American politicians particularly since the 1970's have argued that our electoral issues are matters the solutions to which are permeated with nuances. Compromises are needed to resolve disputes. There is good and bad in every idea and there is an equality of sincerity and honestly and even duplicity in the rival parties and candidates. The problem is the voters don't see it that way. They form opinions, sometimes not based on facts, and they form impressions of candidates. Those opinions and impressions determine how they vote. And most voters don't vote because of nuances.
The conventions are over - the debates yet to come. And for all the rhetoric on both sides the election of 2012 comes down to a clear choice and frankly it’s a matter of Black or White.
I am a liberal progressive Democrat. But I have never seen every issue in terms of race. It is clear to me that since President Obama’s inauguration the radical right wing tea party Republicans have viewed him not as the American President but as a Black President. And they don’t like the color they see occupying the White House. He is not representative of the Anglo-Saxon Protestant (now read Christian) America that they believe this nation was founded to be and should be. Despite his Horatio Alger like story of rising from near poverty, raised by a single Mom, he is derided as someone who does not believe in American exceptionalism. And yet he personifies the very exceptionalism they claim to honor. It is America’s historic ability to assimilate immigrants, albeit with a problem in accepting forced immigrants like the African-Americans and now accepting immigrants of another language, Spanish, or another religion, i.e. Muslim. Only if America continues to be a “melting pot” can our country survive as the greatest nation on the planet and symbol of democracy to the world. And Obama represents the success of that “melting”. He is the descendant of 17th century settlers in the colonies who later fought for our nation's independence. But he is not American enough for the radical right wing tea party Republicans. Why? Because he is Black and his father was African.
I believe if Obama were white there would have been the same massive reaction to his health care reform proposals since that reaction was financed and stirred up by health care business interests. I believe opposition to his appointments and his other proposals would have been just as strong. And in fact when Bill Clinton proposed many of the same things he was met with vociferous opposition and stalling of nominations etc. and he was white. Since Newt Gingrich the Republicans have been a party of rule or ruin. However the unified lock step knee jerk reaction to anything the President says and does is more than party difference it is due to his embodiment of the cultural changes that the nation underwent in the 60's and 70's. It is because Barack Obama represents the success of the struggle for equality of the African-American community that began with Brown v. Bd. of Education in 1954. His support of the Dream Act and his opposition to DOMA, followed by his support of same-sex marriage, has furthered his image as the representative of the New America. And, the radical right wing tea party Republicans want to return to a mythical Old America - one that was White, Male dominated, Anglo-Saxon in its heritage and language, and Christian (they’d prefer Protestant but realize the need for support from conservative White Catholics).
My ethnic background is white, Anglo Saxon. My father’s ancestors came to these shores in 1607. My mother was born in Germany and on her side I am first generation American. So in a way I represent the white melting pot. But I do not share the view of these radical right wingers that blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and gays should either have no place in our society or should know their place and stay in it. That was a weakness of my ancestors (many of whom opposed those views); and, a majority of that population of America rejected that old notion in the 1960's when White America, or at least a majority, made efforts to undo the decades of discrimination. Nixon called those who were in the minority in the white community the “silent majority”. Well today the tables are turned the silent majority are those White Americans, many of 20th century immigrant ancestry, who are being intimidated and silenced by the roarings of the tea party radicals and depressed by our nations' economic collapse.
This election is all about Black and White. And about the future and whether or not we can end this culture of the color line or we simply try to whitewash it. My grandchildren don’t seem to recognize that line. Once when playing in an indoor playground my granddaughter came to me to complain about one of the other children playing with her. I asked her which one and she said “the Black one”. I looked in and pointed to the African American child in the playground. . She looked at me like I was stupid and said “not him the one over there” and pointed to a little boy wearing a black shirt. Call me a dreamer but that is the America I want.
17 September 2012