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Racial Prejudice in 2012

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The 2012 presidential election campaign has been disappointing. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this election is that were President Barack Obama white it is likely he would be on his way to a landslide victory.

President Obama inherited a disastrous mess. When he entered office the economy was shrinking at 9 percent annually due to the Bush Recession. About 800,000 Americans were losing jobs each month. The banking system was on the verge of collapse, the housing market was a disaster, and the American car industry was dying. The country was engaged in two difficult and costly wars, both in lives and resources, with no end in sight. Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, and mastermind of the worst attack on U.S. soil, continued to plot against America and its allies.

In his inaugural speech, at the U.S. Capitol before nearly 2 million people, the president said, "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord." But, inside the Capitol, Republicans met and formulated a plan to obstruct, deny and delay the president's agenda. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would later publicly state that making President Obama a one-term president, not the economy, was the number one priority of his party.

The new president, facing fierce partisan opposition, signed into law the Recovery Act, a.k.a. the stimulus package. Although it was smaller than he originally proposed, most economists credit it with righting the stalling economy. Even Representative Paul Ryan requested stimulus money to help businesses in his district. The president also signed tough banking reform legislation to assure a similar crisis would not occur. He enacted the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that assures fair pay for women. He bailed out the American auto companies over the objections of many Republicans, including Governor Mitt Romney, who wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece that they should be allowed to go bankrupt. The auto bailout saved one million jobs, and now the industry is vibrant again.

The president's signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) will make health care more affordable and accessible to all Americans, and protect consumers from abuses by insurance companies. For instance, no longer can insurance companies deny people health care benefits because they have a pre-existing condition. More importantly, 40 million uninsured Americans will be covered and the government will realize $1 trillion in health care savings over the next decade, according to its sponsors. .

But Republicans have used Obamacare (rhymes with Romneycare) as a major rallying cry against the president, falsely charging it is a government take over of health care, that it would restrict an individual's choices, and that it would set up death panels. While they offered no credible alternatives, they demonized the president as a socialist.

The president had promised to end the war in Iraq, and he did. But Republicans were vociferous in their criticism, saying he withdrew too early. The president promised a military build up in Afghanistan, where the war was nearly in its tenth year, and he did. The president also set a deadline of June 2014 for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from that country. But Republicans criticized the president for announcing a deadline. And just last week candidate Mitt Romney announced at the third debate that he agreed with the president's deadline after all.

The president made getting Osama bin Laden a top priority early on in his administration. Bin Laden had eluded capture for nearly a decade, and was a low priority for both President George Bush and candidate Romney. But in May 2011, U.S. forces killed the world's most heinous terrorist leader, in Pakistan. The president took a huge political risk by ordering the killing, but now Republicans claim that anyone would have done the same thing.

The president has had some missteps during his first term. The U.S. economy is still sluggish and too many people remain unemployed. But the world is a different place today than it was in the early 1980's, when President Ronald Reagan revived a bad U.S. economy. Economic growth in China and India has slowed; much of Europe is still in a recession. Nonetheless, under President Obama the U.S. economy has enjoyed 31 straight months of jobs growth and unemployment is at its lowest point, 7.8 percent, since he took office.

At the Democratic Convention, President Bill Clinton said, "No president, not me, not any of my predecessors, could have repaired all of the damage he found in just four years." When one considers the animus and vitriol that has roiled the American political scene, stirred by Republicans and Tea Party loyalists, it is a wonder that the man who called for "unity of purpose" has succeeded at all.

Mr. Obama has been labeled "the food stamp president" and an "anti-colonialist" by leading Republicans. He has repeatedly been treated with unprecedented disrespect, including on the floor of the House of Representatives. His place of birth has been constantly questioned, as have his academic records. About a third of all Republicans think the president is a Muslim and not a Christian. Most recently, when General Colin Powell, a leading Republican, war hero and African American, announced his thoughtful endorsement for the president's reelection, right wing critics sniped. Former Vermont Governor John Sununu, and chief Romney surrogate, said, "Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him."

On Saturday, the Associated Press released a poll that found, "51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey." According to AP, "Overall, the survey found that by virtue of racial prejudice, President Obama could lose 5 percentage points off his share of the popular vote in his Nov. 6 contest against Republican challenger Mitt Romney." Racial prejudice actually increased in America over the past four years with an African American in the White House, a president who has rarely raised the issue of race.

Americans should vote for the candidate who they believe will be the best president. But to use race as a factor would only reward those who have divided the nation by using fear and hatred to achieve their political agenda.

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