There’s a Facebook friend in my social network, from Denver, Colorado, a man of the Left, who insists that race isn’t a factor with the Left’s so-called disillusionment with the President.
Of course, race factors into the Left’s perception of the President and his performance, as much – if not more, in a different way – than it does on the Right. It was always going to factor. If Hillary Clinton had won the nomination and the election, the question of gender and her response to certain situations based on the fact that she was a woman, would always be cause for comment and speculation. Certainly, Jack Kennedy’s Catholicism and its adherence to the supremacy of Rome, was a mitigating factor for some during his brief Administration.
This is a seminal Presidency, the first time an African-American is Commander-in-Chief.
Having come of age during the Seventies, when the newly-born Progressives were driving the agendae of the Democratic Party with their quest for ensuring equality through Affirmative Action, I watched, often from the sidelines, when the first woman or the first African-American man (or woman) ascended to some post or position heretofore only inhabitable in the realms of the omnipotent white male. Suffice it to say, in each instance, that the performance standard was raised just enough, to ensure that the seminal appointment would either burn out in trying to achieve a success easily achievable by his or her white brethren, or fail. Few failed. Many achieved, but at a cost.
In those days, on the Right, you had administrators who hated the thought of having to compromise their sexism or racism (or both) and who could barely contain their disdain at having whom they considered to be lesser beings in positions of responsibility and authority. Those sorts were easily recognizable.
Worse, were the supposedly enlightened people of the Left, the ones who went out of their way to refer to any female appointee as “Ms” or who made a great show of lunching with “the black guy” and showing friendly in the office – only to shake his head and tut-tut almost reprovingly each time the slightest error was made, often rolling his eyes as he glanced over his shoulder at the rest of the crew, the action wordlessly admitting, “See, I told you so. Have to show them everything.”
And so they would hover. And explain. And assume. And breathe a sigh of relief when the woman or “the black guy” would move to a different department or job. Or he’d seethe silently, if such person deservedly got a promotion he had perceived to be his and his alone.
You can see this now.
We’ve been able to see it from the Right as far back as the Tea Party’s inception in 2009. It was a poor masquerade to hide behind words like “socialist” or “communist” or “Marxist” or even “Nazi,” especially when those words accompanied signs which depicted the President as an African tribal chief or a monkey.
But from the Left, it’s revealed itself in stages and some subtely and by voices whom the media willingly identifies as “Progressive”. Ah, but these voices made it abundantly obvious to the hoi polloi who hung on their every word, that their criticism of the President had everything to do with his “policy” and nothing to do with his race – which, of course, prompted that noted “policy” critic and Progressive, Glenn Greenwald, to begin almost immediately to refer to any of the President’s supporters as “Obamalovers” and to use that phrase viciously and in such circumstances, that it wasn’t difficult for anyone to realise that “Obamalover” was a euphemism for that timeworn old George Corley Wallace phrase of “n*ggerlover.” Even Joan Walsh is using the same phrase with aplomb now, but Joan’s racism is quickly becoming an open issue in many areas of the Left.
And as for Greenwald’s Progressivism, this is the man who writes for the Koch-founded and funded Cato Institute. This is the man who openly embraces the Citizens United decision, who supports Gary Johnson for President of the United States, a man who wants child labor laws rescinded, who wants the Department of Education dismantled and the EPA finished. Yes, Greenwald, who doesn’t vote and who never has, is an identifiable Progressive.
Ever since the beginning of this Administration, one of its most vociferous critics, Rush Limbaugh, hasn’t been too good to bring race into the fray. He mocks the President and his family on this score from his radio pulpit on a regular basis, employing stereotypical voices and musical soundbytes. Rightwing personalities have created pictures of the White House lawn turned into a watermelon patch.
All of this is disgusting and openly racist and has been decried as such by people from the Left and by some on the Right who still retain a conscience and a modicum of common sense.
But what happens when this sort of thing emanates from the Left?
Well, then, it becomes comedy.
How is Bill Maher’s repeated reference to the President as “President Sanford and Son” any different from Limbaugh’s depiction as such, using the Sanford and Son music as a backdrop to his criticism? Fred Sanford, a comic figure, was the quintessential lazy and feckless black man, unable to come to terms with modern life, a bumbler, who witlessly called upon a higher power (his dead wife) whenever his luck ran out.
Rush can ride that pony with impunity. Such tastelessness is what is expected from someone who joked that he’d like to own an NFL franchise because he fancied owning some black men. But Bill Maher regularly identifies himself as a “Progressive.” How does he tie in a Sanford depiction of a President whom, at various times when the political fashion dictates, he perceives to be weak? Why “President Sanford and Son” instead of “President Barney Fife,” another bumbler and stumbler, who happened to be white?
Then there’s the disappointment that the stereotype hasn’t been fulfilled. Throughout the Gulf Crisis, Maher and his cronies screamed for the angry black man to emerge. Today’s radical chic, many of whom were in middle school watching Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, still think of a black man as a cross between Clarence Williams III playing Linc in The Mod Squad and Stokely Carmichael; everybody else was either Flip Wilson, Bill Cosby or Diahann Carroll playing Julia.
Maybe this is why, during the summer of 2010, Maher whined during a monologue that when he voted for Obama, he thought he was voting for a real black man, a mothafucka gangsta who’d strike fear into the Cabinet by pounding the table with his fist, then opening his jacket to reveal a gun on his hip. Instead of “President Sanford and Son,” we now get “President Clarence Carmichael” with a soupcon of Mister Tibbs. So Bill voted for John Shaft and got Cliff Huxtable, which subsequently allowed him – not once, but twice – to declare the President a “pussy” on national television, once on Fareed Zakaria’s program in November 2010, and then on his own show some two weeks ago.
Mark Halperin describes the President as a “dick” and gets an indefinite suspension, and rightly so. Bill Maher calls the President a “pussy” and gets laughter.
Ah, but Bill’s a comedian. He’s a wannabe political pundit who’s invited on any and all political opinion shows to talk politics, but when something like this occurs – hey, he’s a comedian. It’s for laughs, folks.
Like Jon Stewart, who’s an acknowledged comedian, but whom people really do consider a newsman or a political pundit. So when Stewart, when satirizing African-American Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain, by using a voice straight from Amos’n Andy, is surprised when Cain considers this racist, I’m surprised that Stewart is surprised.
Herman Cain has a Southern accent – which, I presume, Stewart, who was educated in Virginia, is channelling. But I wonder how coincidental it is that Stewart’s Southern accent, employed for his Cain satire, sounds suspiciously like that of Kingfish Stevens, who – like Fred Sanford – came to represent a feckless, less-than-honest and lazy portrayal of a black man?
I am not saying Stewart is racist or even knowingly so. With Maher, I have my doubts. He’s too much the Left Coaster and also has too many Rightwing sympathies (death penalty, racial profiling, anti-union) and associations (Arianna Huffington, Darrell Issa, Bill Frist), that a thinly disguised veneer of racism wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
And when this is the case amongst those whom we deem “our own” on the Left, we have to acknowledge our shortcomings too; because I’ve always perceived the Left to have the same problem with the Obama Presidency as Scarlett had with Prissy. Prissy was the recalcitrant slave who just wouldn’t do what Miss Scarlett said until Miss Scarlett snapped and slapped her, which is what I get the impression the Professional Left and their sheeple would like to do with this recalcitrant President, who just doesn’t do as they say when they say and how they say.
This attitude is summed up brilliantly by the blogger rootless_e, writing in The People’s View about Paul Krugman’s litany of disillusionment with the Obama Presidency (which Jonathan Alter in his bookThe Promise puts down to the fact that Krugman has been angling for a Cabinet post since 1992 and hasn’t secured one):-
…I have no more patience for “progressives” who want to tell the President and the rest of us us what to say and how to talk – and that’s the underlying substance of Professor Krugman’s critique, the failure of the President to stick the script that the progressives have written. The President, however, is not Mr. Krugman’s graduate assistant and he’s not the errand boy.
It’s as I’ve always said: The Right don’t like the fact that there’s a black man in the White House who isn’t serving coffee, and the Left doesn’t like the fact that there’s a black man in the White House who’s smarter than they are and who doesn’t do what they order.