President Obama’s gloves are off. He’s sat through 8 years of racism directed towards himself, his wife and his policies. Now that his presidency is coming to an end, he has a few remarks for white Republicans opposed to government expansion.
Donald Trump won the election partially due to his anti-government rhetoric. He promised to drain the swamp of corruption, reduce federal hiring and make America great again by dismantling large sections of the government. Now that he’s appointing a cabinet and creating policy decisions, many of his supporters are dismayed. The working class whites who elected Trump to office have been surprised to learn that the Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security they rely on is part of the government, too.
For President Obama, this opposition to collective programs can be partially attributed to race. Ever since Reagan raised the specter of the welfare queen, entitlement programs have been associated with urban blacks. That’s led to massive reform of SNAP and TANF programs. It also led to the massive opposition to the ACA, or Obamacare.
In an interview with The Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, President Obama brought up the history of government benefiting white communities. He talked about the Tennessee Valley Authority, the GI bill and how the Federal Housing Authority helped white families move to the suburbs. Then he quietly pointed out the hypocrisy in the beneficiaries of these programs suddenly criticizing government now that it’s helping Black and Latino families. He called on Republicans to “at least ask yourself the question of how consistent you are” and examine what’s changed.
Given that President Obama can’t even wear a tan jacket or drink a cup of coffee without facing immediate criticism, it’s unlikely that Republicans will reflect on his words. Even if they don’t accept this reality, many researchers have found a link between racially charged resentment and opposition to government programs. In this post-truth world, scientific data may not matter to the right anymore, but President Obama isn’t giving up hope.