The presidency of Barack Obama has become one of the most polarizing, if not the most polarizing administration in U.S. history. The Rasmussen Reports daily presidential tracking poll this past weekend found 26% strongly approve of the job Barack Obama is doing, while 43% strongly disapprove. That totals 69% of the electorate holding strong opinions about the president with only 31% voicing less stringent views.
Along with the polarization, the public discourse has sunk to a relatively low level with supporters of the president and his policies frequently branding opponents as "racists," and those opposing the president's initiatives labeling him a "socialist."
The charges of racism reached a fever pitch during many of the TEA party rallies of recent months. Those on the left of the political spectrum have difficulty explaining such widespread and visceral public opposition to Obama policies. Lacking a rational explanation they play the race card. But is opposition to the sharp leftward tilt of the Obama Administration really rooted in racism?
Racism is defined as "hatred or intolerance of another race or races." Opposing the bail-out of Wall Street bankers, the preponderance of who are white, hardly seems like a racist position. Conservatives were as critical of the Bush Administration for TARP as they were of the Obama Administration over the stimulus bill. One president was white, the other is black. Race played no role in conservative opposition to the bills.
Much of the animosity toward the president's policies has been generated by concerns over the rapidly skyrocketing federal debt. Children of all races will have to repay that debt. Loss of freedom as the federal government expands its control over more facets of the formerly free market economy also drives public opposition to the president. The loss of economic freedom afflicts whites and blacks equally.
The president seeks to expand union power via card check and a wide range of changes to administrative policies. Yet, as he strengthens teacher unions it is the black community that suffers most from sub-par public schools, particularly in the inner cities. Conservatives advocate school choice, which Obama and the unions oppose. In the recent gubernatorial primary in Pennsylvania it was a black Democrat who made school choice the centerpiece of his campaign because he knows the current union-dominated system disproportionately fails black students.
Now let's take a look at the definition of a socialist. Webster defines socialism as "the theory or system of the ownership and operation of the means of production and distribution by society or the community rather than by private individuals."
Under President Obama, the federal government has extended its control into the production and distribution systems of the nation's largest automaker, with the president actually firing the chairman of General Motors. The recently passed health care "reform" bill effectively nationalized one-third of the economy. The federal government owns or exerts virtual control over some of the nation's largest financial institutions, and is about to implement far-reaching additional regulations. And, Obama seeks to take government control of energy via so-called "cap and trade" legislation.
Overlay the Webster definition of socialism with the Obama agenda and you get a precise match. Add in the president's own repeated statements, beginning with his encounter with Joe the Plumber on the campaign trail, suggesting that wealthier Americans have too much and the government should take it from them and give to the poor, and you get the classic socialist dictum "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."
Those who brand the Obama agenda as socialist are technically correct. It is an agenda that has in the scant time frame of less than 18-months vastly expanded federal control of the economy. The next step will be massive new and/or increased taxes so that the federal government can take more from the productive sector and hand it off to the non-productive sector. It is the very embodiment of socialism.
At the same time as conservatives and TEA party activists oppose these socialist policies, they call for less government regulation, lower taxes, and unleashing the dynamic energy of the free market economy. Those are proven prescriptions for generating economic growth.
The president has said: "if the economy is good for folks from the bottom up, it is good for everybody." Indeed an economic system that encourages investment, entrepreneurship, and the creation of jobs is one whose rising tide lifts all boats. And that is the very antithesis of racism.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.