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They’re Playing the Race Card Again

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

It was bound to happen.

It’s just sad coming from Melissa Harris-Perry. In a piece she did for The Nation recently, the purpose of which was to throw a lighted match into the Democratic base camp, she goes straight to the race card and doesn’t prove her case.

Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama

President Obama has experienced a swift and steep decline in support among white Americans–from 61 percent in 2009 to 33 percent now. I believe much of that decline can be attributed to their disappointment that choosing a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation. His record is, at the very least, comparable to that of President Clinton, who was enthusiastically re-elected. The 2012 election is a test of whether Obama will be held to standards never before imposed on an incumbent. If he is, it may be possible to read that result as the triumph of a more subtle form of racism.

Pres. Clinton “enthusiastically” re-elected? Is she kidding? Between NAFTA and welfare reform, not to mention the debacle of DADT, not to mention the blow back from the failed raid in Somalia (aka Black Hawk Down), Clinton was creamed by so called “liberals” back in the ’90s for his policies. …and turn out in ’96 was abysmal.

I also don’t relate to Joan Walsh on the one point of agreement she admits to with Harris-Perry. That any disappointment, which I’ve always called uninformed voting, is due to the fact that “a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation.” I didn’t expect Mr. Obama to be anything close to Martin Luther King, Jr. It never occurred to me. Nobody is King.

Barack Obama is a brilliant political performer, with no experience when he first ran for president, but a lot of savvy, who saw a perfect moment and took it. I voted for Barack Obama and Joe Biden because I knew they’d be better on foreign policy than McCain-Palin, not because Obama was black. Though it was a thrilling moment in American history to see Barack, Michelle and their children standing together when he won.

The other problem with Harris-Perry’s case is the lessening of enthusiasm that reaches across segments of the Democratic Party. From Joan’s piece:

As long as we’re looking at the president’s racial support, let’s look broadly. While white liberal support for Obama has almost certainly dropped, so has his support within every group. Why are Latinos abandoning Obama? Two thirds of Latinos voted for the president in 2008; the Gallup tracking poll showed Latino support dropping to 44% at the end of August, though it jumped up above 50 percent this week. Overall, the president is polling in the 40s among Latinos since the end of June. And while black support remains strong, it’s declined, too. Obama won 95 percent of black voters in 2008, and his approval rating hovered in the 90s for most of his first two years. This week, it’s at 82 percent, and it’s been steadily in the 80s since February. That’s still high, but it’s not the enthusiastic, near-unanimous support that elected him.

The president himself acknowledged the rising volume of African American discontent in his speech to the (increasingly critical) Congressional Black Caucus Saturday night.

But that’s not the worst of Ms. Harris-Perry’s argument.

If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.

I’ll let David Sirota school Ms. Harris-Perry, because you’ve likely already read the pieces I wrote warning about Barack Obama’s policy prescriptions starting back in January 2007. A snippet of Sirota, with the original filled with embedded links and sources to prove the case he makes below.

This is a president who as a candidate railed on adventurist wars and promised to seek congressional authorization for new wars — and then turned around and initiated new adventurist wars without congressional authorization.

Obama is also a man who criticized Bush-era civil liberties policies as a candidate and then as president not only extended those policies — but, in many cases, actually made them worse. Among other things, he has pressed for longer Patriot Act extensions than congressional Republicans, added bipartisan legitimacy to warrantless wiretapping (which he explicitly promised to end) and claimed autocratic powers that even the extremist Bush administration never dared to claim (for example, the power to assassinate American citizens without charge).

And let’s not forget trade and healthcare. Candidate Obama promised to renegotiate NAFTA and reform the corresponding free-trade template that has cost Americans so many jobs. He also repeatedly pledged to champion a public option to compete with private health insurers and promised to push for legislation allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Now, President Obama is pushing a new series of NAFTA-like deals in Panama, South Korea and Colombia. And, as we now know, he didn’t merely try but fail to pass a public option or the Medicare drug-negotiation provisions — he actively used his power to eliminate those provisions from the final healthcare bill.

Taken together, we see that Obama — as opposed to Clinton, who at least paid (often empty) rhetorical homage to liberalism — has proudly and publicly stomped on the very progressive promises that got him elected.

I also don’t remember Clinton ever touting Ronald Reagan as Barack Obama has done. Clinton also gave hell to Republicans regularly, on camera and with feeling. I don’t remember Clinton selling out women’s reproductive healthcare by codifying Hyde in legislation. Oh right, Hillary wouldn’t have let him.

But I’m not surprised to read a piece from a strong Obama supporter blaming white liberal disaffection with Pres. Obama on racism.

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