Monday’s Mtg: Why Do So Many People Despise Obama?

In an age of such polarized partiers and news media, all presidents will get their fair share of public hatred: Clinton, Bush, Obama.  Hell, FDR and Reagan.  Still, to me, something about conservatives’ detestation of President Obama seems…different, and puzzling.  Maybe it’s because the hatred started immediately after he took his hand off of the bible, before the man did anything anyone could object to.  Maybe it’s because some of the harshest invective has been embraced at the highest levels by GOP elites, not just the base voters.  Or, maybe I just don’t get how a president who has resolutely governed from the center could be so despised in such a highly personal (he’s not a real American, he hates capitalism) way.

I mean, really?  He’s a Marxist socialist fascist who appeases our enemies because he doesn’t believe America is a great nation due to his anti-colonialist mentality.  He’s a white-hating, ‘60s radical who hates freedom so much he wants the government to control our every movement.  He’s a Chicago machine thug who rescued the auto industry just to save the unions and redistributes hard-working people’s wealth to the undeserving poor.  And, these only scratch the surface of the hate, below which lurk Birthers and worse.

Why?  As I’ve said, we’ve got three choices: It’s either something about (1) him personally (including what he symbolizes), (2) his accomplishments in office, or (3) the changing nature of the conservative opposition itself.  I’ll take 10 minutes on Thursday by outlining these three explanations.

  1. It’s him:  Most liberals pick door number one, and jump right through it to racism.  That’s easy to do given the obviously racialized wording of some of the charges made against Obama (see above, e.g.).  And, I think there’s a lot to this, but not in the way most liberals think.  Race intermingling with culture is a far more subtle and complicated driver of political views than people on both sides tend to acknowledge.  I’ll explain what I mean.
  2. It’s his actions:  Many liberals can’t imagine that Democratic President that has raced so far to the center-right could be hated because he’s so liberal.  But, not so fast.  After all, Obama has achieved a slew of liberal goals, notably the long-held liberal dream of universal health care and big long-term changes to education, environmental regulation, and other liberal priorities.
  3. It’s the GOP:  My door.  I think today’s GOP is more like a movement (religious and ideological) than a political party.  Thus, conservatives now a priori define any opponent as an enemy to be loathed, with the reasons filled in afterwards as a kind of marketing exercise.  I think a President Hillary or Edwards or anyone would have inspired much the same kind of deep loathing.

At any rate, I’ll be brief, since you guys hardly need a primer on this topic.  I’ll focus mainly on the subtleties of racial attitudes, so we don’t make that common but dumb mistake of thinking that people are either “racist” or “non-racist” with nothing in between and that overt race hatred is the only way race could affect public opinion of a black president. 

Finally, two warnings.  First, beware the Gavel.  No incivility (at least of the loud kind).  Let people say their piece, and no ad hominem attacks.  Second, I believe in truth as well as civility.  Examining the role that race plays in opposition to our first black president is a perfectly legitimate undertaking, and the effect of racial attitudes is real.  If you don’t believe that, you won’t learn anything here and you should not attend.



  1. Is Obama really hated in an outsized way?  Compared to whom?  Compared to his recent predecessors?
  2. Why?  What role do the three factors I mentioned play: His personal characteristics,  his policies, the changing nature of conservatism?
  3. Race:  How do racial attitudes affect political values and preferences?  How have those translated into attitudes towards this president?  Is the role that race plays here exaggerated?    Does Obama possess other personal qualities that explain the hatred?
  4. Policy:  Does policy success breed hatred?  Has Obama had enough of it to engender such loathing and fear of his agenda?
  5. Conservatism:  What role has the evolution of conservatism itself played as a cause of Obama phobia?  What role has outright lying about the man played; e.g., Birtherism, government takeovers, etc.?
  6. What do conservatives think about all of this?  Let’s listen with open minds to what they say.




One response

  1. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    How seriously can we take such stuff? My late aunt used to talk about “Franklin Double-Cross Roosevelt” Maybe it’s all just part of the–not very inspiring–American political culture

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