The cognitive dissonance inherent in these fallacies is appalling at best and offensive at worst, especially when you consider that they are formulated by elected officials and political operatives who claim to love their country.
From the hand on the heart as “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays to the strategically placed lapel flag pin, Republicans have mastered the art of smoke screen politics, positioning themselves as the true patriots from “the real America.” Anyone who is not in their camp is painted as the opposite: an outsider who can’t be trusted.
E.J. Dionne Jr., the award-winning Washington Post columnist, recently addressed this phenomenon in a piece titled, “President Obama as an Alien“: “Whatever our president is, he is never allowed to be a garden-variety American who plays basketball and golf, has a remarkably old-fashioned family life and, in the manner we regularly recommend to our kids, got ahead by getting a good education.”
What is it about this man, whose life has followed a classic, all-American trajectory — raised by a struggling single mother, yet managed to attend Harvard, marry well and raise two beautiful children — that so unsettles the conservative establishment? Why are they invested in his failure and demise?
Racism seems wholly insufficient an answer. Politics is power and money realized. Today’s GOP is playing a long game. Race-baiting is simply a tactic and means to greater end: namely, keys to the White House.
On Nov. 4, 2008, black, brown and white alike, Democrat and Republican, all celebrated the realization of the American dream. Particularly poignant was the reality that Barack and Michelle’s story could only be achieved here, in America.
But the dream quickly proved a mirage. The backlash became so insidious after Obama took office that it raises questions about the intent at the heart of the vile character assassinations being waged against him.
Of course, receiving criticism is par for the course for any president. It is only fair to point out former House Speaker Gingrich’s call for Bill Clinton’s impeachment, or left-wing accusations that George W. Bush masterminded 9/11. But at no point were these men framed as un-American or anti-American. No one questioned their birthplace, religion or national loyalty. No one yelled, “You lie” from either side of the chamber.
It is these dark imaginings about Obama, thrust onto our political consciousness by a power-driven GOP, that have brought the nonsensical attitudes that feed anti-Obama sentiment.
Perhaps Republicans need to distort and conflate because running against Obama’s real record would only highlight his ability to successfully steer a struggling economy, save a near-bankrupt automobile industry and manage foreign policy challenges with maturity and precision.