The ideology that involves identification with a nation is nationalism, and it serves to bind individuals together to work for a common goal that benefits a nation and its population. Most Americans are nationalistic and take pride in this country’s accomplishments, values, and philosophy that freedom and equality are the foundation of what it means to be an American. In conservative circles, a “real American” is a white Christian male who believes in pre-emptive war, American supremacy, and guns, and in its narcissistic point of view, deviation from their beliefs is subversive and unpatriotic. As the tenor of the Republican campaign for president devolves into lies and misinformation borne of no credible agenda or criticism of President Obama, using the ad hominem attack phrase, un-American is the last resort of a desperate GOP.
Republicans started labeling President Obama un-American during the 2008 presidential campaign, and through various subtle and not-so-subtle statements, have perpetuated the myth that the President is not an American and has no idea of what it means to be American. The GOP have used various descriptors to impugn the President as un-American with terms like socialist, Marxist, Muslim, and extreme leftist, but they are all synonyms for African American, foreign, and not “one of us.” What is interesting though, is that no Republican can point out one instance where the President is un-American, and base all their assertions on the simple fact that Obama is not following their prescription for governing. In an email circulated by a teabagger group, President Obama is beaten to death in heaven by the Founding Fathers for subverting America during his presidency. The group, Northeast Pennsylvania Spirit of 1776, sent out an email alert in which it imagines the Founding Fathers beating up President Obama in Heaven for being a “radical, socialist leader.” Is the President a socialist, or radical? No, but it is the perception Republicans have purported for four long years and every Republican has joined in assailing the President as un-American.
Yesterday, it was reported here that former vice-president and convicted war criminal Dick Cheney was the latest to impugn President Obama as un-American. It is not a new low for Cheney because in December 2009, he called the President of the United States un-American, un-patriotic, and a traitor to our country by allegedly “giving aid and comfort to Our enemies.” Cheney explained his appraisal by stating the President “doesn’t believe in a lot of those things that I think most Americans do believe in, in terms of a strong international role for the United States of America.” Cheney and his neo-con cohort define “strong international role” as dominating allies and enemies alike, unilateral pre-emptive war, and regime change in sovereign foreign nations. However, Cheney and Bush-Republicans began using the un-American moniker long before President Obama came on the national scene.
At the start of, and throughout, the Iraq war, dissidence and questions as to the legitimacy and wisdom of pre-emptive war and regime change was labeled unpatriotic by Republicans and the White House. It was the beginning of Bush’s divisive tactics to pit “real Americans” against terrorist sympathizers who Republicans inferred were complicit in bringing about the demise of the United States. Today the implication that President Obama is un-American identifies his supporters as contributing to America’s decline as the dominant force on the world stage. In fact, over the past few months, there have been more than one instance of a Republican asserting that the highest levels of government are being infiltrated by subversives to change the nature of government and they are reminiscent of Joe McCarthy’s purge of Communists during the 1950s.
Allen West (R-FL) replied to an audience member’s question regarding “what percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists” with, “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.” It is no coincidence that there are 80 members of the Progressive Caucus in the House, and since they do not subscribe to Republican’s agenda, West labeled them as communists. Recently, Michele Bachmann sent a letter demanding an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood’s infiltrating the “highest levels of the Obama Administration,” and it is a repeat of her 2008 demand that the media investigate “un-American Obama & Liberals” for anti-American sentiments that prove they hate America. Bachmann, like West, Cheney, and presumptive GOP presidential candidate Romney, are unable to cite one instance of un-American sentiments from President Obama or Democrats, but their purpose is not to ferret out communists from the government, but to inculcate into their supporters minds that any agenda contrary to conservatism is un-American and wrong.
The notion that any opposition to conservative ideals is un-American was best illustrated when big oil testified before Congress about why they needed American taxpayers to continue subsidizing their obscenely profitable business. Last May, when President Obama and Democrats attempted to repeal billions-of-dollars in oil subsidies, one of the world’s largest and most profitable oil companies said it was un-American to cut off their taxpayer-funded entitlements. Republicans have made the President’s “you didn’t build that on your own” out of context statement into proof that he “doesn’t understand what it means to be American” and it prompted Romney campaign advisor John Sununu to state, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.” Sununu meant he wishes this president would learn how to be a neo-conservative war-monger who gives everything to the wealthy. In January 2012, Speaker of the House John Boehner called the President un-American for campaigning to help the struggling middle class in what Republicans called divisive class war. The Romney camp has parroted similar statements throughout the campaign and the meaning is that only an un-American opposes the conservative-corporate agenda and believes the wealthy should pay their fair share in taxes.
Political campaigns are messy affairs, but this is the first time in recent memory that an entire political party is questioning whether or not the President of the United States is an American. Willard Romney has asserted that “Obama’s course is extraordinarily foreign,” and that the President’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans “is very strange and foreign to the American philosophy.” Interestingly, Romney’s hero, Ronald Reagan raised taxes on the wealthy and corporations to make sure “everybody pays their fair share,” and he is highly regarded as the archetype of conservative ideology. The only difference between President Obama’s attempt to raise taxes on the rich and Reagan’s tax increases is the President’s skin color.
This election is shaping up to be one based entirely on race. Republicans have questioned the legitimacy of this President from the start of his tenure and it continues unabated. They cannot accuse the President of raising taxes because tax rates are at their lowest levels in 60 years, and unlike 7 different Republicans, the President has not raised taxes on the wealthy. Republicans also cannot claim out-of-control spending because Obama has spent less than Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and in fact, is also at its lowest level in 60 years. Cheney questioned the President’s Americanism because he “doesn’t believe in a strong international role for the United States of America,” but the President has been exemplary in foreign policy without invading a sovereign nation to depose a leader like Bush did in Iraq. With no real criticism except that the President is not obeying Republicans and following the neo-con model, they are left accusing him of being un-American.
The Romney campaign, and Republicans in general, are appealing to racists and pseudo-patriots who are looking for any reason to oppose President Obama, and in lieu of legitimate criticism have sunk to the lowest form of attack and it informs that if there are any un-American politicians in this country it is the Republican Party. It is, in fact, an indictment of America that instead of discourse and debate, Republicans have reverted to McCarthy-like innuendo and false accusations leveled at a legally elected President who also happens to be Black. These accusations that the President is anti-American began in 2008, and after four years they are escalating to include members of Congress and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s aide, and it portends a dangerous repetition of McCarthyism that pitted American against American that is not reflective of nationalistic pride, but of suspicion and eventual witch hunts touching every American.
It is an incredibly sad commentary that a political party resorts to leveling charges of un-Americanism at a sitting president because he fails to subscribe to conservative policies, and is the wrong race to hold the office of the President. For all the progress so many Americans celebrated at the election of an African American man as president, America is still a racist country where the color of one’s skin is the determining factor of whether they are American or not. What Republicans need to answer is; exactly what this President has done that is un-American besides being Black, or not being a hardline conservative? He rescued the economy, cut taxes, cut spending, decimated al Qaeda, saved Detroit, presided over 25 straight months of job growth, enacted legislation to insure 30 million Americans, and raised this nation’s standing in the world after 8 years of degradation by Bush-Republicans. However, it was anathema to Republicans and to reverse the progress over the past four years, they are using any means to install a true un-American in the Oval Office who will do exactly what Dick Cheney thinks a real American should do; return to Bush-era economics, more tax cuts for the rich, and start wars in the Middle East.