It’s known as "projection": the trait by which one attributes to others various "dark side" attitudes and motivations. The current practice of accusing the Iranian government of warlike intentions in order to rationalize one’s own desires to attack that country is one example. Another instance is found in the efforts of numerous Democratic party supporters to explain the opposition to Barack Obama’s policies as racist-driven. Such "liberal" commentators as Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Alan Colmes, Colbert King, and Frank Rich, along with former president Jimmy Carter, have strained and contorted their minds to suggest that "much" of the criticism of Obama programs — particularly that found in the "Tea Party" movement — arises from people who are uncomfortable with a black man as president.
How has race played into the Obama presidency? To begin with, we must identify the factors that led to this man being elected to that office: (a) he was the "not George Bush" candidate, and (b) for many, he was the opportunity for the United States to have its first non-white president. These considerations, alone, led to his victory in 2008. He offered no clearly-defined programs or policies: "change" and "hope" were about the only words to appear on his behalf on billboards and bumper-stickers. He did not campaign on promises to escalate American wars in the Middle East; to expand the American empire; to nationalize the banking, insurance, auto manufacturing, and health-care industries; or to circumvent the often dilatory processes of Congress by his appointment of "czars" to run the varied sectors of American society. "Hope" and "change" were sufficient bromides to persuade a thoroughly befuddled Boobus to stagger into voting booths to elect this man.
In these post-2008 years, I totally dismiss everything establishment Republicans and conservatives have to say about Obama’s shortcomings and their own "alternatives." It was the unprincipled mindlessness of this crowd — cheering on every utterance offered by the Bush/Cheney/Rove/Rumsfeld contingent, as well as their neocon media flacks — that produced the immoral and destructive policies that got Obama elected; policies he now kicks into high-gear! Ron Paul was — and continues to be — the only Republican to condemn the GOP’s embrace of rampant statism. The dismal state of this party is seen in its contemptuous treatment of Ron.
If race is to be considered a major factor in the assessment of Obama, what is to be said of the support he received during the 2008 campaign? I saw a number of post-election polls indicating that, among black voters, Obama received some 95% of their support. Some 40% of white voters, on the other hand, selected Obama. While traditional party loyalties may explain some of this differential, that 40% of white voters favored Obama, while only 5% of blacks voted for McCain, may introduce a racial factor that "liberals" want to overlook. When, on election night, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews announced "I’m going to do everything I can to make this thing work — this new presidency," to what "thing" was he referring? It certainly was not the success of any announced policies, as nothing of any substance had been promised. I received similar comments in e-mails from "liberal" friends, causing me to wonder if a black president’s programs were to be favored over those of a white president and, if so, why? Are those who try to convince you that race motivates many of Obama’s critics, projecting their own sense of uneasiness for allowing race to be the basis for their support?
One cannot understand modern political behavior without grasping a basic truth of which your high-school civics class teacher did not inform you: we have a one-party system consisting of two interconnected franchises, each under the complete control of the political establishment. If you would like to put Janus-like faces to this arrangement, think of that frequent media guest, David Gergen, a man who served as a bipartisan presidential advisor to Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. Or look upon the married couple, Mary Matalin and James Carville: she a valued GOP advisor to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney; he a Democratic advisor to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The political establishment loves the imagery of bipartisanship, a word reflecting satisfaction with either political party’s policies. If Boobus thought, for even a moment, of the necessary implications of "bipartisanship," he would quickly become aware of the racket being played at his expense by the entire system. But thinking, even for a moment, is something establishment forces cannot tolerate. This is why Ron Paul is persona non grata to both parties, the establishment’s media lapdogs, and other institutional interests intent on preserving their places at the beltway trough. Thinking — like information generally — is threatening to power interests dependent upon an unfocused group-think. Would the Iraqi/Afghan wars have been possible if Americans had used their heads for other than locations upon which to place their "U.S.S. Missouri" baseball caps?
And, so, Ron Paul and all others who insist on analyzing government policies on the basis of facts and focused reasoning, must be marginalized. Like the fable of the boy who saw the emperor’s nakedness, the political order will send out its reporters to impress upon Boobus the beauty of non-existent fabrics. In order to discourage questioning by others, establishment voices resort to the tactic upon which deceit is always dependent: name-calling. The power of intimidation is called into play: those who suspect there may be dishonest purposes underlying government policies, are accused of being "paranoid conspiracy theorists." Persons who condemn the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians are labeled "anti-Semites." (During the George W. Bush administration, we were told that criticism of "neocons" was really a cover for anti-Semitism.) Now we are told that men and women who disapprove of the increased collectivization of the economy; or of the crony-capitalism that shovels hundreds of billions of dollars into corporate coffers; or of the state’s increased control over their daily lives; or of government policies that enhance the economic collapse of America; are doing nothing more than indulging in racist bigotries!
Those who disapprove of government, itself, are accused — by those who use state power to feed on the energies of others — of promoting "violence." Herein lies another example of projection. What political science student does not recognize the basic definition of "government" as "an agency with a monopoly on the use of violence within a given geographic territory"? As distinct from the marketplace — which consists of a system of voluntary, contractual exchanges among individuals — all political systems are characterized by the lawful authority to use violent force to compel those subject to it to obey. Policemen are the coercive enforcers of state authority. When Randolph Bourne observed that "war is the health of the state," he was getting to its violent essence, a truth easily confirmed by the 200,000,000 deaths inflicted upon humanity through government wars and genocides during the 20th century. Are we really to believe that those who oppose such practices, and favor free and peaceful social systems, are advocates of violence? You will not hear questions of this sort discussed in the mainstream media. If Boobus is to be kept in harness, in service to his masters, his blinders must be kept in place.
Such queries will, however, continue to energize the growing number of minds who know that the political order — as well as the society victimized by political thinking — is in a state of disrepair. They know that if present practices remain unchallenged, their lives will suffer the adverse consequences. As they intensify both the depth and scope of their questioning, they will have to endure the intimidation and defamation of a statist regime desperate to keep its herd intact. Rather than seeking out the insights of those whose reasoned analyses strike at the heart of the vicious racket being played at the expense of humanity, they will be encouraged to turn to the comic relief, contradictions, and distractions provided by the Tea Party, and the likes of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and John McCain.
Butler Shaffer [send him e-mail] teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of the newly-released In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918—1938 and of Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival. His latest book is Boundaries of Order.