The politics of race — flames fanned by a former president 

The Democrats, led by certain members of Congress and former President Jimmy Carter, have developed a new tactic to dismiss growing displeasure with President Barack Obama’s policies. As his approval ratings continue to drop, hesitancy over health care has snarled the plan’s progress and tens of thousands marched on Washington this past weekend, the left has decided the entire opposition can be dismissed by the obfuscating charge of racism.

Just Tuesday, former President Carter told “NBC Nightly News,” “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American.”

No one wants to fall in with racists or to be lumped in with their kind — so, to Carter’s thinking, what choice do we have but to ignore the discontent of any American and praise the administration blindly?

This sort of mindset is not only ignorant, but actually dangerous. A former president of the United States has equated opposition to nationalized health care, government bailouts, and out-of-control spending to racist motives solely because the sitting president is black. Is that the sort of progress we need in this country? Progress where we can no longer have a national debate because of skin color? That’s not the sort of progress Obama has advocated.

Carter has failed to account for the fact that millions of Americans are simply fed up with the big government policies coming out of Washington — the same policies they denounced under President Clinton, at times under Republican Presidents Bush, and certainly from a certain President Carter. Perhaps Carter could take the time to recall conservative frustration when Republican President George W. Bush’s administration spent too much for their liking, or liberal frustration on social issues. Were those concerns racist? Of course not!

In that same interview, Carter also chastened us that, “No matter who he is or how much we disagree with his policies, the president should be treated with respect.”

Of course we should treat our sitting president with respect, and I will be the first to stand against those who do not treat President Barack Obama as the duly elected leader of this country, and you had better believe that I will oppose any racially-motivated attacks Obama or any other leader or individual in this nation.

But in a democracy, we retain the right of dissent, the right of free speech, the right to oppose government policies and the direction of our leadership and the right to speak that disagreement publicly. If we lose that freedom, if we allow it to be suppressed by claims of racism, then what sort of free society are we?

Michael Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation (


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