It seems that the power structure in America, which has benefited white males in business, politics and media for 400 years, is finally experiencing an upset. The election of Barack Obama was a watershed moment in American history, but not for the reasons you may think. It has nothing to do with him being black, but instead everything with what it means to be white in America.
Welcome to Wonderland.
Imagine an America where 43 of the last 44 presidents have been of African descent. Imagine an America in which the descendants of African slaves hold 90 percent of the nation’s wealth and imprison whites at disproportionate rates. Can you fathom an America where blacks are the ruling class? Hold the majority of political and economic power? Dominate media, television, film and print? Control sports, on-and-off the field or court? Can you imagine an America in which the line of beauty is drawn in black and colored in brown?
Perhaps you should become a Republican — because that is the apparent wonderland in which they live.
WATCH MSNBC COVERAGE OF REP. WALSH’S REMARKS:
Since President Barack Obama’s win in 2008, he has not been short of critics or foes. The Republican attack machine has been working overtime in its defiant effort to defeat his chances of winning again in 2012. Naturally, this is par for the course for any serious political figure, so Obama is no exception. But what is different is the extent to which attacks on this president have been racially infused.
The latest example of this racial bias comes from Republican Congressman Joe Walsh who represents Obama’s home state of Illinois. In a recent interview with David Wiegel of Slate. Walsh attempts to explain that Barack Obama only won the presidency because he is black:.
Why was he elected? Again, it comes back to who he was. He was black, he was historic. And there’s nothing racist about this. It is what it is. If he had been a dynamic, white, state senator elected to Congress he wouldn’t have gotten in the game this fast. This is what made him different. That, combined with the fact that your profession” — another friendly tap of the bumper sticker — “not you, but your profession, was just absolutely compliant. They made up their minds early that they were in love with him. They were in love with him because they thought he was a good liberal guy and they were in love with him because he pushed that magical button: a black man who was articulate, liberal, the whole white guilt, all of that.
Walsh is either naive or lives in the wonderful land of Oz. Either way, he seems completely out of touch with America’s historical record and present-day realities when it comes to the issue of race. As a freshman congressman, with just six months in Washington, perhaps he should be forgiven for his first major gaffe. In an effort to be fair to Walsh, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent shed light on a comparable — albeit quite different — statement by Joe Biden during the 2008 campaign, which caused controversy in the Democratic primaries and for which Biden quickly apologized. Biden had said Obama was “the first mainstream African-American, who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” when speaking of Obama’s candidacy.
The press quickly responded and Biden’s camp reacted appropriately. Without such sensitivity with regard to his misstatement, it is unlikely that Biden could have been taken seriously as the vice-presidential nominee. But it seems the rules are different in the modern Republican Party: race-baiting has become the norm and the preferred way of doing business.
WATCH MORE COVERAGE OF WALSH HERE:
In fact, there has been no backlash whatsoever for Walsh’s misguided attacks on President Obama, adding him to the long list of Republican opportunists who manipulate race in their appeal to the fringe. Sarah Palin has gotten away with implying first lady Michelle Obama hates white people. Donald Trump has been excused for aggressively questioning Barack Obama’s American citizenship. Newt Gingrich is pardoned for claiming the president harbors “Kenyan, anti-colonialist” sentiments. John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, is allowed to say he takes Obama “at his word” when discussing whether he believes the president was born in the United States. Never has an attack machine been so ill-designed, strangely inefficient, but purposely effective. How is this possible? And what belies these attacks?
In a recent interview Mitt Romney proudly gave the president a failing grade of “F”, claiming he has made the economy worse and argued he “lacked leadership experience”. This kind of rhetoric has been unknown until now, when speaking of a sitting president. Especially one who – on his record – has created jobs in a failing economy, protected the nation in war time by eliminating its most dangerous terrorist enemy and passed landmark health care legislation to benefit the most vulnerable among us.
The malaise expressed from the far-right in the Republican party seems to be directed expressly at President Barack Obama from the white, male establishment. The voice of the Tea Party movement has been loudly demanding to take their country back . But from whom? And to whom? It seems the status quo is being challenged. Older, wealthier white males like Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Haley Barbour and now Congressman Joe Walsh, find themselves on the outside looking in.
Being on the outside is a strange vantage point for people who feel entitled, connected and deserving. But the landscape has changed. It seems an intellectual civil war has ensued to replace the first one, waged by brawn and blood. The establishment is coming undone — and grasping feverishly to hold to the seat of power which now eludes them.