I largely agree with Matt Tully’s “take” on Andre Carson’s controversial words in this morning’s Star. As Tully notes, Carson has been a substantive, hard-working legislator who has steadily gained stature, and the language he employed was unnecessary to and a distraction from the points he was trying to make. “Why,” Tully asks, did Carson deviate from his usual civil demeanor?
I agree with Tully that this was out of character and unfortunate. I also have a possible answer to his question “why?”
If I were an African-American Congressman who’d been spit on, who had watched the country’s first black President demeaned from the first day he was elected, who had seen the racist emails, the “clever” signs with watermelon patches on the White House lawn, the posters at Tea Party gatherings showing Obama as a witch doctor–if I had heard colleagues on the floor of the U.S. House ask for “proof” that the President was born in the USA, and political figures supported by the Tea Party call for repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Rand Paul)–if I had heard Rep. Peter King compare a settlement of the discrimination lawsuit by black farmers to “reparations”…..well, I could go on, but I’ll stop there–I might address the motives of these people in less than civil language.
The Tea Party spokesmen who are demanding an “apology” insist that only a small fringe is responsible for the racist signs at their rallies. Perhaps they are right–but I must have missed their calls for those people to apologize.
A lot of people who are well-meaning and not racist will excuse the bile and excessive, irrational hatred of the President by comparing it to Bush hatred. The problem with that comparison is that most of us who came to detest Bush really were reacting to his behavior in office. Most of us were agnostic about him early in his tenure, as polling from that time reflects, and if you asked us why we were so angry with the administration, most of us could give you a long list of policy decisions with which we strongly disagreed . In contrast, the venom directed at this President began before he even assumed office.
I had a recent conversation with a woman who self-identified as a member of the Tea Party, and asked her why she hated Obama. “He’s a socialist,” she told me. Leaving aside the fact that Obama’s “socialism” would have placed him in the middle of the Republican party back when I ran as a Republican, I asked her for an example. “Obamacare,” she said. I asked her if she was aware that “Obamacare” was pretty much the same program advocated by Bob Dole and actually enacted in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney. She refused to believe me. “Ok, what other evidence of Obama’s socialism is there?” No response. “What other proposals/policies has he advocated that you disagree with? “He’s a socialist, and he’s Muslim and he wasn’t even born in this country!”
I know there are Tea Party people who aren’t racist, aren’t hysterical, and who have genuine policy differences with the President that they can articulate. Unfortunately,they aren’t spending their time trying to weed out the folks carrying banners with the “N word” or those self-identified Tea Partiers who post to this blog (I spam them) to argue that Obama wants to give all “our” tax money to lazy drug-using mothers who have children so they can live on welfare.
None of this excuses the use of uncivil language. But it sure goes a long way toward explaining it.