Far from harboring a desperate desire to rid himself of the Birther plague, Barack Obama needs them to divert attention from an economy that is “as bad as most people living have ever experienced.” Obama will have great difficulty running on his economic record, and does not fundamentally differ on economically from Republicans. But, “when compared to the Birthers and other assorted racists in the GOP, Obama appears to be the only civilized person in the room.”
“Charles Blow is mistaken in believing that Obama really wants the Birthers to get off his case.”
Charles Blow, the Black columnist for the New York Times, is a case study in the kind of liberal the administration is counting on to send Barack Obama back for another term in 2012. Blow is frustrated that the president has been so accommodating to the so-called Birthers – the huge chunk of the Republican Party that have convinced themselves that Obama is not, by birth, qualified to be president. Blow thinks that Obama has “buckled” to the Birthers, and is mistakenly allowing this racist mob to divert attention from the disastrous economic policies Republicans are pushing.
Blow is, of course, correct that the GOP and its Tea Party annex is the political home of white supremacy – although he doesn’t go as far as we at Black Agenda Report to say the GOP is the White Man’s Party. And Blow is right, that rich white people in America have always used race to distract other whites from fighting for their true economic interests. Where Blow goes wrong is in assuming that Barack Obama wants to wage his re-election campaign on the economic front. He is mistaken in believing that Obama really wants the Birthers to get off his case.
The fact is, Obama needs the Birthers, which explains why he has been so conciliatory and seemingly patient with their antics over the past two years. Obama, as much as the racists aligned on the other half of the political party duopoly, needs distractions – dead Osama Bin Ladens and ridiculous Birthers – precisely to avoid public concentration on the economy.
“Obama is unprepared to wage economic battle with the GOP because he is in fundamental agreement with them.”
There are two, closely related reasons why this is so. One, this is a very bad economy, as bad as most people living have ever experienced, and the excuse that Obama inherited it from George Bush no longer plays with anyone but his most hardcore apologists. As University of Massachusetts political scientist Thomas Ferguson says, after two years, Obama “owns” this economy – and that is some very heavy re-election baggage.
Reason number two that Obama is unprepared to wage economic battle with the GOP, is that he is in fundamental agreement with them. Even before being sworn into office, Obama eagerly placed “entitlements,” including Social Security, on the chopping block. With both Houses of Congress controlled by Democrats, it was Obama who got the austerity ball rolling on his own initiative by appointing a deficit reduction commission hand-crafted to call for draconian cuts. Obama is in principled agreement with his Republican counterparts that government spending – not unemployment – is the nation's most serious problem. He differs from the Republicans only in the details and, as we are discovering, not that much. In short, Obama is neither inclined to nor prepared for an economic throw-down with Republicans, with whom he shares an ideology.
So: on the economy, Obama does not look good. But when compared to the Birthers and other assorted racists in the GOP, Obama appears to be the only civilized person in the room.
That's the way Obama wants to run his campaign, with the Birthers and the rest of the lynch mob yapping at his heals. In that scenario, people like Charles Blow will proudly stand with Obama against the racist rabble, despite the fact that the First Black President's economic alliance with Wall Street is destroying life as we know it for the vast majority of Americans. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to http://www.blackagendareport.com/.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com