President Obama has gotten more death threats in a shorter period of time than any other president in US history. The legion of right side talk radio gabbers, the GOP induced professional mobsters who commit orchestrated mayhem at health care town halls, the birthers, the countless websites and chatrooms that crackle with anti Obama venom, and the endless montage of race baiting cartoons, characterizations and depictions of Obama and First Lady Michelle have created a viperous climate of hate and that knows no bounds.
The stock assumption is that race is the reason that Obama is a bigger target than any other president. That's a huge factor. The mere sight of a black man at the helm is more than enough to drive countless loose screw unreconstructed KKK, Aryan Nation, Skinhead, and the just plain wacky fringe into a froth. But anti-black hate is only one reason for the record number of death threats against him. Threats against presidents often come fast and furious immediately after their election. The reasons are varied; many are the chronic cranks and nut cases, others hate the views of the president, fear change, or just get a titillation from making the threat.
But the GOP strategists and their stealth talk radio and blog allies are playing for much bigger stakes than just bashing a black president. The stakes are a rework of the GOP to take back power. A full throttle destabilization of the Obama administration on everything from the economy to health care is the obvious attack point. The GOP and their surrogates have snatched a page from the playbook used against every Democratic presidential candidate and president by the GOP since Nixon. That's create havoc through character assassination, rumor mongering, fear, intimidation, and emotionally charged code words. The operative tag they've slapped on Obama is socialist. That sets off a Pavlovian drool; reason quickly goes out the window and the red flags run up the mental flagpoles of countless Americans.
Obama's message of hope and change feeds into rightist paranoia. He has drawn an instant global throng of admirers who see in him the embodiment of change and a fresh direction for US policy on the war and the easing of global tensions. He's also seen as a potential president who can put a diverse, humane face on American foreign policy.
These are the exact qualities that stir the deep fury, hatred and resentment among a steadily growing frenetic number of malcontents and hate mongers. The thick list of fringe and hate groups as well as the hordes of unbalanced violence prone individuals running free in America can fill a telephone book. The long history of hate violence in America is more than enough to raise the antenna on the danger of violence against prominent political figures.
The gun culture of the nation adds even more fuel and danger to the mix. Gun and ammo sales have gun through the roof since Obama's election, with many openly bragging that they are ready for a war to win back the country. Whether it's the wholesale wipeout of families, gunning down police officers, or the shoot up of a women's fitness center, the police invariably find that the cracked shooter has made some rant about guns and spouted wacky extremist views.
Obama, of course, has been the target of unbounded hate from the moment that he announced that he was a presidential candidate in February 2007. The personal death threats began flooding in to his campaign. Obama had the dubious distinction of being the earliest presidential contender to be assigned Secret Service protection on the campaign trail. As the crowds grew bigger at Obama rallies and his public visibility grew even greater, the Secret Service increased the number of agents assigned to guard him.
Obama campaign aides and volunteers continued to report occasional racial taunts and jibes when they passed out literature and pitched Obama in some areas. This further increased the jitters that Obama was at risk. As the showdown with John McCain heated up in the general election, the flood of crank, crackpot, and screwball threats that promise murder and mayhem toward Obama continued to pour in. This prompted the Secret Service to tighten security and take even more elaborate measures to insure his safety.
The troubling question though is how tight can the Secret Service clamp the security shield around Obama as president. The same report that there's been a four hundred percent leap in death threats against Obama also noted that the Secret Service is under-agented and under resourced. That's not very comforting. But threats come with the presidential turf, a turf that Obama stands firmly on, and for some that's just to much to stomach.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, "The Hutchinson Report" can be heard weekly in Los Angeles Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on ktym.com