Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Jay Rockefeller speaks the truth about Obama and Republican racism

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Sen. Jay Rockefeller unloaded on lawmakers Tuesday, accusing some of blocking efforts to solve urgent problems during Barack Obama's presidency "because he's the wrong color."

Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who will retire at the end of the year, made his comments during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on transportation funding, saying he's confounded by the "lack of will to keep ourselves from dropping into rivers and rolling over bridges that are no longer there."

"It's an American characteristic that you don't do anything which displeases the voters, because you always have to get reelected here," he added. "I understand part of it. It has to do with — for some, it's just we don't want anything good to happen under this president, because he's the wrong color."


Don't get me wrong, Republicans would still oppose him ferociously were he white. But basically, if Obama were white, he'd be seen as a mostly centrist, establishmentarian Democrat (champion of market-based health-care reform, generally supportive of Wall Street and Big Business, aggressive on national security, etc.) with occasional (and always measured) forays into progressivism (belated support for marriage equality, concerned about race/racism, cautious environmentalism, etc.) As a black man, though, he's basically seen as the Other, the Enemy, a Communist, a Terrorist, anything and everything that is anti-American from a right-wing perspective.

Rockefeller's statement is something of an exaggeration, I admit. Mitch McConnell's obstructionism in the Senate and House Republicans' general opposition to anything and everything associated with Obama would have the Republican approach if Hillary had won in 2008, and one can expect them to deal with any Democratic president in a similar manner. But certainly Obama's race has aroused an ugly strain of conservatism that had previously been somewhat dormant, or at least quieter: racism and nativism. And it certainly seems to be the case that the virulence of Republican opposition to Obama is very much rooted in that strain.

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