The Buddha once observed: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
This quote occurred to me recently as I continued to watch the intense hatred against President Obama play out day after day in American politics. As a longtime fan and observer of American politics and reader of Presidential biographies including those of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton, I can’t recall any other President being subjected to such intense, unremitting hatred. Bu why? He is highly intelligent, a family man with no scandal hanging over him, with a beautiful, intelligent wife and two lovely daughters.
Roosevelt was despised by Wall Street because they saw him betraying his own kind. Truman got his share of hatred, of course, and certainly Nixon was roundly despised by members of the Democratic caucus. So was Clinton to a lesser degree. Still all of these Presidents were able to garner across-the-aisle support on key issues important to the nation and eventually got a lot done despite many skeletons in their closets. On the other hand, try to think of any support President Obama has received from the other side, even on important national issues that Republicans formerly had proposed, such as the Affordable Care Act. Bet you can’t think of one. Once upon a time, for example, construction projects that help create job and improve the nation’s infrastructure were slam-dunk certain to get immediate support from both Republicans and Democrats. No longer. Yet, the President’s jobs bill had construction and infrastructure at its core elements, but it was DOA on Capitol Hill.
As the record shows, leaders of the House and Senate Republicans early on vowed to thwart Obama at every turn, and threatened to punish any of its members who cooperated with the Administration, even on issues that were in their own best interest. This is not my opinion; that’s on the record. And, to give the devil his due, as my mother use to say, they have been true to their word. Senator Mitch McConnell set the tone shortly after the 2008 election when asked what the GOP’s priority would be following Obama’s election, he said: Denying President Obama a second term. That’s a curious thing to say right after an election.
When a crop of Tea Party candidates were elected in 2010 and 2012, things got much worse. They now control the House of Representatives and are threatening to shut down the Government and/or let the U.S. default on its debt unless Obamacare is defunded. In my opinion, it’s not so much Obamacare per se as denying President Obama a large-scale signature achievement like health reform. The GOP is deathly afraid it will succeed and to keep that from happening are putting out scary, distorted misinformation about what it will do to average Americans and the economy.
The Administration shares some blame for allowing things to get to the point for allowing its enemies to define it rather than defining the legislation early on itself and regularly putting out information on its main provisions and benefits. But, still.
Interestingly, when you ask people why they don’t like the President, some say he’s arrogant and aloof, a bad politician who won’t compromise and doesn’t like to schmooze and deal with Congress to help win over more of their support. But, that doesn’t distinguish President Obama. President Washington hated White House get-togethers where he was expected to make small talk; so did President Jefferson and countless others since then. Some others say he is a closet Muslim. And despite massive evidence to the contrary, a surprising number of Americans still believe he was not born in this country. Nobody wants to say out loud “because he is Black” but that’s a major reason, and the major overriding reason.
Recently, the University of Rochester published its findings about where racism remains the strongest. Not surprisingly, it’s in the Cotton Belt and in other former slave states. Seeing that study I thought to myself: I wonder where most of the Tea Party House and Senate members come from? Again, not surprisingly, the vast majority of House members represent those same states. Does this mean racism alive and well only in the South? Of course not. Look at the racial reaction to the selection of the latest Miss America. Or check out the comments on Facebook when President Obama’s name is mentioned as the worst President ever.
This fruitless effort at killing Obamacare is seriously damaging the Republican brand and the GOP chances in upcoming elections, but these Tea Party members and other racist elements in the Congress don’t seem to care. They keep drinking their own poison and hoping it will fatally damage Obama’s presidency regardless of what the long-term consequences are for its own party. Hatred can make us all do stupid things. That’s one of the reasons it is sometimes called “blind hatred.”