There's an old adage popular among lawyers: If your case is weak on the law, pound the facts. If it's weak on the facts, pound the law. If your case is weak on the facts and the law, pound the table.
Democrats—frustrated by the public's resistance to their grand scheme to federalize health care and desperate to discredit legitimate opposition by changing the terms of the debate—are pounding the table, invoking allegations of racism as the motivation for the opposition.
The notion that a subversive racist element is behind the growing disapproval of President Obama's domestic policy agenda is absurd. Of course, there are bigots—on the left and the right—but the growing opposition to Obamacare is rooted in policy, not prejudice. Having seen how the policies of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd impacted the financial and housing markets, Americans are skeptical about what might happen if those same federal bureaucrats take control of healthcare. The anger on display at town halls and tea parties has nothing to do with the color of President Obama's skin and everything to do with fear for the political, economic, and social future of the United States.
Candidate Obama garnered support during the campaign from a broad array of Americans inspired by his message of hope and change. Democrats, Independents, and even some Republicans disillusioned by President Bush's brand of conservatism were eager for a fresh face and a new tone in Washington. On Election Day, the entire nation enjoyed a historic moment of bipartisan solidarity as we celebrated the inauguration of our first African American president. It didn't take long, however, for President Obama's carefully crafted facade of moderation and bipartisanship to crack, and many are disappointed at what they've found beneath the surface.
Americans are disappointed with President Obama's decision to bail out the banking and auto industries. They are frustrated that billions of dollars allocated for "recovery and reinvestment" have done little to stem the tide of rising unemployment. They are chagrined that the bureaucratic mismanagement associated with the programs of Mr. Obama's predecessors have come to characterize his own. They are irritated that President Obama's pledge of transparency and accountability was an empty campaign slogan, as evidenced by a steady stream of 1000-plus page legislation that no one—not even Congress—has the time to read or understand. They are exasperated at his hedging on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. Hence, for the increasingly disappointed multitudes, the President's plan for the American health care system is simply a bridge too far.
Opposition to President Obama's health care plan has nothing to do with race and everything to do with competing philosophies of government. President Obama has made clear his belief that government should have a prominent role in the lives of the citizenry—a role that influences virtually every facet of our lives, from the kind of car we drive to the kind of health insurance we have to the kind of education our children receive. For those who agree with Thomas Jefferson that "a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement," the President's plan for health care "reform" represents nothing less than a sacrifice of individual liberty in exchange for servitude, and the destruction of the free market in favor of a government planned economy.
Instead of addressing this issue on the merits, people like Nancy Pelosi and Jimmy Carter would rather sling mud. Once the race card was played, they were counting on the fact that opposing points of view would be effectively muzzled. After all, who wants to be branded a racist? This shameful tactic—calculated to quench rather than foster debate—is nothing more than a confirmation that the Democrats' proposal for overhauling the health care system is indefensible.
Where were Mr. Carter's cries of racism when Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were subjected to the basest of racial epithets for daring to work for a Republican administration? Where were Ms. Pelosi's crocodile tears and prophesies of violence when anti-war protesters marched with signs advocating the assassination of President Bush? Apparently, only when an African American opposes the Republican agenda or protesters incite violence against a white Republican president do Pelosi and Carter see patriotic dissent.
President Obama, for his part, deserves great credit for refusing to participate in the race baiting. He seems to understand the damage such irresponsible rhetoric would inflict upon his legacy, the health care debate, and the mood of the American people.
It's too bad that other political leaders refuse to follow the President's lead and lack the integrity to drag themselves out of the gutter and address the merits of an issue that will affect all Americans.
Ken Connor is an attorney and co-author of "Sinful Silence: When Christians Neglect Their Civic Duty" He is also Chairman of the Center for a Just Society. For more articles and resources from Mr. Connor and the Center for a Just Society, go to www.centerforajustsociety.org