TPM Reader JR on reaping the whirlwind …
Josh’s blog posts recently from TPM readers JT, JB, and KE struck a nerve with me, especially the one from KE on being Asian-American and taking it personally when Republicans and conservatives attacked Obama.
I am Indian-American, born and raised in Iowa (my childhood in Ames and Marshalltown and college years back to Ames) to immigrant parents. Obama’s heritage and identity as a racial minority is a big deal to me, no question, and was an attraction to me in 2007…he is the only Presidential candidate ever to get my money in a contested nomination fight, before he was the presumed nominee.
There is no question the Obama Presidency has exposed a lot of racism and xenophobia and religious bigotry among Republicans and conservatives, disturbingly more than I would’ve guessed. PPP was mocked early on in 2011 for their polls testing whether GOP primary voters in various states believed Obama was born in the U.S., whether he was a citizen, whether he was a Muslim…even whether he was the anti-Christ! At first I was dismissive of the some of the results because I’m well-aware that people are willing to give ridiculous answers to ridiculous questions. But then after one GOP Presidential primary debate, Frank Luntz on Fox News had a majority of Iowa GOP focus group members raise their hands in earnest when he asked, in earnest, whether they believed Obama was a Muslim. And as time went on, it became clear in other polling that PPP early on was on to more than just snarky telephone survey replies, there really is a disturbingly large percentage of Republicans who are openly hostile to Obama specifically because of his race, his national origin, and his partial religious ancestry. That GOP electeds from Boehner to McConnell to all the GOP Presidential candidates were unwilling to call out any of it just reinforced the point, since it established they were afraid because these people were a very large part of the GOP base. You don’t worry about calling out your own party’s cranks in public if they’re marginal figures whose votes you don’t need and don’t think you’ll lose because they have no other options…Republican candidates and electeds know that they can lose primaries for openly challenging racial and other bigoted hostility toward Obama.
And all this is very personal to me. When I was a small child in Ames, Iowa, in my immigrant family, neighborhood teenagers assaulted our home regularly, pelting fruit and whatever else at our house. Several times my dad had the police come and lecture this group of kids. It was all about race, and these kids’ parents did nothing.
So when Mitt Romney in a Michigan stump speech snarks that no one asked him for his birth certificate, and his GOP allies defend the racism as “just a joke,” when so many GOP federal and state electeds endorse or tacitly condone questioning of Obama’s citizenry and engage in other dog whistle racism, these are always personal attacks equally on me…if Obama is not an American and does not legitimately belong, then they’re saying the same about me.
I imagine I’m not alone, that people of color across the board see what I see, and the election results confirm this. It’s striking to me, and IMO underreported, that Obama clearly lost great amounts of white support in Florida and indeed his 37% in the exit poll with Florida whites has always been disastrous…and yet he wins the state with an absolute majority. It’s striking to me that the national exit poll has not only people of color increasing to 28% of the total, but also that it has both Hispanics and Asians giving over 70% to Obama. These things tell me that people of color across the board see what I see, an appalling racism and xenophobia in the Republican Party that is enraging.
Sadly, the early signs of the post-election period show only continued GOP hostility, even more bitterness and resentment than before. I do believe that Obama and Senate Democrats are going to play hardball these next few months on Senate rules and the most immediate legislative issues of the budget and taxes and debt ceiling, and it will make me happy. That will be necessary, because it appears that Congressional Republicans are remaining adamant in their unwillingness to deal with a black President as an equal to previous white Presidents. That might change out of necessity, but for the time being federal Democratic electeds will simply have to bring the hammer down. The next key test for Republicans will be immigration reform: will resentment and bitterness overwhelm their recent recognition of the need to try to bend toward the demands of immigrant communities? I actually suspect yes, it will. They’re bitter toward losing and now will become only more bitter and intransigent after getting forced into budget and tax legislation they hate, and getting steamrolled on Senate rules.
My next big electoral hope is that more people of color wake up and realize the importance of voting in non-Presidential elections, meaning the federal midterms and in places like Virginia where I live the odd-year state-level elections. Outsized minority turnout in 2014 might still be needed to make national Republicans feel compelled to change their ways, as I’m not sure this election will ultimately be enough.
Thanks for indulging my rant, this particular topic strikes a very personal nerve and these recent posts on TPM meant a lot to me.