Is opposing President Obama a form of racism? According to many liberals, especially the Congressional Black Caucus, it is. The Democratic left has now invented a new kind of bigotry: Obamaphobia. For progressives, disagreeing with Mr. Obama’s policies is the moral equivalent of supporting the Ku Klux Klan; it is white supremacy masquerading as conservative politics.
Mr. Obama’s re-election is increasingly in jeopardy. Hence, liberals are becoming desperate. They are resorting to the most incendiary and despicable tactic: playing the race card. Recently, Angela Rye, executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, charged that Mr. Obama’s woes in office were primarily due to racist opposition from conservatives, who despise the president because of his skin color.
“This is probably the toughest presidential term in my lifetime,” Ms. Rye said in an interview on CSPAN. “I think that a lot of what the president has experienced is because he’s black. You know, whether it’s questioning his intellect or whether or not he’s Ivy League. It’s always either he’s not educated enough or he’s too educated; or he’s too black or he’s not black enough; he’s too Christian or not Christian enough. There are all these things where he has to walk this very fine line to even be successful.”
Moreover, according to Ms. Rye, “a lot” of conservative criticism of Mr. Obama is motivated by race. Her example: An anti-Obama ad by Crossroads GPS, a Republican super PAC run by Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President George W. Bush. The ad’s racism - I am not making this up - supposedly stems from the use of the word “cool.”
“There’s an ad, talking about [how] the president is too cool, [asking] is he too cool? And there’s this music that reminds me of, you know, some of the blaxploitation films from the ‘70s playing in the background, him with his sunglasses,” she said. “And to me, it was just very racially charged. They weren’t asking if Bush was too cool, but yet people say that that’s the No. 1 person they’d love to have a beer with. So if that’s not cool, I don’t know what is.”
First of all, Mr. Bush is not - nor ever was - portrayed as “cool.” In fact, he was routinely compared to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and liberals denigrated him as a war criminal. More importantly, it was Mr. Obama, the mainstream media and the Democrats who elevated Barack to a liberal messiah - a black Franklin D. Roosevelt. Progressives have portrayed him as the most brilliant, chic and compelling leader in modern memory. Hence, the “cool” label is theirs, not that of the right.
The bigger problem is that the Obama presidency is collapsing. The stimulus, Obamacare, record deficits, soaring debt, high unemployment and the anemic recovery - all are a result of Mr. Obama’s failed statist policies. He is another Jimmy Carter. Instead of confronting this, liberals are searching for scapegoats. They refuse to acknowledge it is their ideas that don’t work; rather, Mr. Obama’s unpopularity must be due to some hidden racism lurking across America. This is the narrative being peddled by leftists, such as those at MSNBC, the New York Times and now the Congressional Black Caucus. Their argument is profoundly condescending and anti-democratic: Mr. Obama didn’t fail, the country did.
Since the emergence of the Tea Party, liberals have sought to paint the movement as bigoted. In other words, they argue that opposition to government-run health care and out-of-control spending is code for “racism.” It isn’t. It is the conservative call for limited government, capitalism and personal responsibility - principles the right has embraced for decades. When President Clinton was in office, conservatives railed against Hillarycare and demanded balanced budgets. By that twisted logic, Republicans opposed Mr. Clinton because he was a white Southerner.
The issue with Mr. Obama is not - and never has been - the color of his skin. It is the color of his politics: socialist red. He is seeking to transform America into a European-style nanny state marked by a bloated public sector, burdensome regulations, high taxes, unsustainable entitlements and weak economic growth. The tragic irony is that Mr. Obama is imposing the social democratic model as Europe crumbles under the crushing weight of welfare liberalism. Mr. Obama is not plagued by race but reality. Voters are rejecting a narcissistic, leftist ideologue who refuses to grasp that we are heading toward becoming Greece - a financial abyss.
“Obamaphobia,” however, is another smear leveled against critics of the liberal revolution. It is the latest evolution in political correctness, seeking to marginalize and delegitimize conservative views. It’s an old trick that secular progressives have effectively used - like charging “Islamophobia” and “homophobia” - to silence dissent. Liberals are little more than watered-down Marxists. They champion a soft totalitarianism where opponents are not just wrong but evil and demented, suffering from a clinical psychosis. It is similar to the Soviet regime during the 1970s when anti-communist dissidents were institutionalized on the grounds that only “mental illness” could explain their criticism of the workers’ paradise.
For years, liberals have used the charge of racism as a club to beat conservatives with. It is a symptom of the left’s moral and intellectual bankruptcy; the fading cry of a decrepit, discredited movement that is running out of steam. “Obamaphobia” is the expression of impotent rage and political desperation. It will not intimidate the electorate nor save Mr. Obama. And like him, it deserves to be swept into the dustbin of history.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.