In the age of politic correctness, it is often frowned upon to state the obvious for fear of offending. Take this comment I made yesterday about the Republican's treatment of President Obama during his first term in office:
While Obama had success on many fronts (health care, financial regulation and the environment to name a few), he was mercilessly attacked by Republicans who seemed incensed that a black man was in the White House with a liberal agenda.
A reader took exception to my assertion that Republicans have exhibited racist behavior towards the President and left the following comment:
I enjoyed reading your thoughtful analysis of the president's speech and your forecast for the second term.....until the completely uncalled for and unsubstantiated accusation of racism.
I may just be strange, but baseless racism accusations bother me almost as much as actual racism.
Accusing someone of racism is pretty serious, and it isn't a line of attack I take lightly. However, if you look at the track record of the GOP over the past four years, it is abundantly clear that they have used racially charged rhetoric against the President and engaged in disrespectful behavior that no white politician in his position would ever have to face. Let's go through some examples:
1. At one of President Obama’s first appearances before Congress, Rep. Joe Wilson shouted "You lie!" at the top of his voice while Obama spoke on health care reform.
2. House Speaker John Boehner rejected President Obama’s request to speak to a joint session of Congress. This was the first denial in the history of America - unsurprisingly directed at the first African American President.
3. 'Birthers' were given prominent speaking roles at the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida.
4. Mitt Romney openly courted Donald Trump, one of the most visible proponents of the Birther movement.
5. Newt Gingrich labelled Obama "The greatest food stamp President in American history,” a remark clearly designed to rile up white America.
6. In a rant on Benghazi, Sarah Palin wrote on her facebook wall: "President Obama's shuck and jive shtick with these Benghazi lies must end." As CNN’s Roland Martin stated:
“Shucking and jiving” have long been words used as a negative assessment of African Americans, along the lines of a “foot shufflin’ Negro.” In fact, I don’t recall ever hearing the phrase used in reference to anyone white.
7. Mitt Romney's speech at the NAACP in 2012 where he lectured the audience on welfare dependency was one of the most blatant uses of the 'Southern Strategy' in modern history. As Charles Blow in the New York Times wrote:
The speech sounded like it was designed not for the audience in the room, but for those in Republican living rooms.
It sounded as though he wanted to show force and fearlessness: “Look folks, I walked into hostile territory unafraid and unbowed.” This was his version of a Daniel in the lions’ den speech.
Talk tough. Get heckled and booed for telling the truth to those who don’t want to hear it. Take the president down a couple of pegs in front of the most loyal segment of his supporters…
8. Colin Powell’s former chief of staff Col. Lawrence Wilkerson publicly stated that the Republican Party is “full of racists” who only want President Obama out of office because of "the color of his skin". “Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists,” Wilkerson said on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show.” ”And the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander in chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin. And that’s despicable.”
9. Voter suppression tactics. The GOP has been actively pursuing the non-existent problem of voter fraud. At the behest of Karl Rove and the party bosses, Republicans have instituted various forms of voter suppression aimed at preventing Democratic-leaning blocs from voting. The Brennan Center for Justice notes that“The impact of ID requirements is even greater for the elderly, students, people with disabilities, low-income individuals, and people of color.... "African Americans have driver’s licenses at half the rate of whites, and the disparity increases among younger voters; only 22% of black men aged 18-24 had a valid driver’s license. Not only are minority voters less likely to possess photo ID, but they are also more likely than white voters to be selectively asked for ID at the polls.”
Of course there are many Republicans who are not racist and are surely disgusted by the behavior and attitude shown towards the President by members of their party (Lawrence Wilkerson is one of them). Many Republicans are also dismayed at their party's attempt to prevent people from voting through age old voter suppression tactics. But to deny the notion that the GOP suffers from institutionalized racism is to deny the facts. The Party openly courts Birthers, rarely admonishes members for racially charged language, and tries to stop minorities from voting. It doesn't get more racist than that.