Take a look at the following excerpt, which I got from an article:
"Hitler and Obama have a lot in common," says 65-year-old Rich Cook, explaining that both men manipulated the masses masterfully.
Let me ask all of you: do you suspect this of being a coded racial attack against the President?
Okay, I lied--sort of. The excerpt I quoted is actually from this article from 1996, and the politician being compared with Hitler was not Barack Obama, but Bill Clinton. (The excerpt is verbatim, except you have to replace the word "Obama" with "Clinton.") But how many of you were ready to answer "yes" when I asked whether it was a coded racial attack? (Be honest.) I am especially curious to see if anyone selects "yes" in the poll--which would suggest they answered the poll before reading the body of this diary. It's a sneaky trick, I know, but I did it to make a point: Why does the same attack suddenly become racist as soon as it is applied to a black president?
Some of the attacks on Obama, I will agree, seem clearly to have racial overtones, such as the birther business. But sometimes I think we go too far, perceiving any attack on Obama as racial. I myself have been guilty of this tendency from time to time. Even an insane, ridiculous attack isn't necessarily racial. Past politicians (such as Bill Clinton) have endured similar invective. For many Obama supporters, the attacks begin to take on the qualities of a Rohrschach, inkblot test: no matter what form they take, they are always interpreted as a coded slur against the first black president.
I've been discussing this matter with others over the past few weeks. The question we've been debating is whether--or how much--the extreme attacks on President Obama are evidence of racism. A discussion under a previous diary, in which the diarist suggested that the comparisons between Obama and Hitler in a rally constituted evidence of racism, sparked this diary. Full disclosure: Being white myself, I lack the direct experience of coded racism (though being Jewish, I have had some experience with coded anti-Semitism, a topic for another day). Still, I have attempted to reason out the issue to the best of my ability.
Ever since Obama appeared on the national stage, he has been subject to some of the most grotesque and extreme attacks ever made against a contemporary politician. He has been called a racist, a Marxist, a terrorist, a baby-killer, and an usurper. He has been compared to Hitler and Stalin, not to mention the Joker from The Dark Knight. He has been described as a brutal tyrant and as a starry-eyed naif, a demagogue and a bumbler, the attendant of a radical Muslim church.
But anyone who thinks that rabid, violent conspiracy-mongering and name-calling are anything new have a short memory. Remember the swift-boating of John Kerry? Remember all the conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Vince Foster? In the 1990s, Clinton was called a rapist, a murderer, and a drug addict, and these theories were advanced openly by such major right-wing figures as Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell, and even William Safire.
He was, also, as mentioned previously, compared to Hitler. Ross Perot made the comparison, in a 1998 appearance on Meet the Press. So did a poll taken by the New York Post, which listed the Clintons alongside Hitler, Stalin, and Charles Manson as the most evil people of the millennium.
And anyway, the right's use of Godwin's Law is old hat by now. Limbaugh has long talked about "feminazis," and who can forget Ann Coulter's description of Katie Couric as "the affable Eva Braun of morning TV"? (Actually, I can.) The left once was the most guilty of this type of slur, but after the end of the Cold War, when "commie" began to lose its sting, the right began to take up comparing its targets to Nazis. Jonah Goldberg's early-2008 book Liberal Fascism talked a lot more about Hillary than Obama. Of course, the right hasn't given up likening Democratic policy to socialism and communism. They did it to Clinton, and so they're doing it to Obama as well. That as much is predictable, and would have happened whether the president was black or white.
Still, there is something more going on, with these attacks on Obama. Nobody in the Clinton era, as far as I can remember, threatened secession. Nobody hosted "tea parties" that directly conjure up the early American fight against British colonialism. Nobody accused Clinton of being a secret Muslim, or secret foreigner. He was attacked as unpatriotic, as most Democrats are by the right, but he wasn't accused of being literally not an American.
Before we consider the racial angle, we need to consider something else: the Republicans just suffered their most devastating election defeat since Johnson beat Goldwater in 1964. Their party is in tatters, and they face a Democratic president possessed of uncommon skill and charisma. The situation contradicts everything they've been brainwashed to believe through the apparatus of talk radio, FOX News, and all the other right-wing media outlets that have grown increasingly powerful over the past generation, and which were virtually nonexistent in Goldwater's time. They believe fervently that we live in a center-right nation, and that the Democratic policies which Obama has so effectively articulated are nothing but dangerous radicalism. They cannot accept that the nation has willingly rejected their conservative views and embraced the Democratic ones, so their only recourse is to assume it's some kind of conspiracy--the ascendance of a Hitler-like demagogue, aided by the media and election fraudsters, to pull the wool over the nation's eyes and take over the country.
I think they would feel this way even if the president in question were white. To say their hysteria is entirely because of the President's race gets the cause and effect wrong, in my view. They've gone into hysteria primarily for the reasons I outlined above. It's not so much the right being racist as it is the right being the right. Racial resentment has long been a quality of the cultural right, however, and it comes to the surface in situations like this. To put it simply: the extreme right has gone into hysteria over Obama because they're pissed about losing, but many of them are expressing themselves in racist ways because that's what they're accustomed to doing. Still, they wouldn't be acting this way toward a politician of color whom they like, such as Bobby Jindal. To them, Obama cannot be separated from the type of politics he represents.