This is in some sense a companion piece to the post below it, continuing the theme of “how could they have ever thought this?” Ann Althouse writes about a Camille Paglia interview in which Paglia says she’s not voting for Obama again (she’s not voting for Romney either, by the way) because [emphasis mine]:
I was very excited about him. I thought he was a moderate. I thought that his election would promote racial healing in the country…
And instead: one thing after another. Not least: I consider him, now, one of the most racially divisive and polarizing figures ever. I think it’s going to take years to undo the damage to relationships between the races.
I’m glad she came to her senses, but the fact that Paglia initially thought Obama would promote racial healing is but another example of supposedly smart people believing really dumb things about Obama. Althouse shared Paglia’s belief to a lesser extent; she says she hoped for moderation in attitudes about race.
But the catch is that there was absolutely nothing in Obama’s background that indicated he would have some magical ability to do this—unless you count (as perhaps Paglia and Althouse counted) his very existence as a black person who had been elected president. That would be a sign of how far America had come, though, not a mechanism for racial healing but evidence that it had already occurred.
Obama’s actual behavior (as opposed to his rhetoric) was something else entirely. During the 2008 campaign he was actively and vigorously playing the race card, calling opponents racists in various not-so-subtle ways (see this). How could anybody paying attention not have noticed—and seen the significance of—this 2008 statement by Obama himself?:
We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?
And this at a time when no one in the Republican Party or the McCain campaign had done any such thing, nor would they. Back then I referred to Obama’s tactic as “playing the pre-emptive race card,” and it certainly couldn’t be called an example of a propensity for racial harmony and healing. Nor, of course, would Obama’s long-term veneration of “mentor” Reverend Wright. This did not portend a lack of racial divisiveness; Wright stood for racial divisiveness.
The whole thing probably comes down once again to seeing what we want to see, and especially the overvaluation of words over actions among so many of those who deal with words for a living. I noticed the phenomenon back in June of 2008 and even wrote a post about it, but I guess I’m still having trouble accepting and understanding how widespread it is. The principle of the importance of actions over words seems so basic that I simply cannot understand the propensity to ignore it among so many.
And too many of those people (although not Paglia, and perhaps not Althouse) are still supporting Obama despite everything they’ve learned in the past four years. If Obama is re-elected, it will be due to their continuing hope that somehow Obama is the man he says he is rather than the man he had been proven to be.