In recent weeks Nancy Pelosi and former President Jimmy Carter made much needed meta-comments about the increasingly violent tenor of the current political discourse in this country.
Pelosi reflected upon the violent language not experienced in this country since the 1960s, and Carter observed the racist motivations behind a lot of the anti Obama attacks. Both Pelosi’s and Carter’s comments were dismissed by a good many in the mainstream press, to my chagrin.
It’s an important discussion to have, particularly since in my opinion both Carter and Pelosi are correct in their observations. (see Politico)
But let me temper that a bit with the following context. All Obama agonists are not Racist and race is not the root of much of the anti Obama criticism. During the early Clinton years, the right made a similar effort to delegitimize his presidency. These were the days Rush Limbaugh started a count on the number of days left in the new president’s term, and Clinton agonists discredited his health reform efforts by jiggling shiny trinkets in front of the media about alleged mistresses and Whitewater land deals in Arkansas. Taylor Branch’s new bio of Clinton, the Clinton Tapes reminds us of how the right came quite close to delegitimizing the Clinton presidency. Clinton’s opponents may have been racist (some of them), but the germane point is that they hated the Clintonian commitment to relying on government to solve complex social problems.
Same thing Obama faces.
Race is being used as a tool to bring Obama down, but it is not the source of (all) the animosity. I think the more comprehensive source is ideological. The big divide between red states and blue states, and between people who believe government has a positive role to play and people who would rather rely on unaccountable market forces that are structured to exclude millions of have nots in society. To the extent that opponents of a strong federal government historically back to Antibellum days have also been racist is part of the story now playing out.
It’s an ideology thing about the role government. Difficult to see how the president’s commitment to post partisanship abides such a tectonic divide. And race fuels the animosity. It makes for a less communicative divide, and potentially more violent future.
In the meantime, it is time to heed Pelosi’s and Carter’s comments.