Washington Post: Why President Obama can’t bring us together


It's not a failure on the President's part, it's a failure on all of us.

Though, let's be honest, the Republicans carry a lot of the load:


There are multiple reasons why. The first — and you’ll forgive me for sounding divisive and partisan at a time like this — is that his opponents have guaranteed that he would never be able to unite Americans about anything. A healthy chunk of the country, spurred on by their political leaders and media figures, has spent the last eight years becoming convinced that nothing Obama does, no matter the situation or the issue, is ever for admirable or even mundane reasons. Those politicians and media commentators have told their constituents, thousands upon thousands of times, that Obama is not merely wrong or misguided but is literally trying to destroy AmericaSo for them to turn around now and say, “Why won’t Obama bring us together?” takes a truly superhuman level of gall.

You might recall how in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of September 11, Democrats effusively praised George Bush for doing nothing more than making a couple of serviceable statements about our collective resolve. The news media immediately filled with paeans to his wise and steadfast leadership, and his approval ratings rocketed past 90 percent, all before he had actually done much of anything. Could you imagine the same thing happening today? Does anyone believe that there is some combination of words Obama could speak now that would cause the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Donald Trump to say, “That was really terrific; I’ve had my disagreements with him in the past, but today my hat’s off to him”? The very idea is laughable.

The second and related reason that it is impossible for Obama to unify us after this tragedy is that it is tied up with race, and there are significant numbers of white people who will always believe that on issues of race, Obama is intentionally trying to set Americans against each other, no matter what he actually does or says. Any reasonable observer would look at his statements about racial controversies and see someone being painfully careful and tentative, struggling to confront the reality of discrimination and racism without offending whites. But for his trouble, he has been cast by his opponents as a racial avenger, some kind of Black Panther using the powers of the presidency to wreak vengeance upon innocent white people. 

Republicans have told themselves a story in which the nation was moving toward racial harmony until Barack Obama came into office and immediately began dividing us over race, pitting blacks against whites and tearing the country asunder. And they have been telling their constituents this from the moment he took office. No one familiar with conservative media can deny that it has featured a festival of race-baiting since 2009, blaming Obama for every racial incident anywhere and casting all his policy decisions as motivated by the desire to stick it to white people. Some black kids beat up a white kid on a school bus? “Obama’s America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now,” Rush Limbaugh, the most popular radio host in America, tells his listeners. “You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety but in Obama’s America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, ‘Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on.'” He passes a stimulus bill? “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations,” Limbaugh says. And that was all from his first months in office.

It's a very good piece, and you can read it at the Washington Post.

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