Why Does the Right Hate Obama So Much?: Part 3

I'm still waiting for someone to give a satisfactory explanation for why the Right seems to hate Obama so much. So far, the answers seem to be: A) He's black or in some other way different and that's scary, B) He's not an ultra-nationalist who preaches that America is and has always been perfect, or C) He's a harbinger of a demographic shift that will leave the Republican Party in permanent minority status, and they are pooping their pants with fear and obstructing everything he tries to do in order to stave off the inevitable. Without anyone making a particularly persuasive argument for any of these, I tend to think it's C. Mostly, this is because I'm a sucker and I like to think the best of people. C allows me to think that Republicans are not racists, nor are they so blinded by ideology that they are willfully ignorant of our country's history. Instead, they are smart people who can accurately read the political tea leaves. Maybe I'm wrong to give them the benefit of the doubt in this way.  But seriously, you should read the explanations some people have tried to give me (here and here). One would think, in almost four years in office, Obama would have done some far more substantive things to pick on, but the arguments are just pathetic.

Here's a great example I came across today. I'm a liberal and an Obama supporter, and I'm also a gun owner (as I've explained here). Even though I'm not a member of the NRA, nor do I support half of what they do, I somehow got on their email list. The NRA has been going all-out against Obama. The level of vitriol is nuts. But, just as I've requested it here, I've been examining their posts to try to figure out why they hate him so much. They seem to have three big pieces of evidence against him. One is an offhand comment he made during the his election campaign about clinging to God and guns. It was a stupid way of putting it, but it's actually not an anti-gun or anti-God comment. He was talking about people who vote against their economic self interest, trying to explain why they would do that, and said that they have lost hope of any true political change and thus hold on to what is important to them. Saying that guns are important to people shouldn't be interpreted as anti-gun rights, but that's how it was spun and that's what the NRA heard.

Second, they're freaked out about the U.N. International Small Arms Treaty. I don't buy this critique, either. Is it a bureaucratic boondoggle? Probably. Will it be as toothless as most international agreements? Probably. Will it effectively keep guns out of the hands of warlords? Probably not. But is it part of some global plot to limit the rights of American gun owners, some nefarious first step in a worldwide gun registration and confiscation scheme? Absolutely not. At its best it will keep a few guns out of the hands of warlords who kill children and terrorists who shoot at our soldiers, but it probably won't do anything at all. If this is the case against Obama, it says more about NRA paranoia than it does about him.

Then there's the third piece of evidence, the mess that was Operation Fast and Furious. And guess who just reported to all its members that the blame for the mess lies with some ATF agents and the Pheonix District Attorney's Office? The NRA! Check it out if you don't believe me: "Draft Report Blames Many for Fast and Furious" Guess who the draft report does NOT blame: President Obama. Now, someone who really wants to believe that Obama is responsible could say this is part of a massive conspiracy to cover up his close, personal involvement with a local ATF operation, but I am not willing to live in that ideologically-driven fantasy land. To me, the NRA has just made a persuasive argument that one reason they hate Obama has no merit.

Here's Obama's track record on guns (well summarized by Steve Chapman for reason.com):

"[H]e has proposed nothing in the way of new federal restrictions on firearms. Even the "assault weapons" ban signed by President Clinton—and allowed to expire in 2004—has no visible place on his agenda.

"Not only that, he's approved changes that should gladden the hearts of gun-rights supporters, a group that includes me. He signed a law permitting guns to be taken into national parks. He signed another allowing guns as checked baggage on Amtrak. He acted to preserve an existing law limiting the use of government information on firearms it has traced."

As Chapman also points out, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence flunked President Obama on all seven of the items on its priority list.

Oh yeah, and Obama made his position on gun rights crystal clear. He said, "I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in people's lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won't take your handgun away. … There are some common-sense gun safety laws that I believe in. But I am not going to take your guns away."

I think the NRA's antipathy towards the President is symbolic of the Right's feelings as well. They hate Obama. They can even give you reasons why they hate him. They just can't come up with any good ones. That leaves everyone else in America wondering where that deep well of hatred comes from, and it opens the Right up to some pretty damning speculation.

Conservatives Make a Liberal Argument Against Affirmative Action

I was perplexed by a question after hearing this last week's Slate Political Gabfest.

If you haven't heard, the Supreme Court has decided to hear a case which will challenge affirmative action in college admissions. Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin is a case in which a white student is saying she was unfairly denied admission because she was white. I won't get into my disdain for the "Woe is me, I'm a white person in America" ridiculousness, but there's a really interesting double standard that someone (someone much smarter and more informed than I am) should explore.

The University of Texas at Austin has an admissions policy that begins by admitting the top ten percenters from each high school in Texas. Because of the segregation in schools caused by geographic segregation, this produces some diversity on its own. Then the university takes economics into account, and that will produce some ethnic diversity, too. Ultimately, they have some wiggle room allowed by the Supreme Court's decision on Michigan Law School's admissions policy from a few years ago (Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003). It's this last part that the Supreme Court is revisiting, and which it will probably change, especially since Justice Kagan has had to recuse herself. The young woman filing the case claims that she would have been accepted if not for this last bit of racial preference in admissions.

Regardless of where you stand on admissions (for the record, I'm in favor of some racial preference to encourage diversity, because I see racial diversity, like economic diversity, as a valuable part of an education), this argument will hinge on the notion that the system was unfair to this young woman and the government should fix it. I have no problem with that kind of argument. Why? Because I'm a liberal. I believe that, when there is injustice in our society and the government creates, enables, or has the power to correct that injustice, it should. I don't believe the government can create perfect equality of outcomes or solve all social ills. That's a straw man some of my conservative friends have tried to pin to all liberals, as though being a liberal is the same thing as being a Maoist or Soviet, and that's inaccurate and unfair. However, when the government can make a system, especially a system of its own, more fair, it should do so.

My conservative friends do not believe this. They tell me that they believe in personal responsibility. They tell me they believe equality will best be produced by the free market. They detest systems like Affirmative Action because they see it as government intrusion.

Except in this case, the remedy the complainant is proposing is that government should step in (when conservatives disagree with this form of government intrusion they call this "judicial overreach") and make this system more fair. Personal responsibility, it seems to me, would dictate that Abigail Fisher could have earned her way into the University of Texas at Austen by working her way into the top ten percent of her class. Problem solved. Or she could take advantage of the free market and go to school somewhere else, and if enough disgruntled white students did this and the school took too much of a financial hit, they would adjust their admissions policy. Problem solved. But Ms. Fisher is blaming the system and trying to change it. She wants it to conform to the ideals presented by the conservative right, but the mechanism she's employing theoretically belong to the left.

Of course, it doesn't belong to the left. Conservatives are just as willing to go to court as liberals, just as willing to try to sway government to enforce their vision of a more just America. I have no problem with that. What bothers me is that, when people advocates for a more just tax policy, something that is more firmly in the sphere of government than a public university's admissions policy, they are dismissed as dirty hippies who need to get a job and stop expecting the government to solve their problems.

The practical consequence of this double standard is that when poor people and minorities, or even middle class whites struggling against a rigged economic system, go to the government for a redress of a grievance, they are dismissed by conservatives, but when a white person does the exact same thing at the expense of a poorer minority applicant to the same university, that's peachy, and yet the conservatives bristle at being called plutocrats or racists.

Pay close attention to the way this issue gets reported by the conservative media, and to the way Republican candidates comment on it when it gets a bit more attention. If you hear a noticeable absence of condemnation of Abigail Fisher as a communist, a welfare queen, a nanny-state liberal, or any of the other slurs hurled at those participating in Occupy Wall Street, ask yourself, What should we call people who only compromise their principles when it benefits white people?