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The demonization of Obama

Long time readers of this blog know that I have been very critical of some of the policies of president Barack Obama and the Democratic party. But even I have been taken aback by the sheer viciousness of the attacks on him that have come, not just from nutcases, but from the very leaders of the Republican party.

In his note in the April 2012 issue of The Progressive magazine (subscription required), editor Matthew Rothschild is equally alarmed at the levels of vitriol that is pouring out during the current campaign and warns that it can have serious consequences.

The anti-Obama rhetoric that pours out of the mouths of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney is way over the top right now.

Gingrich keeps calling Obama a danger to the country.

Santorum keeps predicting a cataclysm if Obama is reelected.

Gingrich says Obama is not defending “our religion”—as if the United States has an official religion (other than patriotism or football).

Santorum says Obama practices a “phony religion.”

Romney says Obama is “waging a war on religion.”

Gingrich says Obama isn’t protecting the United States from Islamic terrorists. Maybe he should fact check that one with a guy named bin Laden.

Meanwhile, Santorum compares Obama to Hitler.

Romney, for his part, says if Obama is reelected, the United States will be hit with a nuclear weapon.

Not to be outdone, Gingrich declared, at the Arizona debate, that “all of us are more at risk today, men and women, boys and girls, than at any time in the history of this country.”

Oh, really?

How about during the Civil War?

How about during World War II?

How about during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Gingrich has taken this scaremongering to the end of the line, saying that “defeating Barack Obama becomes, in fact, a duty of national security.”

This is toxic stuff.

There are a lot of crazy people in America, and a lot of guns that are easily accessible to them.

With rhetoric like this, some nut might think he has “a duty” to take matters into his own hands.

Gingrich and Santorum and Romney are creating a very volatile atmosphere in this country, and they owe Obama and the nation a more temperate tone.

What is extraordinary is that these rants about how Obama’s re-election will mean that the US will cease to be a free country is driven not by concerns about his claims to have the right to murder even American citizens without due process, but by things like his health care reform legislation. If the modest reforms being pushed by Obama are a sign of impending serfdom, then surely all the other countries of the developed world, with their universal, single-payer systems, must be tyrannies?

The fact that this crazy apocalyptic rhetoric is striking a chord in the Republican party, when it should be obvious that Obama is a cautious, center-right, pro-oligarchic, status-quo maintaining candidate, seems to indicate that there is a well of deep irrationality that is being tapped.

In addition, there have been some extraordinarily crude and blatantly racist things that have been said about Obama, of which this is an example. What is interesting is how the perpetrators, if called on it, almost always say that they had no racist intent and are mystified that anyone took it that way. While I don’t think that Obama’s race is the only factor driving this insanity, it seems somehow easier for these people to envisage Obama as ‘the other’, a usurper whose legitimacy is always under suspicion, and thus anything goes in trying to oust him.

Comments

  1. says

    What is extraordinary is that these rants about how Obama’s re-election will mean that the US will cease to be a free country is driven not by concerns about his claims to have the right to murder even American citizens without due process, but by things like his health care reform legislation.

    They aren’t criticizing that because they’ll be the first to use it when they get in power. It’s extremely hypocritical. They’ll fight against the less “bad” policies because it’s the party line, but they won’t even try to address the policies with actual “badness” to them.

  2. Dunc says

    not just from nutcases, but from the very leaders of the Republican party.

    I’m afraid the distinction eludes me at this point.

  3. unbound says

    It is with a heavy heart that I live in a world with increasing hyperbole that is being confused for critical thought and debate. I like debates. It is good to understand other peoples thoughtful positions. But finding thoughtful positions anymore is like finding a diamond in the rough. Political discourse is nothing more than political hyperbole from all parties. Heck, most political discussion can be, and frequently is, written in large letters on a single sign anymore…

  4. says

    The fact that this crazy apocalyptic rhetoric is striking a chord in the Republican party, when it should be obvious that Obama is a cautious, center-right, pro-oligarchic, status-quo maintaining candidate, seems to indicate that there is a well of deep irrationality that is being tapped.

    Heh, Mano, sentences like this are why are love your blog. This is such a well-mannered and polite way of saying “HOLY FUCK THEY’VE ALL GONE COMPLETELY OFF THE DEEP END!” :)

  5. ash says

    This is the world of opposite land politics

    Definitions of words are unimportant

    Party loyalty trumps the truth

    Party loyalty trumps rational discourse

    Party loyalty trumps principles

    I officially declare these people to be evil. As liberals we tend to want to be able to show them the errors of their ways…Have them acknowledge their foibles. The fact that they don’t see themselves as evil is not a condition for declaring them so.

  6. lordshipmayhem says

    While it is routine for political opponents to colour the other political leaders as “dangerous” and “the enemy” (witness the vitriol between the Liberals and Conservatives in Canada), it has reached levels previously unseen in the current U.S. Presidential campaign.

    But it was something I was anticipating back when Obama was first elected. I remember writing in my blog that no matter how good Obama’s performance was, it would never be good enough. First, those who voted for him expected to walk on water and resolve all the mess that his predecessor had left behind – economically and militarily. Either one would have been a challenge for anybody, but both – even if he walked on metaphorical water he’d still fail to resolve everything, and for that he’d be excoriated by his supporters.

    Those who were his opponents, on the other hand, would rip him to shreds even without the slightest excuse, and his first real excuse they would land on him like a ton of bricks.

    My conclusion: “You’ve won the Presidency, you poor bastard. You have my deepest sympathies.”

    Everything that has transpired since then has only lent weight to my prediction. It won’t matter who was elected President after the Shrub, they would have been lambasted just as Obama has been.

  7. jamessweet says

    Mostly agree with all that, except that it’s worth pointing out that not all of the criticism of Obama from supporters or former supporters is about unrealistically high expectations, not by a long shot. I don’t think that, e.g. a commitment to at least some minimal judicial process before assassinating a US citizen is “setting the bar too high”…

    There may be some truth to that in terms of what we finally got for the healthcare act. I am personally of the mindset that Obama did pretty much exactly what I do when I bargain (and why any time there is haggling to be done, I send my wife in): He started at a fair price and then haggled his way to an only half-unfair price. He is the kid who suggested we split the cake while the other wants all the case, and the “compromise” is that he only gets 1/4 of the cake. But at the same time, I do agree that single payer was probably just not in the cards at this time…

    There may also be some truth to it in terms of LGBT rights. Obama has made great progress on that front, e.g. repealing DADT, not fighting to retain DOMA, but a lot of advocates have been frustrated at his refusal to explicitly endorse marriage equality, among other things. But he has made a lot of progress and maybe we are asking too much when we want more.

    But on civil liberties? No, sorry, Obama has been a disappointment in that regard by any measure. There is no “setting the bar too high” on that front.

  8. The Lorax says

    If one Republican could step up to the plate and begin discussing policy, and pointedly NOT demonizing the members of his party or Obama, whilst maintaining a clear and unchanging view and not (literally) preaching to the far-right minority, add in a little bit of pointing out the shit that Obama really did, he would win, hands down.

    But of course, that’s not the way this country is moving. We (apparently) must defeat Obama because he is evil incarnate [citation needed]. Because God said so [citation needed]. Also, stop hurting the religious minority, the overly wealthy who promote job stimulus, and the caucasian males who are just defending traditional values.

    Japan is looking more and more interesting to me. And I’m not just saying that.

  9. ollie says

    Mano, you give what I consider “principled” criticism; you don’t give one side a pass.

    Yes, some of the viciousness is unbelievable and much of the attacks are about what he has never done!

    I WISH he were as liberal as his nutty critics make him out to be. :)

  10. mnb0 says

    “Party loyalty trumps the truth
    Party loyalty trumps rational discourse
    Party loyalty trumps principles”

    Sounds like the CPSU.

  11. Frank says

    jamessweet,

    Right on.

    On health care, I think that even if Mr Obama had started with stronger demands, he wouldn’t have ended up with anything better, given that the current law barely got through Congress.

    On LGBT rights, if he had fought for full marriage equality, it is unlikely that Congress would have gone along (even pre-2010 elections). And that position would probably have been a vote-getting GOP argument against him in the present election. Give the pace that attitudes are changing, this may not be the case in 3 or 4 years. I’m still hopeful on this one.

    I supported Mr Obama over Ms Clinton in the 2008 primary mainly because I thought he would be stronger on civil liberties. Now, I’m still don’t think that she would have been any better, but he has been a sore disappointment.

  12. sailor1031 says

    If President Obama were half as bad as they claim he is, I’m surprised that none of these republican fascisti have been subjected to rendition to Bagram or Kazakhstan. Maybe it’s all just a sophisticated Obama plot to let them run around the country so he can pretend that he is just like a real, democracy-loving, american-president instead of the Moscow-trained, Beijing-oriented, muslim-atheist, anti-democratic, election-stealing faux-president that they all know he really is.

    Oh yeah – he’s half black too! and half-white, but that doesn’t get a mention in America where 1% black is still black and therefore a bar to public office (unlike religion, which is a necessary qualification)

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