In the past few days, former President Jimmy Carter has caused a national firestorm by remarking that much of the current opposition to President Obama is rooted in racism. As expected, the racist wing of the GOP quickly dismissed Carter’s comments as wrongheaded and divisive. In truth, however, President Carter was merely identifying a political reality that many of us have been unable or unwilling to recognize: much of the current anti-Obama sentiment has little to do with policy and much to do with race.
Since becoming the Democratic party’s nominee last May, President Obama has been the victim of the most racist smear campaign in American political history. From the xenophobic investigations into his religious background to the moonbatish birther controversy, the right-wing political machine has gone to extravagant lengths to paint Obama as an uppity, untrustworthy, and unprincipled outsider whose very existence represents a threat to the American way of life.
Although the language of race has rarely been explicitly invoked, terms like “Marxist,” “Nazi,” “extremist,” and “foreigner” have been used to smuggle racism and xenophobia into the public conversation without political consequence.
Of course, this is not to suggest that everyone who opposes President Obama is a racist. To the contrary, there have been numerous legitimate reasons to challenge the president’s policies and plans since the beginning of his term. Unfortunately, even the most legitimate critiques have too often been cloaked in a deeply racidicalized veil that appeals to the most vulgar sensibilities within our country.