What does racial prejudice have to do with the debt ceiling debate? For the average person the answer to this question isn’t obvious. But according to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, it is the most salient factor that’s shaping the debate. Last Friday the congresswoman delivered a stunning speech on the House floor where she spuriously implied that Republican opposition to raising the debt limit stemmed from their virulent racism.
Of course to accept Congresswoman Jackson Lee’s argument, one would have to ignore the two inconvenient elephants in the room – Congressmen Allen West and Tim Scott. Both have ardently opposed the Obama administration’s policies since arriving in Congress this January and now are fighting back forcefully against the liberals’ unserious position on solving the nation’s fiscal problems.
If the president’s race is the focal point for Republicans, why are West and Scott siding with the supposed racists?
The details of President Obama’s brief legislative record are also problematic for Jackson Lee. Again, working under the assumption that the racial component of the debt ceiling debate is valid, what are we to make of President Obama’s vote against raising the debt limit in 2006 while George W. Bush was in office?
Was the opposition by Senator Obama and his fellow 43 Democrats (including former Klansman Robert Byrd) actually an attempt to disrespect President Bush because he was Caucasian? To suggest such a thing would be preposterous, which is why no Republican made any allusions to this idea, then or now.
Some may say that Jackson Lee’s comment was merely the silly ponderings of a congresswoman who has time and again proven to be ill-equipped at providing any semblance of a cogent analysis.
But her speech represents something more sinister if unconvincing in the American political dialogue. As some did with a modicum of success in 2008, many liberals will attempt to frame the debate in the 2012 election along racial lines.
PBS host Tavis Smiley as well as many of the personalities on MSNBC have already gotten off to a head start. In a recent interview on MSNBC Smiley said that the 2012 election will be “the most racist in the history of this Republic.” And over the past several months, MSNBC hosts Ed Shultz and Chris Matthews have repeatedly demonized the Republican Party and individual Republican presidential candidates with the dreaded label, “racist.”
This was an efficacious strategy in 2008 because then Senator Obama didn’t have much of a legislative record and thus had little baggage for which opponents could attack. In the absence of a substantive record, the case could be more easily made that the better judgment of Obama’s detractors was clouded by their innate racial prejudices.
But 2012 will be a very different election. Obama will have a four year record in the White House that voters will be able to scrutinize in order to determine his degree of worthiness for a second term.
No longer can the Obama camp run solely on high-flown rhetoric or dishonest character assassinations. After four years the Obama administration owns the economy and will be forced to defend the 9.2 percent unemployment rate, astronomical deficits, and economy-crushing regulations.
The race baiters will have to develop a new strategy this election. If they choose not to, and continue to pursue the race-based strategy, they will find on Election Day that merit and substance trump the race card.