Once again, the GOP hacks have been rope-a-doped.
Last week, Republican apologists salivated at the news that Maxine Waters raised the roof at a public meeting in Detroit when she raised the possibility of publicly criticizing the president. The Beltway establishment played the clip of a black audience expressing disappointment with Barack Obama to the hilt while dreaming it signified that the president was “losing black support.” This weekend, Waters used her newly conferred significance to say Obama must move leftward before shouting, “The Tea Party can go straight to Hell!”
This “maverick” routine is simply the latest attempt to redefine the political spectrum further to the Left. And the GOP fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
Any clear-eyed analyst who heard a far-Left congresswoman insist Obama has not spent enough money on economic stimulus should have immediately understood this was a call for the president to engage in more wealth redistribution, more government dependence, and more racial demagoguery. The fact that she spoke at an event promoting the Congressional Black Cacucus’ new “For the People” Jobs Initiative — which proposes extending unemployment benefits 14 additional weeks, increasing federal funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and expanding job training for “emerging markets and industries (such as green technologies)” — should have been an indication of her intent. However, national talk show hosts’ analysis never rises above the level of banal, partisan political advantage: which inside-the-Beltway party does this benefit? Is a given political personality “up” or “down”? Can any given datum be politicized to grant my side even the thinnest, most fleeting political advantage?
Maxine’s words set their mouths watering.
They could hardly restrain themselves when they saw Waters tell a crowd at the Wayne County Community College that black “unemployment is unconscionable.” She assured her desperate listeners: “We’re trying to do the best thing and the right thing. When you tell us it’s time to let go, we’ll let go.” The audience broke out into boisterous shouts of, “Let go!!”
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Enter the shallow thinkers. A writer at Commentary magazine dubbed it “pretty amazing how the president has managed to alienate…his most loyal support base.” Sean Hannity asked if Obama had abandoned the black community. Laura Ingraham blogged, “Obama is Losing the Black Vote.” Even Rush Limbaugh told his enormous listening audience that in private, members of the Congressional Black Caucus are “throwing shoes; they are shouting obscenities. They may be throwing darts at pictures of Obama’s face.” The reason Obama is “ignoring the black community,” he said, is “because he knows he’s got their votes.”
Obama has certainly not ignored or abandoned the black voter. He has engaged in stealth reparations to “black farmers,” targeted job training programs to minorities, and awarded hefty grants to fight for “environmental justice.” The idea that Obama has forgotten his people or lost the black vote can be filed in the intellectual dustbin alongside such shibboleths as “Republicans are gaining Hispanic support,” and “(Insert country club Republican) is the only electable candidate.”
Polls have shown a slide in Obama’s approval rating among blacks — from 95 percent to 81 percent. A 14-point fall one year away from an election may be noteworthy on a slow news day, but it signifies nothing about their likelihood to vote for his Republican opponent. Their intensity for Obama may flag from its 2008 levels, as it will for every segment of society that voted for him. But the first (real) black president can count on the support of black Americans. Nonetheless, the Establishment talking heads made political hay out of Waters’ visit, in the process raising her to the status of a legitimate spokeswoman for black Americans.
Then she pivoted. At a rally Saturday in Inglewood, California, Maxine Waters told Obama:
This is a tough game. You can’t be intimidated. You can’t be frightened. And as far as I’m concerned, the Tea Party can go straight to Hell.
Naturally, there has been no call for “civility” as there was following the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. Conservatives know better than to expect bare decency, much less fair treatment, from the man who laughed heartily when one of his supporters said of Rush Limbaugh, “I hope his kidneys fail.”
But Waters’ words would have been all but ignored without the conservative media build up in the preceding days. A radical Left Coast congresswoman demeans the vast majority of middle American voters? Dog bites man.
Former President Jimmy Carter did the same thing in 2005, when he claimed his book Our Endangered Values took Democrats to task for being too closely identified with abortion. In fact, his book said nothing of the sort but asserted pro-life voters “do not extend their concern to the baby who is born.” Carter laughed all the way to the best seller list.
Beyond using the conservative hype machine’s weight against itself, Maxine’s move gave Obama cover on the Left. Obama and his allies have desperately attempted to place him in the political center by creating a movement on the far-Left. Last fall, the Obamas’ friend Marilyn Katz proposed the creation of a new Popular Front in the pages of In These Times magazine. Left-wing activist Sally Kohn confirmed the White House regularly (and perhaps illegally) coordinates its message with radical activists at weekly “Common Purpose” meetings. Last week, Maxine Waters said she was going to break free from the president — only to criticize the Tea Party and demand he spend more taxpayer money on her constituents.
Is it possible Obama and Maxine Waters pulled a one-two punch on the media and his supposed opposition in the conservative punditocracy aided and abetted them? It certainly seems that way.