Obama suggests racism animates some critics, animated conservative critics freak out
Barack Obama (AFP)

President Barack Obama predictably angered his critics by suggesting that some of them don’t like him because he’s black.

“There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President,” Obama said in a 17,000-word profile by The New Yorker’s David Remnick in the magazine’s Jan. 27 issue.

“Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president,” he said.

The article notes that Obama lost among white voters in 2012 by a greater margin than any previous presidential victor in U.S. history and argues that his opponents are generally older white people who feel threatened by demographic changes or overlooked by the government and corporations.

White, working class voters are increasingly turning away from the president, whose approval ratings fell to historic lows late last year.

Conservatives suggested that Obama blamed his drooping approval ratings on racism, but that’s not exactly what he said.

In fact, he goes on to add some historical context to what drives opponents of his policies – particularly his signature Affordable Care Act legislation.

“There is a historic connection between some of the arguments that we have politically and the history of race in our country, and sometimes it’s hard to disentangle those issues,” Obama told The New Yorker. “You can be somebody who, for very legitimate reasons, worries about the power of the federal government -- that it’s distant, that it’s bureaucratic, that it’s not accountable -- and as a consequence you think that more power should reside in the hands of state governments.”

“But what’s also true, obviously, is that philosophy is wrapped up in the history of states’ rights in the context of the civil-rights movement and the Civil War and Calhoun,” the president continued. “There’s a pretty long history there.”

Obama called on his supporters to give greater consideration to arguments presented by his opponents, even if they are steeped in racially fraught language.

“I think it’s important for progressives not to dismiss out of hand arguments against my presidency or the Democratic Party or Bill Clinton or anybody just because there’s some overlap between those criticisms and the criticisms that traditionally were directed against those who were trying to bring about greater equality for African-Americans,” Obama said.

“The flip side is I think it’s important for conservatives to recognize and answer some of the problems that are posed by that history, so that they understand if I am concerned about leaving it up to states to expand Medicaid that it may not simply be because I am this power-hungry guy in Washington who wants to crush states’ rights but, rather, because we are one country and I think it is going to be important for the entire country to make sure that poor folks in Mississippi and not just Massachusetts are healthy,” the president added.