BY: SYLVIA FRANCA
In 2008, America elected its first black president. “It seemed so heady – such a landmark moment in racial justice.” The election of an African-American to our highest political office was alleged to demonstrate a triumph of integration. Americans of all stripes were justifiably proud when the country elected President Barack Obama, and again when he was re-elected in 2012. There was, in this country, a brief spell of racial euphoria and we all spoke of a “post-racial” America. In his inaugural address, President Obama proclaimed “an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.”
This moment of triumph for our country also sparked a flame under Americans who took the election of an African-American president as permission to express their views more bluntly. The presidency of Barack Obama threatened the normalization of racism that allowed too many in this country to ignore it for the last forty years. “Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is more often, broad sympathy toward some, and broader skepticism toward others.” Derrick Jensen explained in The Culture of Make Believe that hatred felt long and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred, but more like tradition, economics, and religion. When that tradition is challenged and the entitlement is threatened, hate transforms from its more seemingly, “normal,” chronic state to a more acute and obvious manifestation. It is difficult to ignore the reality of racism in the United States as we watch our nation’s different responses to President Obama and his presidency.
One cannot forget South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson’s notorious “you lie” outburst while pointing his finger at the President Obama during his September 9, 2009, joint session of Congress. Early in January of 2012, Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal publicly cited a Bible verse calling for President Obama to be killed, his wife to be widowed, and his children to be orphaned. Not much later, Congressman Doug Lamborn candidly compared being associated with President Obama to “touching a tar baby” during a radio interview. Most troubling is that some of the most loathsome comments were enabled and legitimized. Even after Ted Nugent called the President of the United States a “subhuman mongrel,” both Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott and Colorado Senate candidate Tom Tancredo proudly welcomed Nugent’s financial support Ann Coulter later referred to Obama as a “monkey” for Vladimir Putin; when this term was later used by Howard Cosell to refer to a football player, it resulted in massive nationwide criticism and his ultimate removal as a commentator from Monday Night Football.
Intolerable and unforgivable as these statements have been, nothing can compare to the obstructionist practices employed by a majority of the Republican members of Congress in their efforts to turn the unprecedented into the new normal. Obama’s first term was met with a strategy of massive resistance in the House and constant filibuster threats in the Senate. Were these reactions to his politics or policies? Last month’s obscene confrontation over the new Supreme Court vacancy provides us with a perfect example. Immediately after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proclaimed that “the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, his vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.” This statement serves as further evidence that the Republican majority and racist establishment is still reeling from the fact the American people put President Obama in office not once, but twice.
While President Obama is only doing what presidents have always done, Senator McConnell and the Republicans are promising to do what was once unimaginable. The Republican leader is not only refusing to hold hearings for any Supreme Court nominee, but also from filling the vacancies on the nation’s thirteen circuit courts of appeal as well. Forty–seven of these same senators signed a letter to the leadership of Iran stating that President Obama had no authority to conclude negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The partisan majority has exploited this presidency and set the tone for a 2016 election cycle that seems like a new reality show on the Bravo channel: The Real Presidential Nominees of the Republican Party.
Truly sadder is the fact that David Duke, former KKK leader, has now become a hero for the aggrieved whites. While recently endorsing Trump publicly, Duke explained that “the reason we have this incredible destruction in America and Europe is because we have an alien race, an alien people who have taken over our countries, taken over our media, taken over our banking, and only Donald Trump of any Republican has spoken up against Wall Street and the Jewish banks like Goldman Sachs.” In furtherance of this spirit of violence, Trump reinforces these sentiments by publicly making comments such as “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you,” and “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out them would ya? Seriously. Just knock the hell out of them.”
Despite it all, Americans can rest assured that their choice in 2008 and 2012 was the sound and correct decision. President Obama has become the most successful black politician in American history by avoiding the radioactive racial issues of yesteryear. Barack Obama found a language that speaks to a critical mass in all communities. Many argue that racism intensified after President Obama’s election, but if you step back and consider that divisiveness and racism could possibly be the establishment’s response to the President’s unexpected success and its own failure to destroy the will of the American people, it is almost certain that Americans will make the right choice again.
It is very hard to ignore that President Obama led us out of the recession of 2008 while helping to create jobs and lower the unemployment rate. He not only pulled us out of Iraq, but also kept his promise to begin getting troops out of Afghanistan. He captured and killed Osama Bin Laden, was instrumental in passing much needed health care reform, saved the nation’s biggest industries from demise, supported and promoted gay marriage, passed the Lily Ledbetter Act and a hate crimes bill, and boosted domestic oil production. He accomplished all this while cutting the deficit in half, spending less than any president in history, and working with the least productive Congress of the last four years. President Obama has been the president of all Americans. He has demonstrated leadership in the face of stark opposition while struggling with open hatred from many in this country. America needs the candidate who understands, as Obama stated in 2008, “that love of country, like all other forms of love, requires that you tell those you care about not simply what they want to hear, but what they need to hear.”
 Steve Nelson, Race and Racism in the Time of Obama, Huffington Post, (February 21, 2016, 11:07 am), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-nelson/race-and-racism-in-the-ti_b_9285156.html.
 Ta-Nehisi Coates, Fear of a Black President, The Atlantic, (September 2012), http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/09/fear-of-a-black-president/309064.
 Norm Orenstein, How Racists and Partisan Exploit the Age of Obama, The Atlantic, (December 2014), http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/12/obamas-challenge-building-a-bridge.
 Jennifer Senior, The Paradox of the First Black President, New York Magazine, (October 7, 2015 6:00 a.m.), http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/10.
 Scott Wilson, Obama Sharpens his Reminders that He Inherited “Fiscal” Mess From Bush, Washington Post, (March 14, 2009), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/03/13/ST2009031303562.html?sid=ST2009031303562.
 Nancy Le Torneau, Political Animal Blog, President Obama’s Impact on Obama, Washington Monthly, (March 1, 2015),
 Coates, supra note 2.
 Derrick Jensen, The Culture of Make Believe _____ (2004).
 Le Torneau, supra note 7.
 Michael Conrad, Top 9 Most Racist Things Republicans Have Done Since President Obama Has Been in Office, Philadelphia Magazine, (January 31, 2012 at 8:48 a.m.), http://www.phillymag.com/news/2012/01/31/top-9-racist-republicans-president-obama-office/#77zZgeTvg8UiC5YO.03.
 Orenstein, supra note 3.
 Jon Perr, How Republicans turned the unprecedented into the new normal, Daily Kos, (February 21, 2016), http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/2/21/1486973/-How-Republicans-turned-the-unprecedented-into-the-new-normal.
 Charlie Savage, Before Scalia’s Death, a Clash between G.O.P. and Obama Over Appellate Judges, (Feb. 15, 2016), http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/16/us/politics/before-antonin-scalias-death-a-clash-between-gop-and-obama-over-appellate-judges.html.
 Editorial Board, A New Phase in Anti-Obama Attacks, N.Y. Times, (April 11, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/opinion/sunday/a-new-phase-in-anti-obama-attacks.html?_r=0.
 Tyler Bridges, How David Duke’s (Very Live Ghost) Haunts, Politico Magazine, (March 12, 1974), http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/03/how-david-dukes-very-live-ghost-haunts-donald-trump-213720.
 Joan E. Dowlin, President Obama’s Terms in Office Have Revealed the Hidden Racism in America, Huffington Post, (October 3, 2014), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joan-e-dowlin/president-obamas-terms-in_b_5646431.html.
 Coates, supra note 2.