Sunday, August 5, 2012

Obama the 'other'


Mitt Romney’s “culture” war

His comment about Palestinians wasn't a gaffe: It was part of his concerted efforts to demonize his opponents

But Romney’s statement that Israelis’ cultural superiority explains their economic success — and, by extension, that the “backward” Palestinians are to blame for their failures — isn’t particularly surprising. Not only does it smack of the familiar Republican tactic of demonizing victims, but it’s also consistent with Romney’s strategy of “othering” Obama in similar ways, often using coded concepts of shared culture to exploit or create unease about Obama’s race. Just a few days earlier, one of Romney’s aides made the mistake of revealing a bit too much of this strategy when he told a member of the British press, “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage,” going on to note that the White House “didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.” It wasn’t hard to read between the lines. America’s first black president, the son of a Kenyan father, doesn’t understand our culture.

Taken in isolation, these comments could easily be dismissed as the blunders of a poorly managed campaign or a clumsy candidate. But against the backdrop of Republicans’ tireless attempts to undermine Obama’s legitimacy — not to mention Romney’s ongoing rhetorical efforts to portray him as “foreign” — what we find instead is that they are part of a  broader effort to exoticize the president so that his race can remain an issue throughout the 2012 election season.

Even before he took office, Obama was forced to prove his “American-ness” to a rabid group of “birthers” who, even when confronted with irrefutable evidence, found it easier to believe Obama was at the center of a major conspiracy to violate the Constitution than accept that he was the natural-born citizen he claimed to be. Sadly, this movement still has high-profile adherents, including immigrant hunter Joe Arpaio and Chapter 11 guru Donald Trump, the latter of whom has vowed to make Obama’s birth a central element in the election. Rather than distance himself from Trump, Romney has recently embraced him, in the process giving a proverbial wink to attacks that center on Obama’s fundamental right to hold office.

It is perhaps the basic sense that Obama has no right to be the American president that has fueled the surprising, perhaps unprecedented, disrespect he has been forced to endure.

Read it a Salon:

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