Well, thank you — we think. Peter Beinart of The Atlantic magazine has graciously acknowledged that those who disagree with him just might have honorable motives to do so. He admits that “not all opposition to Obama is racism.”
He’s right, of course, and maybe we can now move on to substantive arguments.
“These days, liberals feel frustrated and vindicated all at the same time,” Beinart writes. “They feel frustrated because President Obama’s second-term agenda is going nowhere, even on issues like immigration, gun control, and the minimum wage where he enjoys strong public support. They feel vindicated because Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling are proving what liberals have long alleged: that despite Obama’s election, racism is alive and well.”
No one says it’s not. All sides acknowledge that racism is still a problem that America must continue to grapple with.
But many liberals go too far in ascribing every subsequent defeat and setback Obama has faced to racism.
Beinart cites Rep. Bennie Thompson, who went on a radio show recently to propound the theory.
“I never saw George Bush treated like this,” said Thompson. “I never saw Bill Clinton treated like this with such disrespect.”
Where was he during the Bush and Clinton tenures, then?
Thompson went on to claim that Clarence Thomas “doesn’t like black people, he doesn’t like being black.”
Beinart acknowledges that’s beyond the pale.
“Commenting on the racial impact of Thomas’ jurisprudence is legitimate,” he writes. “Attributing that jurisprudence to self-hatred is not. There’s something totalitarian about claiming to know how another person feels about himself. And attacking someone’s private motivations is usually a way to avoid confronting his public arguments.”
Of course, Beinart can’t quite bring himself to absolve Republicans completely.
“I’m not claiming racism is irrelevant to Republican opposition to Obama,” he contends. “Race is a constant presence in American politics, and it’s impossible to understand either political party without it. But the right’s strategy of militantly opposing, and sometimes delegitimizing, Democratic presidents stretches back two decades now.”
Of course it does — and ever further. That’s politics. The party in the minority always seeks to undermine the majority. Beinart gets that, too.
“As for dogmatically opposing the president’s agenda, that preceded Obama too,” he admits. “In 1993, every single Republican member of Congress voted against Clinton’s inaugural budget. When Clinton pushed for healthcare reform, Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole repeatedly opposed even reforms he had previously cosponsored.”
Think of the resistance President Ronald Reagan faced, not to mention President George W. Bush, who remains despised by the left.
Beinart has a warning for Democrats.
“To believe that the right’s hostility to Obama stems mostly from his race is actually comforting, since it suggests that the next Democratic president won’t have it nearly as bad,” he says. “If you believe that, Hillary Clinton has a bridge she’d like to sell you.”
Of course it goes both ways. But Beinart’s essay is helpful in that it calls on both sides to debate the real issues — and not rely on cries of “racism.”