Are white, anti-Obama liberals motivated by racism?

Shawn Gude

Shawn Gude is a writer, graduate student, activist, and assistant contributor at Jacobin. His intellectual influences include Chantal Mouffe, Michael Harrington, and Ella Baker. Contact him at or on Twitter @shawngude.

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31 Responses

  1. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Rep. Emanuel Cleaver [D-MO]: “If Bill Clinton had been in the White House…we probably would be marching on the White House.”

    Maybe it’s just that Obama stinks on ice and everybody knows it and it’s sort of that simple?

  2. Tod Kelly says:

    Shawn – I may be being overly simplistic, but I would think the difference in approval of Clinton vs. Obama by all of their base would be directly related to the fact that one presided over a booming economy, and the other over a bad recession.Report

    • Shawn Gude in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Right. It just seems kind of silly that Harris-Perry ascribes white liberal discontent to racism rather than the insipid economy, mass unemployment, or Obama’s abysmal record on civil liberties and executive power issues.Report

    • Katherine in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      That seemed like the obvious conclusion to me.

      And the left – as opposed to Liberals – wasn’t fond of Clinton either. The left hasn’t been fond of any president elected in recent memory, because said presidents have run the gamut from far-right to centre-right.Report

  3. Scott says:

    How typical, some folks will find racism everywhere. Are blacks that support Barry no matter what he does and stifle any criticism of him in the black community b/c he is the first black president being racist in reverse?Report

    • Jeff Wong in reply to Scott says:

      When people say other people are racist, it is implied that the are assholes because of their beliefs. I don’t think you can be racist without some negative sentiment about a person or a group.

      To support someone no matter what they do is simply stupid for whatever reason, having gone to Princeton, being One of Us, or because they look presidential.

      Not all racism is stupid (i.e. Vietnam vet hating Chinamen). And if this woman’s argument is based purely on a generalized correlation. This isn’t contentious either. No LoG regular would even entertain this idea.

      Just another strawman to bash… Hope everyone enjoyed their Two Minutes of Hate.Report

  4. DensityDuck says:

    “I believe much of that decline can be attributed to their disappointment that choosing a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation.”

    Note that here, Harris-Perry is effectively accusing white Obama supporters of having been racists because they supported him; that they supported him as a sop to their own guilt over lingering racist tendencies–“you can’t call me racist, I totally voted for a black dude!”–rather than because they’d considered all the candidates and come to an honest conclusion that Barack Obama was the best one, and they’d have voted for him even if he’d been a white guy (or even a white woman.)

    Now that Obama is President but all the problems still aren’t fixed, they’re mad, because they needed to point to that black man’s success as proof of their own non-racism.


    I’m not sure that Clinton’s re-election is relevant to this situation, because he was running against Bob Dole.Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    There are people with whom I have argued that have seemed to hold the position that anyone who disagrees with their pet policy is doing so for immoral reasons.

    If you don’t like Policy X or Politician Y, it never has to do with something like “honest disagreement because of different sorting of priorities” but because “they hate the members of Group Z” or similar.

    With these arguments, you pretty much have to see the concession that, maybe, in theory, it’s *POSSIBLE* that someone could disagree without their active motivation being hatred or something as the end goal because you aren’t likely to get more than that.Report

  6. greginak says:

    The easiest assumption to make about any comment about race and O. is that people are projecting their own feelings onto the general public. Hell that is pretty good assumption about most things. Apropos of Scott’s comment above, people throw out the word racism all over the place without thought or reflection. Racism is a still real and tangible problem and we would be better off if people tried to expand their vocabulary away from the word “racism.” It typically causes more heat then light.Report

  7. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Over to Monday posts & comments @ LoOG: the weekend had its moments. Cheers, all. Out. Some goodass stuff.Report

  8. It’s a dumb column but stuff like Michael Moore and Bill Maher’s “I voted for a black guy and I got a white guy” show that it’s not an out of nowhere sentiment nor one not worth being vigilant about.Report

    • Chris in reply to Elias Isquith says:

      I agree. Now, I don’t agree with Harris-Perry. I stumbled on her guest hosting Rachel Maddow’s show a couple weeks ago, and she was awful, just awful. This is the level of analysis I would expect from her, having seen that train wreck. However, her view is not coming out of nowhere. It’s wrong, it’s just not utterly baseless.Report

    • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Elias Isquith says:

      I don’t care what anyone says. I still think that line is funny.Report

  9. Racism is ubiquitous. White liberals are as racist as any. But, this is not the point Harris-Perry should be making. Liberals have yet too realize that they don’t make up a majority in the Democratic Party much less the country as a whole and that their policy preferences are opposed by an organized, disciplined opposition both within the party and without.
    Michael Berube piece at Crooked Timber gives a back of the napkin description of how are politics (especially liberal politics) work.

    Liberals will never do the hard work of evangelizing and organizing for what they believe (IMO because deep down most of them really don’t believe in shit). Conservatives have done the grunt work and if the republican debates are any indication, they have moved their party rightward. Liberals are good at blog posting and engaging in magical thinking.
    My team makes me sick!Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Keith Beacham says:

      Yeah. You think Scaife believes in shit? More fool you.

      Liberals run Tester, Ford-the-money-sink, and Webb. If you suddenly think that liberals are running away from the conservative side of the party, you couldn’t be farther from the truth.Report

      • Keith Beacham in reply to Kimmi says:

        If I left the impression that I had any special ability to read minds, I didn’t mean to. What I can do is count and liberals don’t have majorities in Congress or any state legislatures. Liberals are delusional about their relative strength in politics. Besides the notable exceptions of Sen. Bernie Sanders VT and Rep. Kucinich they haven’t managed to elect kindred spirits to Congress. The liberal brand is shit, liberal organizing power is shit (couldn’t even win a union forming vote against Target in Long Island) hell we run away from ourselves with the label progressive we deserve to get shit on. Say what you will about Tea Party politics they win elections. If you want respect, if you want to move liberal policy win some elections.Report

  10. Brandon Berg says:

    We non-leftists have been rolling our eyes at the “Disagreement with Obama is racist” schtick for years. Actually, it predates Obama. The original form was “Disagreement with leftism is racist.” Obama was a godsend because he allowed them to use a slightly less crazy-sounding form.

    I must admit to a bit of schadenfreude here.Report

  11. Steve S. says:

    A few things about Harris-Perry’s critique disturb me. First would be the ridiculous rewriting of the history of Clinton’s Presidency, specifically the charge that the white left flank was not put off by his compromises and failures. If she really thinks this she is delusional, stupid, has a severely compromised memory, or less than twelve years old.

    Second would be the observation that white left-liberal racism, to whatever extent it exists, did not suddenly pop into existence 18 months ago. To whatever extent it is a problem it was doubtless as much or more of a problem five years ago. Since amateur psychologising seems to be the order of the day I’ll engage in a bit of my own: the emergence of this issue in venues such as the Nation article or Balloon Juice is foremost a reflection of an author’s feelings about Barack Obama as an individual rather than racism. Keeping in mind, then, that these individuals are primarily motivated by the re-election of Obama rather than problems of race they might want to rethink their approach to the putative white left-liberal racists who, though relatively small in number, are indispensable to Obama’s prospects.

    Finally, there is the dispiriting resort to the same tactic that we often see in discussions about Israel; any criticism is ipso facto racism. A left critic of Obama might be an insidious racist, or might have an actual argument on the merits. It would be nice if instead of glib and broad brush strokes we had an analysis that attempted to suss out these two strains.Report