President Obama will outline his (latest) plan to boost employment in a speech tonight to Congress, under pressure that comes not only from weeks of anticipation and dire economic data but from strained relations with his core supporters.
From labor unions to environmentalists to the Congressional Black Caucus, the political left is venting its frustration with Obama and his policies, or lack thereof. An unintended consequence may be the unraveling of the narrative that tea-party opposition to our first black president is rooted in racism.
It was always ludicrous to suggest that a movement as large as the tea party would be born from hatred for Obama’s skin color rather than disapproval of his policies. And the movement is large: Near-monthly polling by CBS News and the New York Times since April 2010 finds that, at any given time, between one-fifth and one-third of Americans say they support the tea party (see page 10 of the PDF at the link).
It would be foolish to say that not a single, solitary tea partyer anywhere in America is a bigot. In any discussion involving such large numbers, it’s almost impossible to say there’s zero of anything (besides net U.S. job creation in August, that is).
But it is just as foolish to believe that so many Americans not only would support a group that was fundamentally racist but would, in our politically correct era, admit as much to a stranger.
I doubt anyone but the most partisan Democrats believed the racism charge, given the results of last fall’s midterm elections, when tea partyers and independents combined to hand Democrats their worst showing in perhaps 116 years.
Just in case, the splintering of the Obama coalition might do the trick. If the left can slam Obama on principle alone, why not the right?
Labor unions are so frustrated by Obama’s failure to deliver their wish list that AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka is talking about skipping next year’s Democratic National Convention and building a new structure to disburse labor’s millions in political funds rather than giving the cash to the party.
Green groups skipped the blues and turned an angry red at Obama’s decision last week to delay new ozone rules which would have hampered job creation.
And black political leaders are turning up the heat on Obama as the unemployment rate for African-Americans, at 16.7 percent in August, remains well above the national average of 9.1 percent.
Speaking at a community college near Detroit last month, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters criticized Obama’s choice of stops during his bus tour of the Midwest:
“We want to give him every opportunity, but our people are hurting,” the California Democrat said. “The unemployment is unconscionable. We don’t know what the strategy is. We don’t know why on this trip that he’s in the United States now, he’s not in any black community.”
Since then, Waters and others have taken anti-tea party rhetoric to new extremes.
Less than a week after her comments in Detroit, Waters told another crowd that “the tea party can go straight to hell.” A member of the Congressional Black Caucus leadership, Indiana Democrat Andre Carson, wildly claimed some tea-party members of Congress would like to see blacks “hanging on a tree.”
Maybe they’re aware — and afraid — that dinging Obama from the left undercuts their claims that criticisms from the right must be racist.
If they’re going to brand anyone who disagrees with them a bigot, why not include the president who hasn’t delivered their agenda? It makes just as much (or little) sense.
The great promise of the Obama presidency — from a conservative’s point of view, maybe the only promise — was that its historic significance would help bring an end to race-based politics. Sadly, we’ve been subjected to more ugliness first.
But when solid majorities of Americans tell pollsters they like Obama, just not his policies, maybe we should conclude that his skin color is not what’s objectionable about him.
– By Kyle Wingfield