The foregoing assertion might seem obvious, but for a long time I had some doubts. Certainly, the frothing, irrational hatred of Obama that is so widespread on the right in this country demands an explanation, and racism is the most natural. But I couldn’t help pondering that Bill Clinton, a white boy from the South, incurred a very comparable animus. The Repbublicans did, after all, try to impeach the man, and he—often along with his wife–was the object of conspiracy theories and beliefs hardly less bizarre than those that attach to Obama. (Remember White House aide Vince Foster? Many, many books were sold “proving” that Foster’s apparent suicide was a sham to cover for his murder at the hands of the Clintons.) Any Democrat in the White House would be targeted by right-wing paranoia. I must admit, it’s impressionistic—I don’t know of any rigorous quantitative studies of presidential hatred—but I’m not convinced that Obama-hatred has been much more intense or widespread than Clinton-hatred.
But for some reason it has only recently occurred to me that there are explanations for Clinton hatred that don’t apply to Obama. Rightly or wrongly, Clinton was associated in people’s minds with the turbulent decade of the 60s that wrought so many changes in American politics and culture. Clinton had been a pot-smoking (if not inhaling), draft dodging, war-protesting libertine who personified all the things about that decade that so upset so many people. So, I would estimate roughly that Clinton hatred was roughly 50% automatic—he was a Democrat—and 50% counter-counter-cultural blowback.
Clinton was the country’s first post-World War II president. Obama is the country’s first post-60s president. Obama was only a child as the 60s were unfolding, and even though the right has shown a remarkable talent for blaming almost anything on Obama, it is a bit too much of a stretch to blame him for the 60s. And Obama’s personal life, compared to Clinton’s, is a boring model of rectitude. So, I think that about 50% of Obama hatred is knee-jerk anti-Democrat animus. But the other 50% is racism, pure and simple.