Saturday, March 14, 2015

The other reason

By Carl

In the history of the United States, only three Presidents have ever been elected to the office of President of the United States directly out of the US Senate.

Of those, only Barack Obama failed to complete his first term (ironically, the other two, Warren Harding and John Kennedy, were elected as their first term in the Senate was ending.)

As I was writing my most recent post about the frustrations and difficulties either Elizabeth Warren or Rand Paul would face in getting elected (and I mentioned the difficulties Barack Obama had in governing), this post sort of popped up and started coalescing.

It's easy to blame racism for the reaction Republicans have had to Barack Obama. It is undeniable that the Republican and conservative base is racist and they pressure their leaders to conform to their thinking. It is also undeniable that the Congress is, taken as the whole, a white legislation. In particular, the Republican contingent, which if memory serves has precisely three black members.

I mean, it's hard to understand a people if you never ever meet one, except in an elevator or deli. Obama has a lot working against him on the skin color front, to be sure.

But there's another aspect to the abject hatred he engenders, a layer on top of the racism that might even justify the racism in the mind of the racists: a simple truth.

Barack Obama hadn't earned his place in line.

As with so much about this remarkable and historic figure, it's hard to make comparisons. Both Harding and Kennedy failed to finish out their terms, as both died in office.

Harding, however, was under investigation in the Teapot Dome scandal and a raft of other shady dealings and people. Ironically, Harding was accused of being secretly black. These should give a sense of the level of hatred he engendered in the opposition.

Kennedy, too, had a very virulent strain of haters across the country, in large part because he was the first Catholic elected to the Presidency, echoing Obama's dilemma fifty years down the road. Indeed, in the city where he was assassinated, Kennedy was vilified and excoriated in manners that, too, would echo in Barack Obama's administrations.

But let's focus on the microcosm that is the Senate. It's a very traditional chamber, an old boy network that relishes in the fact it is the place where hot-headed measures and rants go to die (lately....? Ted Cruz puts paid to that notion). And there is a very definite pecking order. New Senators are expected to sit in the back, keep quiet and listen.

That both Cruz and Tom Cotton of Arkansas are now perceived amongst their peers as idiots speaks volumes about this system. That Rand Paul is making as many waves as he is says a lot about his chances to gain the support of his Senate peers beyond the obligatory speechifying.

In short, the Senate will not be put in a corner. And I'm sure they've had quite enough of being seen as a step on a career climber's ladder. Should the next President come out of the Senate after less than one term, there will be hell to pay.

Too, spending time in the chamber and paying your dues allows you to create a network that you can work with (altho nowadays...?). On the other hand, it creates a paper trail of legislation that you;ve voted on, along with every amendment. Thus is why you see these bizarre ads about "voting for/against abortion" when no bill about abortion was ever put in the hopper. It's usually tacked on as an amendment to another bill that either gets voted up or down.

Obama suffered a lot for this, I think, because you'll note that some of the opposition to him in the first term came from his own party (Max Baucus leaps to mind). That a Democrat would publicly flout his opposition to Obama's signal accomplishment speaks volumes to the resentment folks felt.

It will take a long time for the Senate to overcome this bias, if it ever does. Obama's skin color merely allows Senators to ignore their more insidious bias.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind)

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