Jimmy Carter, Joe Wilson and racism

Posted on September 16, 2009

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One week after Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) made his ill-advised outburst during President Obama’s health care speech, wild speculation about what those two little words still persists one week later. The House voted yesterday to censure Rep. Wilson, which was the right thing to do, and Rep. Wilson was right to apologize for the rude breach of decorum. At this point, however, I part ways with those on the other side of the aisle who presumably think they’re scoring political points by dragging out criticism of a Republican.

Former President Jimmy Carter made a regrettable foray into the entire debacle when he told NBC Nightly News that “racial politics” played a role in Wilson’s outburst. Carter went further to say the all the strong opposition to Obama “is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American.” Really? So there couldn’t possibly be any objections on policy, could there?

Carter’s screwball analysis is unfortunately shared by many others. Rep. Hank Johnson made the outlandish claim that if the House didn’t censure Wilson, people in white hoods would begin intimidating people again. Even more incredible is his assertion that Wilson is the “face” of racist opposition to the President, as though rudely shouting, “You lie!” instantly makes one the ringleader of a vast racist conspiracy to undermine a black President at any cost.

Carter and Johnson have plenty of company, as a Politico report last week showed that many Democrats feel that opposition to the President is fueled at least in part by racism. I don’t think I’ve heard the racist epithet hurled about with more frequency and abandon than at any time before. Reading some of the liberal blogs, you would think that all the “teabaggers” are just itching to lynch someone. Indeed, some of the most eyebrow-raising racist rhetoric comes not from reading conservatives, but reading what liberals imagine conservatives are secretly thinking regarding minorities and the President.

Racism isn’t dead in this country, and it probably will never be completely stamped out. But it has lost its potency as an acceptable driving force in society. That said, we should always be on guard against bigotry and hate.

But here’s the point – Carter, Johnson, and so many others have utterly devalued the term “racist” by throwing it about so cavalierly. I have some breaking news for them – opposition to Obama comes not from the color of his skin but because of his policies. I disagree with the President on many of his policies – do I hold some deep-seated hatred of black people? I don’t think so, and to make that assertion is a dishonest attempt to win an argument. Had a white President ran as a centrist and then offered precisely the same liberal agenda, he would have been met with the same stiff opposition with one exception – his supporters couldn’t play the race card to disqualify the arguments of those against his plans.

And that’s the sad fact of this supposedly “post-racial” Presidency. Instead of ending the debate on race, Obama’s election has made it front and center with his supporters decrying every opponent of his as harboring some secret racism. It’s demeaning, it’s intellectually lazy, and it’s a cheap way to win a national debate by attempting to discredit your opponents’ arguments with sweeping ad hominem attacks against their characters.

One piece of heartening news: according to Rasmussen, only 12% of voters believe that racism is driving opposition to Obama (though, not surprisingly, only 39% of Democrats reject the idea, compared to 88% of Republicans and 78% of independents, heads-up from Hot Air). The public isn’t buying the scheme to paint conservatives, the GOP, and those not thrilled with the President’s agenda using the evil brush of racism. It’s too easy and too tempting to do, however, so I don’t expect any less of these unfounded attacks. Beyond the political maneuvering, the nation is ill-served with the playing of this divisive racial game.

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Posted in: News, Politics