Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall thinks that one of the reasons many conservatives despise President Obama is that he's black, but that's basically a micro-issue. The macro version, Marshall contends, is that Republicans' race-based detestation of Obama is inseparable from their discomfort with an increasingly multiracial Democratic party. In fact, Marshall argues that their "crazy...aggrieved and intense" efforts to hobble President Clinton stemmed in large part from their belief that Clinton was committed to the ideals of the civil-rights movement.
From Marshall's Wednesday post (emphasis added):
For years, we've had a running conversation about how much or whether the often vitriolic, seemingly gut level opposition to President Obama is tied to his race as opposed to simple partisanship, opposition to policies and more...[I]t's a question that is inherently over-determined since the same people who might bear a racial animus toward the President probably also oppose him intensely purely on policy grounds.
But we do have a resounding counter-factual always ready at hand: Bill Clinton.
...[S]uffice it to say that if Republicans have gone batshit crazy on President Obama, it's pretty hard to distinguish the intensity of the crazy from what happened with President Clinton. Bribery, multiple murders, rapes, defections to Russia, endless would be "-gates" rising and falling like bubbles in the international economy before settling down as penny stock scandals with a permanent home at the American Spectator. There was no end of the Crazy. And much of it was aggrieved and intense in ways that today we'd find very familiar.
But if the intensity is comparable, the character seems different. There's a dimension of racial animus today lacking in the Clinton days...
But Bill Clinton may not be quite the counterfactual he may seem. Remember Toni Morrison's line about Bill Clinton being the 'first black president'...
Morrison...was talking about how Clinton was treated - the way he was stalked, convicted long before any wrongdoing was or even might be found, even having his body figuratively stripped naked and his sexuality put on vivid display before the whole country.
...It's not just that President Obama is black, he's also a Democratic president. And the Democratic Party is perceived as the institutional protector of the interests of African-Americans....And while President Clinton was ready to pivot off perceptions of the 'blackness' of the Democratic Party at key moments, at the end of the day he carried with him to the presidency and through his presidency the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, a fact of political power many in America were not yet ready to accept as a settled thing - a key element in understanding the intensity and identity of his most aggrieved political enemies...
American demography is dramatically different than it was 22 years ago when President Clinton was first elected. The Democratic Party is now demonstrably a multiracial party, with at best a bit more than 50 percent of its votes coming from whites, facing off against a party that is now overwhelmingly white. To whatever extent opposition to President Obama is racial, it's not only because he's black himself, it's because he's the leader of the party that is the institutional representative of black people. Indeed, in a way that wasn't nearly so clear 22 years ago, the Democratic Party now disproportionately represents African-Americans, Hispanics, East Asians and South Asians. It's the most visible force in American political life that stands for an America that looks a lot more like the current Democratic Party than the current Republican Party.