by Latoya Peterson
From the Politico:
Racism is not a factor driving conservative opposition to President Barack Obama, according to the results of focus groups conducted by Democracy Corps, a Democratic organization, released on Friday. [...]
Rather than attributing their dislike of Obama to race, participants in the focus groups, which were a project of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, said that their disaffection was borne out of a sense that the president was orchestrating an effort to steer the country away from its “founding principles.”
“They want him to fail,” said pollster Stan Greenberg. “It’s not just a political motivation, it’s an ethical imperative given what they think Obama’s goals are.”
The research team held focus groups from Sept. 29-30 with conservative voters in suburban Atlanta and another set of meetings with conservative-leaning independents in the Cleveland area. The Atlanta groups consisted of older white, self-identified conservatives who voted for both John McCain and a Republican Congressional candidate. The Cleveland groups included older white swing voters — half of whom voted for Obama and half of whom supported McCain in 2008. In the two places, researchers found vastly different results.
Now, y’all know I’m skeptical. I truly believe a lot of people may find Obama’s actions to be contrary to their beliefs, and to see him as a symbol of a country gone mad. I don’t think you have to be a racist to believe that – you just have to believe in things like ending Roe vs. Wade or an embrace of small government principles, or you think you’d benefit from a plutocracy. There are lots of reasons – that have absolutely nothing to do with racism - not to like Obama.
But here’s why I think the study was doomed before it began – no one self-identifies as a racist. Not even racists! They have different terms that they like to use*, or they use the popular phrase “I’m not racist, but…”
I think it is very difficult to measure racism unless you are asking detailed questions about attitudes and beliefs. Asking a straight question like “Are your views on Obama influenced by his race?” is a big gimmie. The study appears to try to compensate for this, noting in the full memo of results:
Race: Get Over It
In the wake of Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst during the president’s joint session health care address and other strident personal and political attacks against President Obama, many in the media and Democratic circles advanced an explanation that this virulent opposition is rooted in racism and reactions to President Obama as an African American president. With this possibility in mind, we allowed for extended open-ended discussion on Obama (including visuals of him speaking) among voters – older, non-college, white, and conservative – who were most race conscious and score highest on scales measuring racial prejudice. Race was barely raised, certainly not what was bothering them about President Obama.
In fact, some of these voters talked about feeling some pride at his election.
They were conscious of the charge that opposition to Obama is racially motivated and that bothered conservative Republicans and independents alike. They basically could not let it go and returned to this issue again and again throughout our conversations across myriad topics.
You can’t openly criticize Obama. If you do, you’ll be labeled as a racist.
Whatever we say about Obama, no matter what we say about him, it is a racial comment so you know, we can’t say anything, we personally do not like him. I don’t care if he is purple, but whatever we say we’re racist.
As far as a person goes, I don’t want to say I hate him. I don’t like what he stands for… and I don’t like what he is doing and the choices he is making, but I mean I don’t know him as a gentleman so… You would be called a racist. You would not like him because he is black. That is what the media is saying.
They see this as a personal rights issue because the racism charge is being used to prevent them from fulfilling their duty to stand up to Obama and his agenda. They see no difference in the opposition Obama faces and the opposition other liberals have faced, because they believe it is based in the same unwavering, bedrock conservative principles that have always led them to oppose liberal policies. The only factor that has changed is the race of the leader being criticized.
The things that we’ve said have nothing to do with race. They have to do with policy and… an agenda, his agenda… Right… Manipulation.
I think basically we have a lot of the same views of Clinton as we do about Obama but most of us are freer to express it because we are not going to be accused of being racists.
It is important to note, however, that Obama is not personally linked to this effort. It was difficult for these conservative Republicans to say anything positive about Obama, but they freely volunteered without any prompting that he was not a part of this effort to silence and oppress conservative opposition.
Actually that is a good thing that he has done. In all the charges of it being racial he has defended, he has come out and said, no I don’t think that comment was meant that way and that was the one thing that I think he has done that you know.
I don’t think he thinks it, but I think other people think it. You know the ones that are really supportive of him. If we don’t like him, and we have something against him, then we’re a racist.
Interestingly enough though, some of the other comments in other parts of the survey veer into familiar territory:
This concern combines with a profound sense of collective identity. In our conversations, it was striking how these voters constantly characterized themselves as part of a group of individuals who share a set of beliefs, a unique knowledge, and a commitment of opposition to Obama that sets them apart from the majority of the country. They readily identify themselves as a minority in this country – a minority whose values are mocked and attacked by a liberal media and class of elites. They also believe they possess a level of knowledge and understanding when it comes to politics and current events, one gained from a rejection of the mainstream media and an embrace of conservative media and pundits such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, which sets them apart even more. Further, they believe this position leaves them with a responsibility to spread the word, to educate those who do not share their insights, and to take back the country that they love. Their faith in this country and its ideals leave them confident that their numbers will grow, and that they will ultimately defeat Barack Obama and the shadowy forces driving his hidden agenda.
Riiiiight. And of course, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh don’t seem to have any history of making racist comments. Nope, not at all. (And Magic Honky? How did we miss that one? That would have been comedy gold!)
I mean seriously, who are we kidding here? Ever since I started seeing reports where people were trying to play off burning a cross on someone’s yard as a joke (item two here), or claiming that an uncle that burns a cross to intimidate a black man is “not a racist” or arguing that burning a cross as an intimidation method is a simple matter of freedom of speech, I have to admit that I have lost faith in most people diagnosing racism or willingly copping to racist intent or attitudes.
But who knows, I could just be jaded. Readers, your thoughts?
*Some of these terms include, but are not limited to, “____ supremacist,” “racialist,” “_____ nationalist.” Or, as is most common, they aren’t racist, they’re just saying what they believe. And that belief just so happens to be racist.
(Thanks to Anna for the tip!)