Well it's been three years now and approximately half of all voters just can't stand Obama. Maybe that's a little high, I'm including lots of rational people who just don't like any Democrat or who have specific policy disagreements in mind. But there is still a huge number of people who 'hate' our 44th president. And for three years I've been trying to figure out why.
We saw (and still see) racist posters of Obama as a 'witch doctor' at 'Tea Party' rallies during the health care reform debate. But racism isn't really the issue, I don't believe. These same tea partiers went gaga over Herman Cain. There, I guess, we would be looking at Cain as 'the right kind' of black man (accepting of the status quo and pliable in the hands of 'big money') and Obama as the 'wrong kind' (uppity). So there is an element of racism but it isn't the primary driver of this backlash.
That's actually what it comes down to, I think: backlash. (With a touch of 'uppity.') Candidate Obama ran against the status quo, against the Republican ideology that Reagan first made popular; the idea that if we just take care of the rich , with special exceptions and favorable tax policy, they will take care of us. How dare he?! 'Hope' and 'Change' were his buzz words; 'Yes We Can' his rallying cry. I believe John Boehner put into words what many of them thought throughout the campaign and into the Obama presidency: "Hell no you can't!"
What the hell did he mean, change? Change what? Who the hell does he think he is? How the hell does he figure he has the right to change anything? (Forgetting, I guess, that he pulled more votes than any U.S. presidential candidate ever.) So they set out to oppose him at every turn. Obvious, common sense proposals were ridiculed and denounced, even proposals that had been initially floated by Republicans in the recent past. An ambitious economic stimulus program aimed at combating the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression was compromised, whittled away at and weakened to the point of near ineffectualness, not so much on ideological grounds but to make sure that it wouldn't work, lest Obama 'succeed.'
But the biggest thing that they 'hate' is that he inspired so many people. Young, old, and in between; first time voters and long time abstainers; people who had become quite cynical by our broken political system; all came alive and turned out for the guy who appealed to the 'better angels of our nature.' Let's work together, he said. Let's change the way Washington works, and the way elections are done (remember how much money he raised from small-time donors). Let's stop the 'selfishness is a virtue' dogma, right here and now and put America back on the path to realizing its full potential.
Why was all of this so bad? Because, I suggest, that all those 'haters' have lost faith in the American dream. They have become cynical as a result of thirty years of pursuing Republican policies and thirty years of right wing talk radio and TV, telling them that the reason they're hurting economically is all the free-riders in American society. Don't look at the correlation between the Reagan tax cuts and the suddenly ballooning federal deficit. Forget about how the Bush tax cuts took a balanced budget (the first one in decades) and again started running huge deficits. Don't even think about how a series of 'free trade agreements' and tax code changes caused a massive exodus of manufacturing jobs to foreign countries where the workers are literally paid pennies an hour. Blame the people at the bottom! Not the people at the top, the policy makers and tax-cutters. And, above all, think only of yourself! Make sure you 'get yours'! Social Security is a scam! It'll be gone by the time you want to retire! Unless you let us 'privatize' it! And whatever you do, DO NOT TRUST THE GOVERNMENT! Not even us! Government is the enemy!
So Obama's message of 'change,' of collective action to get America moving forward again, is the last thing they want to hear. They just can't believe that WE fell for it. So they call him all sorts of nasty names like 'socialist' and 'secret Muslim' and tell us he isn't even a legitimate president, born in Kenya or wherever. He sure isn't one of us! Anything to break the spell which he must have us under.
The really sad thing is if, somehow, Reagan could make one last speech, from beyond the grave, and tell us/them that what we need to do now is to come together and move America forward again they would cheer wildly. 40 million uninsured Americans is an atrocity, Reagan might say (with the benefit of his new viewpoint); we must use our collective power as a free and compassionate people to create a national policy that works for everyone! Government isn't your enemy, it is YOU, the collective will of the people brought to life. Let us come together and WIN THE FUTURE!
If only. ; )