The tea party’s racial hatred of Barack Obama

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When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, many pundits and political observers were eager to expunge the nation’s brutal and long-running history of stark racial oppression. They spoke of a “post-racial” society freed from the divisions of tribe, healed of the deep wounds that ached and bled along the color line for centuries.

Even those who were less sanguine about the disappearance of racism — myself included — believed that the election of the nation’s first black president signaled a new era of greater racial harmony and understanding. Surely, a nation ready to be led by a black man was ready to let go many of its oldest and ugliest prejudices.

But that was a very naïve notion. It turns out that Obama’s election has, instead, provoked a new civil war, a last battle cry of secession by a group of voters who want no part of a country led by a black man, no place in a world they don’t rule, no home in a society where they are simply one more minority group. Call those folks “tea partiers.”

The ultraconservatives who have taken over the Republican Party are motivated by many things — antipathy toward the federal government, conservative religious beliefs and a traditional Republican suspicion of taxes, among them. But the most powerful force animating their fight is a deep-seated racial antagonism.

Don’t take my word for it. Democracy Corps, a political research and polling group headed by Stanley Greenberg and James Carville, has published a report from a series of focus groups conducted with segments of the Republican Party — moderates, evangelicals and tea partiers.

The report confirms that Republicans, especially the tea partiers, “are very conscious of being white in a country that is increasingly minority. .The race issue is very much alive.” It also notes that “Barack Obama and Obamacare is a racial flashpoint for many evangelical and tea party voters.”

Tea partiers believe that the Democratic Party is intent on expanding the social safety net in order, basically, to buy votes. They see “Obamacare” as a sop to that alleged 47 percent of lazy Americans who don’t want to work, don’t pay any taxes and live off government handouts. And, of course, those lazy Americans are, in their view, voters of color.

One focus group participant actually described the mythical America he pined for this way:
“Everybody is above average. Everybody is happy. Everybody is white. Everybody is middle class, whether or not they really are. Everybody looks that way…Very homogenous.”

Democracy Corps isn’t the only research group that has ferreted out the racial antagonism at the heart of tea partiers’ radicalism. Writing in The New York Times, journalist Thomas Edsall shared portions of an email exchange with political scientist Christopher Parker, co-author of “Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America.” Parker said that “reactionary conservatives” believe “social change is subversive to the America with which they’ve become familiar, i.e., white, mainly male, Protestant, native born, straight. ‘Real Americans,’ in other words.”

None of this should come as any great surprise. In 2010, a New York Times poll of tea partiers found that more than half said the policies of the Obama administration favor the poor, and 25 percent thought that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public. Their racial paranoia has long been clear.

If anything has been surprising, it’s been the potency of their hatred, the irrationality of their tactics, the venom in their backlash. But, as they see it, they are fighting for their way of life — their control, their power.

This is an existential battle, and they’re willing to burn down the country to save it from people of color. That’s why they’re willing to risk defaulting on the nation’s debt for the first time in history.

The only whiff of good news is that tea party supporters tend to be older than average. Their cohort is diminishing and will be replaced by a younger voting bloc who members don’t hew to their antediluvian views.

But the tea partiers are going to be with us for a while, and it’s going to be a wild ride.

Comments

  1. Lou says:

    DearCynthia,

    Very compelling argument showing that the “Tea Party” is just a rebirth of the KKK! Maybe not?

    According to the United States Department of Justice: Blacks accounted for 52.5% of homicides, whites 45.3% and Native Americans and Asians 2.2%, from 1980 to 2008. The offending rate for blacks was almost 8 times higher than whites, and the victim rate 6 times higher. Most murders were intraracial, with 84% of white homicide victims murdered by whites, and 93% of black victims murdered by blacks.

    There are many famous African Americans:
    Frederick Douglass
    President Barack Obama
    Rosaparks
    Condoleezza Rice
    Martin Luther King Jr
    Malcolm X
    Oprah Winfrey
    Booker T. Washington
    Harriet Tubman
    Dorothy Height
    Muhammad Ali
    Michael Jordan

    Total population
    42,020,743 [1]
    including mixed race individuals
    (13.6% of US population)
    2011 U.S. Census Bureau Estimate

    But still I would be concerned if I was a member of a group who is about 14% of the population but accounts for almost 53% of reported murders. Maybe you are right that race may be a factor in the health care debate and Tea Party shutdown but only in so far as it relates to economic status not racial grouping. Some people only see issues through their own experience and have no empathy for the whole. We will all end up paying more (as I have already) for health care due the “ affordable care act”! Oh and don’t forget that Lincoln was a Republican and George Wallace was a Democrat. Racism and all its ills are terrible but are not the providence of one party either in the past or in the future. Maybe the bigger problem is we have a 17 Trillion dollar debt growing by more than 1 billion dollars a day and no intention of ever stopping it, reducing it or even slowing it down!??
    Soon American no matter what race will no longer mean a land of opportunity or equality for anyone no matter what, and we will no longer be a hopeful nation but a ruined empire.
    Lou Toth
    3rd generation Hungarian American
    Toth translated into english is SLAVE

  2. GoDodgers says:

    The attempt to vilify people with whom you have philosophical differences is unbecoming. To say “Tea Partiers” are motivated by race is simply an attempt to discredit the validity of their views.

    To advocate for lower taxes is not racist.

    To advocate for government spending to match revenues is not racist.

    To advocate for freedom of speech, and not be suppressed by the IRS is not racist.

    You may not agree with those viewpoints, but that does not mean they are motivated by race.

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