One Thing that bin Laden’s Death Won’t Change

Roughly thirty percent of Americans hate Barack Obama.  Roughly thirty percent of Americans are convinced Barack Obama is not a native-born American. Roughly thirty percent of Americans are certain Barack Obama is Muslim. Roughly thirty percent of Americans cannot be convinced that Barack Obama loves America. Roughly thirty percent of Americans will never accept that Barack Obama is a patriot, they will not budge in their hatred of the man, and they will not participate in any national moment of shared relief and satisfaction that an evil man committed to sow violence against innocents within the U.S. and across the earth is no longer a threat to peace.

The roughly thirty percent of Americans who will never budge in their hatred of Barack Obama will never accept him as a legitimate president. In this and many other things they have beliefs that are irreconcilable with those of the rest of Americans. They do not present a serious threat to our ability to remain a country; we are not at risk of a civil war. But their deranged failure to engage reality will continue to distort our politics. And the distortion effects one of our political parties much more than the other.

The thirty percent of Americans who hate Barack Obama are not spread out across the political spectrum. They are almost all Republicans. Much more so than fifteen or thirty years ago, these ultra-conservative (though often politically incoherent) people, these people whose politics are dominated by fear and distrust, are the base of the Republican party and make up the majority of Republican primary voters. Their politics are animated by a hatred of Barack Obama, and harnessing the enthusiasm of the Republican base will require Republican candidates to feed its hatred of Barack Obama.

Because victory in the Republican primary will require harnessing the energy of Obama hatred, we should not expect any “national moment of unity” that includes the aspirants to the Republican presidential nomination. The thirty percent of Americans who hate Obama will not share the relief and satisfaction the rest of Americans–whose sense of proportion and what’s important are not twisted by hatred of our President–feel this morning.

We should and will celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden. But we shouldn’t be sanguine and believe our nation’s woes will be forgotten, that Americans will believe this one act turns everything around and that we are not on the right track, that Americans will now be full of hope for the future. Historically high unemployment, the lingering loss of personal wealth that vanished with the burst of the housing bubble, uncertainties about the future, cynicism about a political system in Washington that seems to many Americans unable to hear their demands and solve their needs, all of these problems could prevent Barack Obama from being elected.

But even many of those who won’t vote for Barack Obama next November will share with those who do and will support Barack Obama an appreciation not just for the men and women who tracked down Osama bin Laden and ended his twisted, anti-Muslim jihad that threatened innocents worldwide, including within the United States. The majority of Americans, again including many who won’t vote for Barack Obama, will share an appreciation of our president and an acknowledgement that when given an opportunity to eliminate bin Laden as a threat to the world, Obama acted with resolve and reported the news without histrionics or triumphal bombast.  But the Republicans seeking their party’s presidential nomination are unlikely to join us, because they are chasing the votes of the thirty percent of Americans who will try to stand athwart history because they hate Barack Obama.

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