Web Letters | The Nation

Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama

Obama is a traitor to the liberal cause

I disagree with Harris-Perry’s hypothesis regarding race. I am a liberal and I will never vote for Obama after the policies he enacted over the past three years. She may wish to believe that it was some sort of obtuse racism, but instead why don't we give Obama credit for what he has done? Obama mismanaged medical marijuana, pandered to the Keystone crowd, enacted NDAA, enacted the JOBS act and forced through an unpopular healthcare package that was a Republican dream. These are just a few of the detestable actions that can be attributed to Obama, not to mention the complete lie regarding “transparency.” Obama has acted like a tyrant towards whistleblowers and encouraged people to stay silent about unethical behavior. I have considered voting for Obama, then I realize that he is so beholden to Wall Street and K street that nothing else matters and there is no difference between Obama and Romney.

Kyle Jackson


Apr 11 2012 - 12:14am

Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama

A scurrilous accusation

This is the sort of pap I would expect in other political magazines, but not in The Nation.

This magazine truly is changing, and not for the better. When Eric Alterman justified the assassination of bin Laden, I disagreed but could at least understand his argument. But this is just so absurd on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin.

The Nation publishes a large quantity of high-quality, thought-provoking work. But occasionally I’ll see an opinion piece that makes me think the opinion writers truly are stereotypical “latte-drinking, limousine, East Coast liberals,” with the exception of Cockburn, Klein, Younge and others.

This article shows that Ms. Harris-Perry truly does not understand the concerns of average voters (black and white, as well as Hispanic, Asian and every other ethnicity), and the anger they feel toward both Republicans and Democrats, including Obama. She just cannot comprehend that people on the left have a genuine anger, anxiety and fear about the future of themselves, their families and their country. So much anxiety and fear, in fact, that they would contemplate not voting for any Democrat short of Dennis Kucinich or Bernie Sanders.

Progressives are sick, sick, sick of being forced to vote for a Clintonesque corporate Democrat or else let a fanatical Republican sociopath take the White House. Many on the left, myself included, may be willing to let the country go off a cliff rather than endure the “lesser of two evils” false choice, yet again. Let’s let it all go to shit, and let the chips fall where they may. We can rebuild with what’s left after the Generic Republican Sociopath finally drives the country off the deep end with the regressive “flat tax,” endless wars of oil conquest and nuclear exchanges.

It has nothing to do with race. Progressives are sick and tired of the “lesser of two evils” paradigm.

Liberals are used to Republicans obstructing any type of progressive piece of legislation, no matter how minuscule, that Democrats try to get through Congress. Republicans are so focused in their pursuit of corporate hegemony and unbridled greed that nothing they can do would shock anyone on the left. We expect them to be that way.

But Obama was supposed to be different. I never bought into all the “Obama-hype.” I was pretty accurate in predicting that he would be a typical Clintonesque, corporate Democrat (i.e., what a moderate Republican was forty years ago). But I at least thought he would be much more aggressive than he has been in advocating for average working Americans.

I at least thought that his first act in office would not be to staff his administration with the Clinton-era finance de-regulators who caused the financial crisis in the first place! His first move in office was to bring back the Clinton boys who advocated the overturning of Glass-Steagall and the decision not to regulate financial derivatives, which a decade later brought the entire world economy to its knees. Not to mention his selection as chiefs of staff—Rahm Emmanuel and William Daley, both with strong ties to the financial sector.

This tells you a lot about who Obama is truly representing: the financial sector. This also explains his hesitancy to even mention Occupy Wall Street. He still has not given any support to the protesters, although, like Clinton, he “feels” their pain. I’m sure they feel all warm and fuzzy with that kind of support as they get their heads smashed in by the thugs in blue.

And this brings me to my next point, which others have mentioned: Clinton was president during an economic boom. Obama has been president during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. One would be forgiven for thinking that desperate times should call for desperate measures; that is, that Obama would take some type of radical action to get the economy back on track.

Yes, Republican obstructionists make it such that Obama is not solely to blame for not enacting policies that most liberals support. However, people on the left can blame Obama for outflanking the extremist Republicans from the right on issues such as deficit cutting, cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits, etc.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect much from a Democratic president, which is a sad reflection both on the state of the Democratic Party and on the two-party system in this country. However, I do, at the very least, expect a Democratic president to steadfastly defend Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, rather than to join the attack against it.

Further, Obama has adopted the right’s nonsensical economic ideology to the effect that spending and tax cuts will lead us to full employment. He failed to counter the Republicans with a competing (Keynsian) economic narrative, either because he truly agrees with them or because he has been carefully tacking toward the center in preparation for the next election.

Clinton performed some despicable acts while in office—NAFTA, welfare reform, as well as many others. But he did not perform these despicable acts with record unemployment and underemployment, with record foreclosures, a record number of homes underwater, or following the largest act of corporate welfare in the history of human civilization.

Clinton isn’t president, though; Obama is. If a white man were to do what Obama is doing, most on the left would be just as upset and angered and exasperated with him as they are with Obama. And the same goes for Hillary Clinton, who would have been another corporatist-centrist Democrat, to be sure.

As a matter of fact, I voted for Obama because I thought he would be to the left of Hillary Clinton. Does that make me a sexist because I thought the black man would be a better choice for president than the white woman?


Matthew Minor

Hazlet, NJ

Nov 3 2011 - 9:57pm

Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama

I guess we have no choice then…

Ok, I got the message. Either I support Obama or I’m a racist.

Doesn’t matter that I didn’t vote for him in 2008 because I never believe in him, didn’t vote for Clinton in 1996, regretted voting for him in 1992 and never voted for any other Democratic president. I’ve always been a third-party voter because I’ve always hated both parties. From the start it was always clear to me that Obama is essentially a liberal Republican, a corporate centrist. Only idiot liberals believed in his shallow rhetoric because it sounded so nice.

But because I’m on the left I have to support Obama. Otherwise, I’m a racist. I don’t have the right to judge what he does or fails to do based on the actual merits of those actions according to my own political principles. I have only one option if I don’t want to be a racist.

Obama’s actual record as president doesn’t matter. He can kill whom he wants to kill with no oversight, establish a Goldman Sachs administration in the White House, continue Bush policies, pursue policies that Harris-Perry would’ve opposed under Bush or any other Republican. None of that matters.

What matters only is his race and the fact that he’s a Democrat.

I must march in lockstep with a man who pursues policies I do not support if I don’t want to be a racist.

And of course those who DO continue to support him are naturally not racist.

OK—I think I understand now.

Sandra Nicholas

Brooklyn, NY

Oct 5 2011 - 8:27am

Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama

He’s still got my vote

I agree to a great extent on Ms. Perry’s assessment of the American white liberal but, I would add, in particular the so-called “elite” of the Democratic Party. I believe however, that you have missed an important part of the entire Obama story: the fact that he has always been held to a higher standard and yet has managed to get to the presidency in spite of it all. We as a white liberal group in America have always patted ourselves on the back for our selfless efforts in being fair and giving the underprivileged a chance to succeed, and yet there is this niggling little voice in the back of our minds that keeps whispering, “Yes, but we really are superior.” They (the minority classes) have to prove beyond a doubt that they are up to the task or we will pull the rug out from under them, throw them to the dogs and go looking for the next great uplifting project we can set our sights on.

This is not to say that we haven’t done some really fantastic things in our lifetime in spite of the opposition, but we have to shed our hypocrisy once and for all and go with the person that best does the job for the American public. In my mind, this is my President Barack Obama. I voted for him in 2008 and I will vote for him again in 2012 and, “God willing and the creek don’t rise,” he will be my president and the president of the United States of America for another term. I will now hold everyone else that ascends to the office of the president of this great country to a much higher standard and that is, Is that person as brilliant, as compassionate, as calm and cool under the greatest pressure of our lifetime with a confluence of economic and political catastrophes as Barack Obama? I have a suspicion that my answer will be “no” for many years to come.

I also believe that the real reason the Republicans are working so fanatically against President Obama is that he represents the rising tide of minorities who are wielding more and more power in the United States and that is as it should be. I think a bit of this fear factor is creeping into the white population of America, whether they want to admit it or not. It is much easier to say his policies have failed than to voice the truth. thus assuaging their own conscience when they vote for someone else.

Joy Gulick

Onset, MA

Oct 1 2011 - 10:26am

Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama

Could be the economy

Or could the difference have something to do with the fact that the economy was charging full steam ahead at the end of the Clinton presidency and is stalling at the moment? The economy is not (mostly) something Obama has any control over. But tell that to the suffering voters.

David Oliver


Sep 30 2011 - 2:35am

Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama

Everyone’s “abandoning” Obama—including African-Americans

Harris-Perry’s piece is little more than a fancied-up version of the sort of attacks on Obama critics typified by Derrick Mathis’s epic rant against the respected lesbian African-American blogger Pam Spaulding, wherein he called her “a bitter white racist gay man trapped in a black lesbian’s body.”

What Harris-Perry ignores is that Obama’s ratings are dropping rapidly with people of all ethnicities, including African-Americans. A recent Washington Post poll shows that the number of black Americans who hold “strongly favorable” views of President Obama has dropped from 83 percent to 58 percent in the space of five months, after over two years of staying well above the 80 percent mark. But it’s much easier to play “kill the messenger”—and in the purpose make it harder for legitimate accusations of racism to be believed—than it apparently is for Obama’s most dedicated apologists to honestly deal with this.

Tamara Baker

Saint Paul, MN

Sep 26 2011 - 4:06pm

Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama

Who Abandoned Whom? Part 2

I associate myself with, and would like to extend, Ellen Leatham’s comments, below.

As a (white) social scientist, I appreciate the first half of Ms. Harris-Perry’s argument, the part where she looked for and found empirical ways of testing (and then rejecting) several hypotheses about white racism in previous Obama elections. However, her argument that failure by white liberals to provide enthusiastic support for Obama’s upcoming election would be ‘evidence’ of some sort of racism—that it would amount to holding a black guy to a higher standard than we’d ever apply to a white guy—is a bridge too far. It’s nonsense.

Mr. Obama promised to challenge how things are done in Washington and to fight the good fight for the many progressive values he articulated so clearly in the last campaign. That’s what drew independents and progressives to him then. His consistent failure to deliver on that promise is what has turned us off to him now.

The standard we’re holding him to is the one he established. Some (more) examples where he failed to fight the good fight (i.e., where he didn’t even try):

• Filibusters. Though grousing endlessly about how Republicans’ unprecedented expansion/abuse of Senate filibuster rules prevented him from getting anything important through Congress in anything like its intended form, even when he had large majorities in both houses, Obama never challenged the Senate Democrats to change its archaic rules to enable the will of the majority to prevail. It’s not that he didn’t succeed in the effort; it’s that he didn’t even try.

• Torture. Obama reaped much progressive applause when he lambasted the Bush administration for torturing military prisoners, one of the most horrific aspects of its prosecution of its unpopular wars. Yet, when elected, he did nothing to outlaw such torture (only to discontinue it for now) or to prosecute those responsible for authorizing it. Again, he didn’t even try.

• Palestinians. Obama gave such lovely speeches and promises about using his office to press for actual achievement of a just two-state solution that would get the Palestinian people out from under perpetual military occupation and provide them the same right of self-determination that we defend so ardently for the Israelis. At his ‘peace is hard’ speech at the UN last week, he delivered the clearest 180 degree turnabout I’ve ever heard. One more big issue where he’s saying he’s not even going to try.

Now that election season is upon us again, everything Obama tries for the next thirteen-plus months will be opposed by Republicans with particular vigor, always charging that the latest initiative is merely ‘political’, calculated to advance his personal chances of re-election. The best thing Obama could do now, in service of the causes he claims to hold most dear (jobs, deficit reduction, draw-downs abroad) would be to announce that he’s decided not to run for a second term and to devote the remainder of his time in office to work diligently, and selflessly, on those urgent problems. His situation vis à vis the economy is much the same as LBJ’s with Vietnam at a comparable time in his presidency. Like LBJ, he should face facts and withdraw now, lest he ruin all hope for his party next November. We progressives supported him last time; maybe this time, he should support us and do what’s needed to give us a shot at holding the White House in 2012.

Ken Burgdorf

Rockville, MD

Sep 26 2011 - 11:00am

Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice...

I just read M.H. Perry’s discussion of racism in America as it affects white progressive voters who are no happy with Obama. She assumes that the roots of it are in covert racism.

I am a white, progressive voter who supported Obama in 2008, but I am angry at Obama, just as I was angry at Clinton. They both sold us out to their corporate masters and care nothing for the poor.

For Obama sold us out on Medicare and Medicaid, while Clinton sold us out when it came to protecting those on welfare. I spent many years—not just one, like Obama—as a community organizer in poor neighborhoods all over the country, some black neighborhoods, some white, some mixed. Obama failed both whites and blacks by bowing to his corporate masters, and he dares to ask me for campaign contributions.

In Obama’s oath of office, he swore to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and he betrayed that aath when he refused to let Attorney General Eric Holder prosecute Bush and Cheney for violating American law and international committments against torture.

Now Obama is talking like a real Democrat, but I have learned not to believe a word he says. I am incredibly sad about that.

Patrick Ray

Island Lake, Il

Sep 26 2011 - 8:16am

Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama

‘Laughable nonsense’

Possibly the lowest-quality piece ever written by M. H.-P. Seriously: what kind of laughable nonsense is to already blame “electoral racism” (whatever this nonsensical adjective supposed to mean) for a future “flight of white liberal voters”? And that’s beyond this completely idiotic garbage of immediately accusing everybody of being racist because he won’t vote for O—and this is from a (so-called) political science professor? Is this some kind of stupid “don’t dare…” attempt? Newsflash for the author: Obama has yet to really stand up for anything, for the first time, instead of immediately walking over to the other side and start bargaining there. You know, like this former POTUS did, what’s his name… ah, yes: Clinton. Utter garbage; if she really needs the income, then hire her as a proofreader instead (provided her spelling skills are better than her analytical skills, ahem).

Levente Szileszky

New York, NY

Sep 25 2011 - 11:49pm

Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama

Lost cause

Is there racism in America? Absolutely! Is that why our president’s numbers are cratering? No!

I had such high hopes for him when we elected him in 2008, too high, I’d hoped for stuff he didn’t campaign on just on the hope that the electorate’s enthusiasm would carry things through. But the one promise Obama kept was to try to bring Republicans and Democrats together to solve the issues; he’s done that to the point it meets the definition of insanity—he’s never going to get that different result. We gave him a comfortably majority in the House, and sixty seats in the Senate, yet he refused to push an agenda. As for the comparisons between Clinton and Obama’s healthcare agendas, I was pretty disappointed that nothing ever came of it during Clinton’s presidency; however, there was a much stronger desire among the people in 2009, and the public option was right in front of us. We could almost touch it. Then Obama started coming to the microphone with the message, “It’s still a good bill, even if we don’t get the public option.” The ultimate in damning with faint praise. And though the public option raised up a couple more times, our president would return to the microphone to beat it down again.

As for “don’t ask, don’t tell,” I have a hard time giving him much credit for that either. Our president sat on his hands and did nothing for two years until the Log Cabin Republicans won a court victory, and then suddenly Obama springs into action to get ahead of the issue, so that he can own it. I don’t think he would have done any of it, if not for that court victory.

As far as the banks go, how do you support someone that gives away huge amounts of tax dollars to the banks, with no demands for regulation, no demands for caps on egregious bonuses to the same people that caused the mess in the first place, and no investigations into illegal activities that caused the mess in the first place. Obama stated he didn’t want to go after the crimes of the past. Do we live in Minority Report world? All we go after are crimes of the past; otherwise, we need thought police.

Where was Obama when all hell broke loose in Wisconsin? He wouldn’t even let his labor secretary make a visit. That movement went long and strong without him. But now that it’s election season, he’s back as a big labor supporter.
I hope Michelle never sends Barack down to buy the family a new car, because he is the worst negotiator I’ve ever known, I think he’d end up paying over $60,000 for a Smart Car, and wouldn’t even get cupholders for it.

I decided when he trashed the “Public Option” that I wouldn’t vote to re-elect him, which has led to heated arguments with my mother and brother, but over time, they couldn’t take the pain and have come to my side. I’ve always held out hope that our president would do something to change my mind, but that will not come in the form of campaign promises. At this point, the one thing he could do is follow James Carville’s advice and start indicting people. He needs nothing from Congress to do that, and it would quickly publicize who is on whose side. But I know he’ll never do that, because he’s counting on those criminals for campaign money, though I think he will be sorely disappointed in that regard.

I have to look to a third party this time, because if we are going to continue to lose ground whether we have a Democrat or Republican. It does more damage to have a Democratic president’s stamp of approval on it.

Sorry! At least in my case, it has nothing to do with race.

Mitch Huffman


Sep 25 2011 - 11:36pm