On Election Eve 2008, the world held its collective breath wondering how people in the United States would react to a black president. Riots? Burning crosses? Mass exodus? Assassination? Four years later, we know the answer. For the most part, the white supremacy undergirding the classic American identity seemed to sit in stunned silence for a few days, then settled into a simmering anger marked by frequent outbursts of frustration and fear. But in those first quiet days, we also know now, Republicans decided on a strategy to reclaim the presidency by sabotaging the new administration (and sacrificing the common good). On Election Eve 2012, it seems likely they will fail.
The Sunday news shows gave us a glimpse into the Republican Party’s state of mind. Confronted with what appears likely to be a decisive win in the electoral college by President Obama, various pundits, strategists, and analysts put forward an amazing perspective: that because such a victory was dependent upon “non-whites and women” it would be, apparently, somehow lacking.
From the website Politico came this astonishing statement: “If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites. That’s what the polling has consistently shown in the final days of the campaign. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it’s possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000. A broad mandate this is not.” (Pondering the meaning of “broad” and “mandate,” one wonders how Politico will characterize Mitt Romney’s portion of the electorate, if he prevails. “Broad whitemandate,” perhaps?) Yes, at least for Politico, apparently only white people put the “broad” in “mandate.” Republican Senator from South Carolina Lindsay Graham put it this way, however: “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long haul.”
Since Barack Obama was elected, it has been my contention that his meteoric rise took the White Party—oh, sorry, I mean the Republican Party—by surprise. The Republicans were totally prepared to run against Hillary Clinton (not so much a woman as a Clinton) and they were ready to disguise their misogyny with a campaign that vowed to protect us from the evils of a balanced budget, scary surpluses, and a booming economy—otherwise known as the first woman president. When candidate Obama defeated the Clinton machine and inspired enthusiasm unseen in presidential politics in generations, however, the Republicans didn’t know quite what to do with their racism.
They figured it out, of course, and we’ve been treated in the past four years to many splendidly creative expressions of white supremacy. More graceful perpetrators developed a sudden urgent obsessive concern with the deficit! the deficit! after eight years of running that same deficit up, for instance, without a peep of dismay. At the other end of the racist extreme were those who developed a sudden urgent obsessive concern with whether Obama was born in the United States, an issue that to my knowledge has never before come up in presidential elections. And then there was the smorgasbord of supposed anxieties about liberalism, socialism, communism, Europe, Muslims, Kenya, immigrants, community organizing, voting, and many more anything-but-black reasons. At times, I’ve felt some would be permanently consigned to the chiropractor’s office for twisting themselves into pretzels again and again to find any objection to Obama, save the fact that he’s black.
Or at least, half-black.
Yes, now, this is something to ponder, isn’t it? Because in fact, Barack Obama is half white, and half black. One white parent, one black parent, even-steven. But as with the “one-drop rule” that in years past legally defined Americans as black if they had a single drop of “black blood,” our president is not quite white enough for today’s Republican Party. And this fact exposes their pathetic and obvious white supremacy, a term far more accurate than racism.
At a time of great peril, the Republican Party, including their supporters and corporate backers, have sacrificed the common good of our country on the altar of their white skin privilege. They have refused to legislate, to problem-solve, to do the job they were elected to do. They have deflected, projected, and obfuscated. They will say it is anything but race, but history and arithmetic blow their cover. No matter what they say, there is no logical reason for their obstructionism, save protecting institutionalized white supremacy.
Is the ruse wearing thin? Ask Chris Christie.
[Extra credit: The Moral High Ground.]