In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama called it “the Silly Season,” when outlandish attacks, many of them racist in nature, emerged in an attempt to shoot down his candidacy on the route to becoming the president. Now that Obama is up for reelection, the Silly Season has started again—or maybe it’s just being amped up, because it never really ever went away.
From Donald Trump’s ill-fated attempt to resurrect the Obama birth certificate issue to former-Sen. Rick Santorum trying to paint Obama as “a snob” for graduating from Harvard—something many people would consider a significant achievement—to bumper stickers and passed-along racial jokes and emails from people in high office, 2012 bears all the marks of upping the ante for nastiness.
In March, The Christian Science Monitor reported that the best selling bumper sticker at Stickatude.com, was “Don’t Re-Nig in 2012,” which was moving briskly at $3 a pop.
Another site, Stumpy’s Stickers, which eventually shut down, sold a design that featured a caricature of a black man’s face missing a tooth and another with a picture of a chimpanzee that read: “Obama 2012.”
Montana Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull admitted in March that he had forwarded an email that contained a racist joke that compared black Americans to dogs and implied Obama’s mother had sex with animals. The email was sent to seven recipients from Cebull’s official courthouse email address.
Cebull contended he wasn’t racist; he just wasn’t a fan of Obama’s.
It is no surprise, really, that there are people who don’t like Obama just because he’s black. It is the freedom and the impunity with which his opponents have turned the race card into a suit of cards.
Purportedly conservative websites such as Patriot Update, Conservative Byte and Vision to America report “bombshells” that they contend will take down Obama’s presidency and prove that he is either Muslim, not a native-born U.S. citizen or at the center of some radical left-wing movement that undermines American values.
One favorite making the rounds is a video produced by the late conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart that showed a considerably younger Barack Obama embracing Derrick Bell, then a Harvard law professor, who is considered an architect of critical race theory, which says that despite efforts to diminish racism—by law as well as by influence—it continues to thrive in the nation’s laws and institutions. The upshot is that Obama’s embrace of Bell shows that the president became a “race warrior” early in life and intends to make life better for black people at the expense of whites.
It is simply a taste of what is likely to come. The Republican Party, overall, is committed to doing whatever it takes to beat Obama. The Tea Party, part of the party’s far right wing, is aiming for culture sea change and the Democrats are eager to push back, to fight back.
It can only get more intense. To paraphrase the late actress Bette Davis in “All About Eve”: Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Jackie Jones, a veteran journalist and journalism educator, is director of Jones Coaching LLC, a career transformation firm.