President Obama is unpopular. His "signature accomplishment" is widely despised, his top economic initiative has flopped, and his re-election prospects are mixed, at best. Unable to run on a record of failure, Obama is gearing up for an enduringly negative and blame-filled 2012 campaign. A critical element of this effort will be a persistent, deeply ugly push by the president's allies to paint his critics as racists. We saw some of this four years ago, of course, but then-candidate Obama had strong political headwinds and Operation HopenChange working in his favor in 2008. This year, voters will be subjected to an endless drumbeat of race baiting -- an unholy political Hail Mary that Democrats hope will distract voters from real issues and force Republicans into a permanent defensive crouch. Politico sets the table for the coming battle, offering helpful tips for Leftists on what sorts of things can be instantly racialized (hint -- it's everything):
The issue of race and American politics, never far beneath the surface during Barack Obama’s historic 2008 campaign, is making a loud, overt and surprisingly early appearance in the 2012 presidential race. And no one knows — least of all Obama himself — what impact the race card, always a wild card, will have on the president’s reelection prospects. In the past several months, Newt Gingrich has drawn sharp criticism for labeling Obama the “food stamp president” and for suggesting poor kids in New York’s majority-minority school system burnish their work ethic by picking up mops. First lady Michelle Obama bridled at the perception that she’s an “angry black woman.” Obama’s Chicago-based campaign has pushed back against stories that he’s more or less given up on the white vote.
But nothing has illustrated the potentially explosive political impact of race — an issue that Obama has downplayed throughout his career — like the firestorm around the image of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wagging her finger at the first black president of the United States. If there were any illusion that 2012 would be the post-racial election most Americans hoped for, it vanished with that single shake of a finger and 30 seconds of sniping lost to history in the turbine roar of Air Force One. The issue that sparked the tarmac showdown was nominally the ongoing battle between Brewer and the White House over immigration policy. But the brief episode infuriated African-American leaders, who saw the image of a white conservative berating Obama as the visual summation of all the disrespect shown to Obama by white antagonists from Joe “You lie!” Wilson to Glenn Beck to Gingrich.
Let's approach these pieces of evidence one by one, shall we?
(1) Empirically, President Obama is the food stamp president. Food stamp usage has spiked to a record high during his presidency with nearly 15 percent of the US population -- white, black, and green -- receiving subsidies. Nearly as many Americans have been put on food stamps during Obama's partial term as were added to the rolls during President Bush's two full terms in office. Gingrich has also said that his goal is to transition millions of Americans (again, of all races) from states of dependency to self-reliance through the dignity of work, which also plays into Newt's controversial ideas about child labor He's also dinged his GOP opponent Mitt Romney for his "little food stamp" mentality. Is this also racist, somehow?
(2) In the context of this story, the term "angry black woman" was uttered by Michelle Obama herself, responding to unspecified criticisms she perceived in a book written about the Obama White House by a New York Times correspondent.
(3) That Obama's abandoning the white working class report came from a New York Times piece written by Thomas Edsall, formerly of the Huffington Post.
(4) Hopes for a post-racial election "vanished" when Gov. Jan Brewer pointing her finger at President Obama during a heated exchange that he instigated? Does anyone at Politico actually read their own stuff? The Obama Justice Department has been highly racialized from day one of this administration, and Obama partisans have consistently seen racism around every corner as a means of disqualifying legitimate dissent. The Brewer finger-pointing incident has to be one of the silliest "racism" charges to date, yet Politico elevates it as some sort of a defining moment. How ridiculous.
(5) Rep. Joe Wilson may have been out of line when he heckled the president during his 2010 healthcare address to Congress. To ascribe his outburst to racism is baseless and slanderous. And despite his poor form, he was right on substance: President Obama was not telling the truth in the passage that raised Wilson's ire.
Every example Politico cites as a troubling omen of our incipient racial tempest falls into one of two categories. Either they are factual statements being drowned out by people who abhor uncomfortable truths, or they're quotes and/or reports from liberals about liberals. This is the game the media will play. They'll establish a Democrat-friendly narrative ("why, this election is going to be wildly racial because our black president is up for re-election!") and then fill the "evidence" in later. Someone gesitculates while disagreeing with Obama? That's racial. Someone else (accurately) accuses him of lying? Racial. The first lady denies she's an "angry black woman," based on a book written by a liberal? Racial. That's the beauty of the plan: It doesn't matter who's fueling the story. The story in and of itself is the goal, designed to insulate Obama from the sort of attacks that characterize all contemporary political races. As I've written before, this strategy is cynical and tragic. It's cynical because it does lasting damage to the soul of the country by intentionally inflaming racial tensions, all in order to gain cheap, fleeting partisan advantage. It's tragic because authentic racism does still exist in today's America, and crying wolf on matters of racial bigotry cheapens the accusation, rendering it less powerful when it is accurately leveled.
Parting thoughts: (1) As liberals -- including, disappointingly, the great Juan Williams -- lecture us about "dog whistles" and "code words," take mental note of how often Democrats and their allies mention Mitt Romney's religion, should he become the nominee. Keep your eyes peeled for thumb-sucking MSM stories like this, which merely "raise questions" about Mormon Mitt Romney's Mormony Mormonism. (2) How will independents, who rallied to Obama in 2008 and pushed him over the top, react when they're incessantly informed by the Left that they've somehow morphed into knuckle-dragging racists over the last four years?
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography
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