Now that the 2012 presidential campaign is underway and we have a pretty clear sense of the Republican opposition seeking to deny President Obama a second term, we begin our election coverage with a very subjective look at what we see as the critical issue of the campaign: race. As was the case in 2008 when history was made with the first African-American presidential nominee, the 2012 election is an equally landmark event as it will represent the first time an incumbent President is African-American. Given the insanity that has occurred since the election of Barack Obama, the 2012 presidential campaign promises to be a real Racialpalooza.
No matter how many times Americans deny it, and politicians dance around it, the United States has a real race deficit. Race is treated like the slightly “off” uncle who is kept closeted away in the upstairs bedroom, and only carted out for certain holidays and family gatherings. In the case of our national pastime – politics – race is used as a weapon to demonize or punish, and racism stains the country in a way that no amount of sanitizing will make clean.
From the moment Barack Obama became a presidential contender, race, that of this President, and racially driven conditions that bankrupt the fulfillment of America’s promise, has been in the background of our nation’s politics and in the forefront, though coded, of political debate. And it has comes from all sides. At the outset among disbelieving and suspicious Blacks who questioned Mr. Obama’s racial authenticity to fellow Democrats who couldn’t run fast enough to remind the electorate that the junior senator from Illinois was indeed African-American. Republicans gleefully watched the carnage of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary season and simply had to use word association and imagery to remind their base that a Black man was inching toward the White House door.
It is perhaps fitting that the 2012 presidential election coincides with the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, an epic and tragic bloodletting that some southern sympathizers still insist had nothing to do with slavery. This type of cultural amnesia undermines racial progress, and continues to poison social relations between well-meaning whites and African-Americans because truth is sacrificed in a thinly veiled attempt to preserve white supremacy. So, after a history tainted by human bondage and legalized segregation, the issues we confront today are infested by the racial demons of yesteryear. Despite President Obama’s call to “win the future,” we can’t get there because the past is hanging over our heads. The supposed post-racial revelation that was the election of Barack Obama was a mirage; a feel-good therapeutic cleansing that for a moment freed the country of its racist baggage. For many African-Americans that euphoria wore off quickly after the presidential inauguration in early 2009 and the nation got back to its normal race-baiting ways.
The incidence of racial backlash during the first term of the Obama presidency are many but a few stand out as particularly egregious examples of America’s racial demons. The disrespect shown the President by a sitting member of Congress who shouts “You Lie” during the President’s address on health care is symbolic of the pent-up racial animus that will frame the 2012 election. No other sitting United States President has been subjected to such open hostility by a member of Congress. When other factors including partisanship, ideology, incumbency, and policy positions are taken into consideration, race appears to be the likely accelerant that prompted the outburst by Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina. Wilson took issue with President Obama’s assertion that his plan would not mandate health care coverage for illegal immigrants. This is just one example; there are many others that reveal the raw hatred of this President. The presence of gun toting protesters outside a presidential speech, defended as an expression of a Second Amendment right and within state law, but difficult to fathom as such when there is no similar experience with any previous President, sets off all sorts of racial alarms for 2012. The current President has been likened to a monkey, made to defend his hard-earned academic credentials, faced unprecedented threats on his life, had the authenticity of his citizenship questioned and challenged to show his birth certificate, and made to defend his faith, accused of being a closet sympathizer of Islamic terrorists, and most recently compared to Adolph Hitler by a country music “star” who characterized President Obama as “the enemy.” The fanaticism behind the anti-Obama movement cannot be dismissed as a product of the nation’s economic insecurities; though it is clear that many Americans are suffering. The hatred expressed toward this President is surreal, and suggests a deep seated resentment over his occupation of the White House borne by a belief that an African-American should never reach such heights or wield the power of the presidency. Fueling this frenzy is the realization that the nation’s demographic changes have accelerated, as evidenced by the 2010 Census that dramatically revealed the explosion of the Latino community, modest growth in the African-American community but a substantial decrease in white child births. In other words, the tanning of America is in full effect and the implication of this change on political and economic power is frightening some quarters of this nation.
No matter how the national media attempts to portray this election as a referendum on the “record” of the Obama administration or a judgment on the state of the economy, by and large, race is going to be the dominant factor in this election. It will frame this election. Not even the President’s strained efforts to avoid any discussion framed by race, diminishes the shadow it casts on our nation. Simply ignoring it will not make it go away, as we are already witnessing in the early stages of the campaign. The 2012 presidential election will mirror our nation’s descent into the racial abyss. Already one candidate, Texas Governor Rick Perry, has been confronted by the ugliness of the name – Niggerhead – associated with a family owned ranch. Herman Cain’s candidacy does little to subdue the racist rhetoric because as a conservative Black Republican the former CEO simply acts as a race shield; a convenient foil for the right to use to deflect any criticism of its patently racist intent. After countless episodes of racially driven political impalements, there seems to be no shortage of painful reminders of the deep ignorance that besets our nation. Tragically, the very serious issues that confront our nation will be obscured by the racism festering just below the political surface, that may never approach the outright audacity of the Jim Crow era, but will be evident by the language and imagery of a campaign season that will largely be defined by the President’s opponents determination to blame it on the Black man and restore what they view as the nation’s natural racial order.
It is from this vantage point that we begin our coverage of the 2012 presidential election.