Researchers are now finding that for an increasing number of Americans, the idea of a Black man as commander in chief of the United States is unacceptable, and that could cost President Obama the presidency if minority, women and young voters don’t turn out on Election Day, experts said.
“I guess it shows you the underlying tenacity and strength of racism in America,” said Robert Smith, a political analyst who teaches at San Francisco State University.
A recent Associated Press poll showed that “51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-Black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey," according to a story on the research.
Some argue that anti-Obama sentiments are based on ideology and political belief, but that could not fully explain the level of acrimony and vitriol that has marked his opposition. Many have been unwilling to give the president credit for any of his accomplishments. After inheriting two wars, a $1.2 trillion deficit grown from a record budget surplus and a crumbling economy, the Obama administration has ended the war in Iraq, started the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and killed Al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.
It also engineered groundbreaking legislation, such as never-before achieved universal health care coverage and equal pay for women and minorities. Through its efforts, the financial industry was stabilized, the auto industry saved, the housing market revived and unemployment decreased.
Throughout his first presidential campaign there was a dogged attempt to discredit Obama—questioning his citizenship, challenging his religious faith and cross-examining his educational achievements in an unprecedented way.
“There’s been an effort on the right, during his first election campaign and during his presidency, to ‘otherize’ Obama and to make him out as un-American,” Smith said.
That effort spawned the “birther” conspiracy—the theory that Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore neither a citizen nor a legitimate president. Despite considerable evidence, Obama-doubters remained convinced that the president is hiding something.
Media hog Donald Trump recently announced he would give $5 million to a charity of Obama’s choice if the president released his school application and records and his travel records.
"That's just code for saying [Obama] got into law school because he's black,” CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer said in response to Trump’s allegations back in April. “This is an ugly strain of racism that's running through this whole thing.”
And it’s an ugly strain that has permeated much of the anti-Obama zealotry the nation has seen over the past four years, sociopolitical experts say. Bumper stickers, posters and outright comments speak of that hate, from the lynching of empty chairs—Clint Eastwood’s symbol for Obama; deliberate withholding of the president’s title when referring to him; protest posters portraying the president as a fascist; Arizona radio host Barbara Espinosa calling the president a “monkey”; Ann Coulter’s calling him a “retard”; denigrations of First Lady Michelle Obama’s body, particularly her derriere; Internet and magazine photos depicting her as a militant “angry Black woman” and as a primate; and references to her as “Moochelle,” because of her perceived push to get Americans to “mooch” off the federal government.
“There has been a really substantial rise in, not just racism because that has existed all along, but the expression of racism,” said David Bositis, a senior analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
And, he said, such expressions have mostly emanated from the Republican Party, whose leaders have done little, or nothing, to quell them.
“[Republican candidate] Mitt Romney and his campaign and the Republican Party treat racist expressions with a wink and a nod because those people are their supporters,” Bositis said.
But then Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have not been shy in their prejudicial treatment of the president. During Obama’s first “State of the Union” address, Rep. Joe Wilson screamed out “You lie!” in blatant disrespect. Republicans have employed legislative obstruction and a refusal to cooperate or compromise, holding the American people hostage to their stated goal of making Obama a one-term president.
The GOP has also used voter suppression in their effort to oust Obama.
“This is the biggest and most coordinated state legislative assault on the vote in more than 100 years,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous in a previous AFRO interview. “When you add it all up it is a very cynical strategy to control the outcome or at least unduly influence the outcome by who can vote and what ballots are cast.”
But those efforts could backfire, by spurring Black and other minority voters to rally behind the president.
“They see these racist attacks…and they find it repulsive,” said Bositis, who studies the Black electorate. “They know without words that these people hate Blacks, Latinos and other minorities…and just about everybody that’s not like them, and the reaction is, ‘I have to do my part to stop these people.’”