Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Of Reality and Race

TPM details how President Obama’s opponents have ratcheted up the racial rhetoric recently.

This has gotten especially worse in the aftermath of Obama’s comments and subsequent mea culpa on the Henry Louis Gates arrest, but the pattern has been there all the same. You can look back to the 2008 campaign, with the Jeremiah Wright controversies, the phony rumors of a tape of Michelle Obama defaming whites, and the slow but steady emergence of the Birthers. And these days, the Birthers seem to be getting more and more bellicose.

The president’s opponents are quick to point out that the left was just as mean to President Bush during his term, chalking it up to “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” But that’s an infantile evasion — “he started it” — and in all of the attacks on the former president, none of them were based on his race. Trust me, there were a lot of other grounds on which to disagree with him on without having to bring up the irrelevancy of his race.

There are probably a lot of psychological terms we can bring up in this discussion; projection and transference (“Obama is a racist!”), denial (“He isn’t really an American”), and several others, but what it comes down to is the inability to accept the fact that he actually won. (After all, a lot of Democrats had trouble believing it, too, but they see it as a good thing.) In one respect, this denial of reality transcends Mr. Obama’s race; the GOP had pretty much the same reaction to the election of Bill Clinton: he’s not who he appears to be; there are deep dark secrets about his past, and how could this country really elect him over George H.W. Bush?

This is why it’s hard to even have a conversation with some of these people; you have to have common ground, and as long as they’re not going to accept the reality of the situation, you can’t even begin to talk to them.