Unsurprisingly, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham bowed deeply to New Yorker editor David Remnick and his new book on their agreed-upon hero, Barack Obama: "envy gives way to admiration" of Remnick’s skills, he wrote in his "Top of the Week" commentary in the magazine. Meacham hyped the notion that when asked about the "racial component of the opposition," Obama told Remnick "I tend to be fairly forgiving about the anxiety that people feel about change."
Neither Obama or the journalists who adore him seem to grasp that conservatives aren’t anxious about "change" – they’re anxious about crushing debt, and America’s lunge toward European-style socialism. Meacham found Obama’s words to Remnick admirable, where most conservatives would find them patronizing, about our slowness to recognize the greatness of the "evolution" unfolding:
"America evolves, and sometimes those evolutions are painful. People don't progress in a straight line. Countries don't progress in a straight line. So there's enormous excitement and interest around the election of an African-American President. It's inevitable that there's going to be some backlash, potentially, to what that means -- not in a crudely racist way, necessarily. But it signifies change, in the same way that immigration signifies change, in the same way that a shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy signifies change, in the same way that the Internet signifies change and terrorism signifies change.
And so I think that nobody should have ever been under the illusion – certainly I wasn't, and I was very explicit about this when I campaigned -- that by virtue of my election, suddenly race problems would be solved or conversely that the American people would want to spend all their time talking about race. I think it signifies progress, but the progress preceded the election. The progress facilitated the election. The progress has to do with the day-to-day interactions of people who are working together and going to church together and teaching their kids to treat everybody equally and fairly. All those little interactions that are taking place across the country add up to a more just, more tolerant, society.
But that's an ongoing process. It's one that requires each of us, every day, to try to expand our sense of understanding. And there are going to be folks who don't want to promote that understanding because they're afraid of the future. They don't like that evolution. They think, in some fashion, that it will disadvantage them or, in some sense, diminishes the past. I tend to be fairly forgiving about the anxiety that people feel about change because I think, if you're human, you recognize that in yourself."
Obama is defining liberalism as "expanding our sense of understanding," and conservatives as anti-understanding and "afraid of the future." But Obama’s jock-sniffers in the press like Meacham think this statement is magnanimous, and not insulting. Remnick was more inflammatory on the Charlie Rose show on Monday in evaluating the racism in Obama’s opposition:
REMNICK: And he said more and more he reminds me of a Rorschach test, Obama himself, because people see him the way they want to see him, whether it`s a question of promise or radically on the other side it as you see at the far end of the tea party movement, they see in Obama a threat to American-ness. There’s a real kind of racialist and racist tinge to the far end of the tea party movement.
I mean there’s a completely legitimate conservative opposition I may not agree with, but there are extremists who see in Obama, because he's named what he's named, because he looks the way he looks, as a threat to American-ness as they understand it. And it`s very disturbing but it`s something Obama spends a lot of time thinking about.
ROSE: Because they think, those on the extreme think he will change the nature of the country?
REMNICK: What's the phrase -- "We want our country back." What does that really mean, Charlie, really? Is it about tax rates? Is it about health care debates? It seems to me something even --
ROSE: What do you think it is?
REMNICK: Well, I think for some people -- for some people, I want to emphasize that- - that there is a -- that race is attached to it, that ethnicity is attached to it. This is a country is in the words of James Baldwin, white no longer and will not be white in its majority.
Only in the minds of liberals and actual racists are whiteness (or even white majority status) associated with "American-ness." Most conservatives are not losing sleep at night at the idea that whites won’t be the majority of the population in 2040. They’re losing sleep at the idea that by 2040, we’ll have the "safety net" and the economic system of a Scandinavian socialist country, complete with the seven-dollar-a-gallon gas prices.