Actually, compared to a lot of ways that Obama and his supporters have used the race card, this is relatively mild and balanced:
There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president,” Obama said in the article by David Remnick, appearing in [The New Yorker's] Jan. 27 edition.
“Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president,” Obama said in his most direct comments on how race has affected his political standing since he’s been in office.
If you just look at the literal meaning of what Obama said, it’s certainly true. As a writer, I’ve often noticed people’s word choices, and that word “some” is especially useful. It means anything from one or two to many, and is almost always true, although not especially informative about numbers. As such, it’s a dodgy, safe word.
In other words, I have no doubt that there are some people (Obama likes to use “folks” when he’s feeling especially proletarian and wants to sound—folksy) who “really dislike” him “because they don’t like the idea of a black president.” I happen not to think they are especially numerous in terms of percentages of the populace, but to deny that “some” exist would be absurd. And although it’s rare for him to acknowledge the other side, which is that there are “some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president,” that statement is also undeniably true. In the latter case, the “some” is probably “many,”—more than the number who dislike him because he’s black.
Most of the anti-Obama racists probably don’t dislike him only because he’s black, of course. There are plenty of other reasons to dislike him. And most of the people who “dislike” him don’t care if he’s black, yellow, white, pink, brown, or green, but “dislike” him because they are against his policies and his power grabs, as well as his divisive rhetoric and his lies. There are even “some” people (and I believe they are very numerous) who detest him and his policies but were originally predisposed to like him and give him the benefit of the doubt because he’s black, but over time he’s worn down their goodwill and now they have no doubt and therefore no benefit to give him anymore.
So, what’s Obama doing in the above statement? Well, it’s a version of something he likes to do quite a bit, which is to bring up a topic such as race in a way that sounds reasonable on the face of it but is actually a call to his supporters to use what he says in a different way: i.e. to continue with their incessant charges that dislike of Obama’s policies is grounded in anti-black racism. He has never to my knowledge spoken out against those who make that charge, and he’s been encouraging them to do so in ways both subtle and un- ever since his campaign in 2008.
I described the phenomenon in some detail in this post from July of 2008. But perhaps the best quote to show you how early Obama was doing this and how basic it was to his campaign is from this post written in June of 2008, which I believe is the first time I remarked on it. It’s not a very long post, so I’ll just repeat it here in its entirety:
Barack Obama, the candidate who wants to end divisiveness, and who wants to run a clean and honorable campaign without negativity, said the following in a recent campaign speech at a Florida fund-raising reception:
“It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy. 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?”
We have here a truly masterful attempt to flames of paranoia on the part of his followers and adopt the mantle of victimization for himself, thus raising rather than lowering the amount of divisiveness and vitriol in the campaign. Pretty good for just a couple of sentences.
Obama is correct in saying that there have been racist remarks against him. These have originated from fringe elements and/or commenters in the blogosphere and/or anonymous email campaigns. They focus on his “funny name,” for example, or the fact that he’s black.
But in this speech he appears to attribute—or to encourage his supporters to attribute—these charges to the entire Republican Party, couched as a threatening “they.” At the same time, he fails to differentiate these attacks—and actually connects them as part of an undifferentiated list—from extremely legitimate concerns that people have voiced about other characteristics of his, such as his inexperience.
In the final sentence of the paragraph he slyly encourages a phenomenon I’ve noticed happening more and more: the charge that any criticism of Obama emanates from racism. If the racism isn’t overt and clear, as in the emails, then it’s covert; “inexperience” (a valid concern based on the objective facts of his history) becomes a code word (wink wink) for hidden racism and fearmongering.
This is dangerous demagoguery.
Because one so seldom hears overt expressions of racism any more, and certainly not from mainstream candidates, there has been a tendency to imagine it is everywhere, but hidden. Here Obama cynically fosters that belief and encourages the definition of his entire opposition as energized by this impossible-to-prove—or, more importantly, impossible-to-disprove—motive.
No, it turns out that most of them haven’t mentioned he’s black, except in approving terms. But they don’t have to nowadays to be racists; Obama has taken care of that.
Speaking of giving Obama the benefit of the doubt—I continue to be astounded, looking back at 2008, that more people didn’t see the perniciousness of what he was doing at the time regarding race. Compared to what Obama was saying in 2008, his remarks to Remnick were mild. He can afford to be mild now because the damage has been done. The meme he planted so firmly in 2008 has borne tremendous fruit in terms of helping him get re-elected, and helping to further racial tensions in this country rather than dampen them down.
[NOTE: By the way, I'm tired of people writing that the fact that Obama's support from black people is 90+ percent is evidence of blacks' pro-Obama racism because he's a black man. Although it is almost certainly the case that blacks are extra-reluctant to abandon Obama, and that being black only enhances his support from blacks, the percentages of black people supporting Obama are not so very much higher than the percentages of black people supporting other recent Democratic presidents (or presidential candidates) such as Clinton or Gore or even Kerry. In fact, if you look at the following chart, you'll see that ever since the New Deal blacks have been quite solid in their support of Democratic presidential candidates, a support that went even higher after the passage of the Civil Rights Act during the 60s:
What's more, in recent years, even white Democrat candidates such as Clinton, Gore,and Kerry all lost the white vote, just as Obama did. If you want some mind-blowing statistics, take a look:
Add Obama's name to a long list of white Democrats who lost that demographic: Humphrey in 1968; McGovern in 1972; Carter in 1976 and 1980; Mondale in 1984; Dukakis in 1988; Clinton in 1992 and 1996; Gore in 2000.
In fact, white voters preferred Obama to Sen. John Kerry — who lost the white vote by 17 points in 2004, while Obama lost it in 2008 by "only" 12 points. Obama improved on Kerry's share of the white vote in every age demographic, including the 18- to 29-year-olds (which Kerry lost).
The truth is that minorities such as blacks constitute the margin of victory for Democratic candidates, black or white, on the national level, and this has been true for quite some time. The racial divide is not mostly about the race of the candidate, although it has a role. It is about the party affiliation of the candidate and the party affiliation of the members of the different races, and how differently the parties are perceived in terms of philosophy and action, including how each party affects each race. The irony, of course, is that black people have done poorly under Obama's watch, and under the welfare state as a whole.
Thomas Sowell wrote the book (literally) on this. Here's a small snippet of his thoughts.]