Helene Cooper of the New York Times finally — pretty much — just says it. The gnawing, nasty disrespect Republicans in Congress are demonstrating towards Obama is probably about race.
“The closest we have come to this was Tom DeLay’s hatred for Clinton when he demanded impeachment of him,” said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group. “But that was one guy or a handful. Now it is much more widespread, and the toxicity is, and culture is different now.”
Mr. Ornstein pointed to the fight over the payroll tax cut sought by the Obama administration — one that many Congressional Republicans supported in 2009 but oppose now — as an example of Republicans’ opposing Mr. Obama even when they had agreed with him on a policy. Mr. Obama has had his own contributing role. Often when he has met with Republicans he has taken a scolding tone that irks them.
There’s nothing more annoying when someone you were brought up to believe is your natural inferior acts like your condescending superior. That really is unbearable, particularly when this servant type is more educated, better liked, and a lot cooler than you are — and has power. You certainly aren’t going to concede he’s right about something or that you agree with him.
There is the persistent and deeply uncomfortable question of race. Many African-Americans, including black lawmakers, and even white Democrats, have complained that some of the disrespect for Mr. Obama stems from distaste among some whites at the idea of seeing a black man in the Oval Office.
“I think people want to not deal with that issue,” said Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona. “But I think, like it or not, some of the disrespect — and I stress some, not all — stems from the discomfort of having a person of color be president of the United States.”
Many Republican members “don’t respect him,” Mr. Grijalva said, adding, “Not even in our worst days as Democrats did we demean and attempt to cripple the office of president.”
Republicans will probably fight any suggestion that their behaviors are about race. But there are just too many well-known, old-timey symptoms for Americans — black and white — to avoid recognizing this disease whenever it reappears.
Cross posted from the blog Prairie Weather.