President George W. Bush (R) was president for two terms—eight years. During those eight years, he was roundly ridiculed for his supposed lack of intelligence, for having a southern accent, and for occasionally mangling words. Public protests against his policies regularly portrayed him as a monkey, used unflattering photos of him, and associated him with the horrors of Nazi Germany. Much of this was directed at the president personally, although a fair amount of it was directed at regular folks like me who happened to agree with certain Bush policies. I wrote about the Degradation of [Political] Discourse in 2005:
Supporting the Iraq war does not make me a liar, a murderer, a criminal, a fascist, a neocon lackey, a war-monger, or a gullible moron—though I, either directly or by philosophical association with others who support the war, have been called all of these things. I looked at the information available and came to a conclusion, and despite the dearth of WMDs (an inexcusable failure of our intelligence services) the vast majority of those conclusions still hold true for me today. Saddam Hussein was a brutal, dangerous dictator; a free Iraq is a better Iraq.
But my opinion is often dismissed right-off as a selfish drive to obtain cheap oil, put a Starbucks on every corner in Fallujah, and generally dominate the world. Rather than listening to what I say and considering it and debating it, I’m derided as a murderer and barraged with mindless anti-war catch phrases. It has finally reached the point that I cannot even talk about why I support this war anymore. I keep my mouth shut because I am tired of being simultaneously screamed-at and ignored.
I continued a bit further down:
I am focusing on the Iraq war simply because it is the most prevalent and controversial political issue today, but this trend toward ‘debate’ through insulting sound-bytes has taken firm hold of nearly all political discussion in this country. If you agree with affirmative action programs you’re a race-baiter; if you’re against them you’re a racist. If you’re pro-choice you’re a cold-hearted murderer; if you’re pro-life you’re a close-minded misogynist. If you’re for capital punishment you’re a sadist; if you’re against it you’re pro-crime. If you vote Democrat you’re a pinko commie who sleeps with dictators; if you vote Republican you’re a hyper-religious imperialist bigot.
I continue to lament this today, although the political tides have turned. Now it is my philosophical brethren protesting in the streets—this time in opposition of a burgeoning federal government and a quadrupled federal deficit. Now a President, Barack Obama (D), with whom I normally disagree is sitting in the White House. Personally, I see him amplifying the worst things about Bush’s policies (like the deficits, socialist bailouts, and trade protectionism) and undoing the best (like a strong, consistently anti-terror foreign policy). The circumstances may have changed drastically, but the insults, hatred, and incivility continue apace across the political spectrum.
Incivility is wrong. It’s just as wrong to portray Obama as The Joker as it was to portray Bush as a monkey. It’s just as wrong to associate Obama with Hitler’s Germany as it was to associate Bush with it. It’s wrong to yell out ‘You lie!’ to Obama as he addresses Congress (even though some elements of his speech, such as the claim that none of the health care reform plans moving through Congress will provide federal funding for abortion, were indeed patently false) . . . but it was just as wrong for Democratic Congressmen to heckle and boo at Bush’s more recent State of the Union addresses. I always try to critique politicians with whom I disagree in a respectful, polite way (and intend to continue doing so). I would ask that everybody else out there try to do the same.
The lack of civility in our political discourse is hardly new under the Obama administration. It’s wrong, certainly, but it’s merely a symptom of a generally impolite society where most people lack basic respect for others.
As such, I am particularly incensed when I hear anybody—especially a former president, even one so discredited as Jimmy Carter (D)—say that protests and disagreement with Obama are rooted in racism. Carter points to radical protesters with “Obama = Nazi” posters as his proof and says, “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward . . . Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man. . . . “
If “Obama = Nazi” posters and “intensely demonstrated animosity” toward Obama are rooted in racism, then what, pray tell, were all those “Bush = Nazi” posters and the last eight years of “intensely demonstrated animosity” toward Bush? Was it anti-Methodist bigotry? Southern-accentism? Neoconophobia?
Whether expressed civilly or uncivilly, the anger toward Obama is rooted almost exclusively one thing—intense political disagreement with the direction in which he is leading this country. The civil and uncivil protests against Bush were rooted in the same thing. The civil and uncivil protests against President Bill Clinton (D) were rooted in the same thing. The civil and uncivil protests against President George H.W. Bush (R) were rooted in the same thing. The civil and uncivil protests against President Ronald Reagan (R) were rooted in the same thing. And, guess what! The anger against President Jimmy Carter (D) was too.
Obama is our first non-white president. He is a biracial American, the son of an African father and a white American mother. This is something we should all be proud of and, indeed, Obama was elected with a solid majority of American voters—including lots of us whites (or is that ‘European-Americans’?). Because I am white and my wife is Asian, if God blesses us with biological children they will be biracial too. I am proud of the fact that our country doesn’t use color to decide who its leaders will be. In many ways, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has been attained.
But I do not have to agree with Obama’s policies just because he is biracial, and if I disagree with him—even if I do so vehemently—that does not make me a racist. Period. Like many Americans, I’m upset that after 8 years of Bush deficits that fiscally conservative Americans like me opposed, the new president who came to office promising a reduction in deficits quadrupled them in his first year. As a supporter of limited, constitutional government I’m upset by the growing and overbearing federal bureaucracy and am suspicious of any effort to give government more power over my life or the free market. This is why I vehemently oppose many of Obama’s policies.
I’ve written some before about the blatant double-standard the media has in reporting political protests, and it continues today. If a former Republican president had said the protests against Bush were motivated by anti-Methodist bigotry, the media would have scoffed and report it in a dismissive manner (if they reported it at all), while continuing to paint the protesters themselves as patriotic Americans exercising their constitutional rights. When Carter, however, says protests against Obama are motivated by racism, the media eats it up and reports it as legitimate news while portraying the most radical, rude fringe of the protest movement as its norm.
I am the norm, not them. Report on me. Report on patriotic Americans who have honest, civil disagreement and concern about the direction of this country. Don’t call me a racist because I don’t fall into lockstep behind our current President (and, for the record, I didn’t fall into lockstep behind Bush either). Don’t dismiss me as a ranting lunatic because I am passionate about my beliefs, and don’t dismiss my honest opinions as closed-minded bigotry.