place in a free America.
... He is a danger to America. We are therefore calling for his impeachment and removal from office.
Discrediting Obama by questioning his birthplace and religion inevitably leads to phrases like, "America is under attack from within." Also, the clever manner in which Tea Party logic explains America's divisions speaks volumes. It's Obama who has divided the nation over gay marriage, not conservatives who've spent millions fighting the legalization of same-sex marriages. It's Obama who has utilized "class warfare," not renowned economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Thomas Picketty who've publicized the dangers of wealth inequality. These conspiracies, in addition to evoking the imaginary ire of our Founding Fathers, form the basis of Tea Party, and now mainstream GOP attacks on Obama.
When Sean Hannity cut and ran from Cliven Bundy, Fox News illustrated its fear of being too closely associated with the political messages it communicates daily to GOP voters. The late Christopher Hitchens in his Vanity Fair article T'ead Off explains the raison d'être for such extreme political messages, especially in relation to the Tea Party and its voter base:
So, Beck's "9/12 Project" is canalizing old racist and clerical toxic-waste material that a healthy society had mostly flushed out of its system more than a generation ago, and injecting it right back in again. Things that had hidden under stones are being dug up and re-released. And why? So as to teach us anew about the dangers of "spending and deficits"? It's enough to make a cat laugh. No, a whole new audience has been created, including many impressionable young people, for ideas that are viciously anti-democratic and ahistorical. The full effect of this will be felt farther down the road, where we will need it even less.
As Hitchens stated so presciently in 2011, political rhetoric once "hidden under stones" is now pontificated on a daily basis by right wing radio pundits, Fox News, and angry Tea Party lawmakers. The new audience created from such extreme politics not only disagrees with President Obama, but overtly uses rhetoric and sentiments "flushed out" of American politics decades ago. Proving the words of Christopher Hitchens right, Obama is today not just a Democrat with flawed policies; he's a "danger" to all Americans, according to the Tea Party.
Ironically, the latest comments by Rep. Mo Brooks might actually be a good thing for America. Until now, Tea Party and GOP lawmakers hid behind thinly veiled racially charged rhetoric and political diatribes. Finally, the same GOP Congressman who once proclaimed he'd do "anything short of shooting" illegal immigrants has informed the nation of the true fears and intentions of Tea Party voters. Rep. Mo Brooks should be applauded by liberals everywhere and by Americans interested in honesty over hidden political messages. Although Rep. Brooks didn't overtly declare the sentiment, President Obama's "war on whites" forms the philosophy behind Tea Party obstruction of health care laws, immigration bills, and every other endeavor of the first African-American president. From talk of rebellion to references of Obama as an Imperial President, conservatives have overstepped the boundaries of genuine disagreement into racially charged opposition.