Is Barack Obama the 'Most Racist President' in American History?
In a word, no.
Politicians and pundits will say almost anything to attract headlines, promote their latest project or derail a conversation about policy issues when the pressure is on — especially during election season. In the current cycle, no baseless attack or armchair commentary has been more ridiculous than what author Ben Stein had to say about President Barack Obama.
In an interview Sunday with Fox News host Shannon Bream, the former lawyer, political speechwriter and Ferris Bueller's Day Off actor accused Democrats of unfairly using race to drive partisanship in politics, claiming that Republicans should be celebrated for what they've done for the people of color in America.
But during what was otherwise a discussion about the economy heading into the midterm elections, it's what Stein said about Obama, the nation's first black president, that's most telling about the current state of politics.
"This president is the most racist president there has ever been in America. He is purposely trying to use race to divide Americans," Stein said. "The idea that Republicans are in some way making life difficult for black people is just absolute nonsense."
What a surprise that this tirade on so-called "race-baiting" originated from an otherwise wealthy, white, straight and conventionally masculine male.
To start, Stein accused U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder of using his position to make all legal issues into a matter of "the white police beating up on the poor brown people," an unquestionable reference to the recent police shooting deaths of young black and brown people.
Keep in mind that this is coming from the same person who said Michael Brown may have not had a weapon when he was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, but that he was "armed with his incredibly strong, scary self." Stein's tirade, which plays on racial resentment among some conservative voters, was prompted by nothing more than this:
Instead of keeping the focus on the meat and potatoes of a policy discussion, Stein used his screen time to push back against many ads in key states that draw connections between Republican policy stances and the quality of life for black people in America, accusing black people of not voting on issues solely because of Obama's skin color.
"They're allowed to feel however they want to feel, but it's basically just an excuse for 'I'm going to vote for President Obama because he's my own race,'" Stein said.
Unfortunately, research shows that black voters have historically voted alongside Democrats because they've tired of racialized rhetoric and policy ideas coming overwhelmingly from GOP candidates and officials. That hasn't changed much, if at all, in recent years.
But what does need to change is how racial divisions preclude productive conversations and action on policies — and how they can be created to help everyone, not just those who already have the most power.