I read a very sad article in the Washington Post on Oct. 29. It concerned the base of the Tea Party movement, and specifically focused on some economically distressed Whites living in Georgia. They, like many other residents of Tea Party-controlled Congressional districts, are suffering under the weight of an economy that will not get fully in gear. Who do they blame? Obama. Who do they support? Congressional representatives who wanted to close down government.
It was striking in reading this piece, and later reading something on the polarization of wealth on this planet, that these economically precarious Whites have concluded that Obama, particularly through the Affordable Healthcare Act, somehow is worsening the economy for them.
If the residents of these districts were angry about the polarization of wealth; if they were angry that Obama has not done enough; if they were angry that corporate America was using them as a doormat, I could understand that. But to jump from their economic problems to supporting the very same people who are destroying their lives can only be understood through the prism of race.
The one thing that you will not get out of me is a defense of President Obama on much of the economy or on foreign policy. But I believe in speaking the truth, and specifically being clear on the real source of our problems. Those White residents may not be aware that the living standard for the average working person has been declining since the mid1970s. They may not be aware that the Republican Party that calls upon them every election season has advanced economic policies that push them further into debt and poverty than ever before. They may not be aware that the global economy is shifting, and shifting against working people. They may also be only slightly aware that the financial powerhouses will do all that they can to sway Democratic and Republican politicians in order to protect their pots of gold.
Yet it is easier to see in the Black president the representative of all that they hate and fear. It is easier to see in the Black president the threat to their future since he represents the unknown. It is easier to see in the Black president the easiest target in order to explain why their lives are so miserable. And it is easier to target a Black president than to come to grips with a very simple fact: the rich White elite does not give a cuss about their sorry rear ends…just so long as they keep voting Republican every election season.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of "They're Bankrupting Us" – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions.