Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Racism, Sexism, and the Republican Party's Benghazi Obsession

The Benghazi “scandal” is a political fetish for Republicans and the Right-wing media. This obsession is one more example of how fringe and extreme political ideas—what were once conspiracy theories exiled to late night AM talk radio—have become the legitimate and mainstream in contemporary Republican politics.

While Republicans would like to believe that Benghazi could be Obama’s “Watergate,” recent data from Public Policy Polling suggests that the Benghazi issue is not resonating among the general public. As such, the Benghazi fixation is a niche issue that has valence only for those already immersed within the Right-wing media echo chamber and news entertainment complex.

Yet, for minimal political gains, and at the risk of further marginalizing their political party, the Republican leadership persists in its Benghazi fetish. Why?

Republicans are fixated on Benghazi in an effort to recapture a sense that despite many of Obama’s successes in this area (and George W. Bush’s legendary failings) they are the de facto party of “national security.” Benghazi is also an opportunity to preemptively target Hillary Clinton before her presumed 2016 Presidential election run.

This is the political logic driving the Republican’s behavior. However it is justified, there is also an ugly lie at the heart of the Right-wing’s Benghazi fixation.

Republicans would like the American people to believe that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton betrayed their oaths of office by watching Americans die in Benghazi, and were either so callous as not to care about what transpired before their eyes in real time, or were more concerned with politics and “spin” than in rescuing the besieged personnel at the diplomatic outpost.

In essence, the Republican Party is accusing President Barack Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of murder by proxy as a result of willful negligence.

While trying to unpack and work through the Republican Party’s conspiratorial machinations, many in the pundit and media classes have been distracted by a sensational example of political theater.

Consequently, the broader context of the Republican Party’s most recent assault on the Obama administration has gone little commented upon. 

Despite the political chaff thrown up to to distract and confuse, in all, Benghazi is one more effort by Republicans to undermine the legitimacy of the country’s first black president.

Obama has been subjected to absurd attacks by conservatives. He is not an American citizen, is a closet “Muslim,” “hates” white people, attended an “anti-white” church, and was mentored by domestic terrorists. Mitt Romney’s (failed presidential campaign) strategy was dependent on mobilizing white voters through an appeal to racial tribalism and white identity politics. As such, Romney used a mix of “dog whistles” and overt racial appeals designed to signal to his base that Obama was a type of racial Other, one not to be trusted as President of the United States.

The attack on Hillary Clinton is a function of many of the same anxieties about a country where a particular type of white masculinity feels both imperiled and under siege. In a mirror of the racially tinged attacks on Barack Obama by the Right-wing media, Hillary Clinton has also been described as “angry” and “not knowing her place.”

Republican Senator James Inhofe, channeled the crude sexism driving the Right’s efforts to use Benghazi to smear Hillary Clinton when he observed how during the January hearings, “I think that she has gotten by with that type of a forceful attitude, something that’s not normally accustomed — that you don’t hear from women as much as you do men.” 

Of course, Hillary Clinton is no stranger to assaults on her integrity and character—during her husband’s term as president, the Clintons were faced with charges by conservatives that they conspired to commit murder in what came to be known as the Whitewater Scandal. 

As we saw during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, contemporary populist conservatism is nothing if not an exercise in protecting white male privilege through an appeal to white victimhood through such polarizing language as “real America” and “taking our country back.”

In this context, a black President and a female Secretary of State are potent symbols that arouse a sense of hostility and anxiety among many Republicans--and especially among the Tea Party base of their party.

In post civil rights era America, there has been a retreat from a constructive and critical engagement with how inequalities of race and gender impact social policy and the Good Society. Moreover, the ethic of “colorblindness” has been reimagined and twisted such that those who even dare to discuss systemic, personal, or institutional examples of white racism in American society are actually marginalized by many on the Right as “the real racists.”

This strategy has born fruit: despite all the available evidence of how racism and racial inequality continues to negatively impact the life changes of people of color in the United States, recent public opinion surveys reveal that a significant percentage of white Americans feel “oppressed” because of their race, and they believe that “racism” against white people is a bigger social problem than discrimination against racial minorities.

The Benghazi scandal is the union of two very powerful forces in post civil rights America and the Age of Obama.

The first, what social scientists have termed “symbolic racism,” is a type of white racial animus which views people of color, and blacks in particular, as being disloyal and not worthy of trust or full citizenship. 

The second is how the Right-wing's war on women’s reproductive rights, equality, and freedom is predicated upon an understanding that men are naturally dominant and women are pre-judged as naturally subordinate.

A black President and a female Secretary of State cannot be reconciled within such a worldview.

Sexism and racism are the guiding impetus behind the Republican Party’s Benghazi obsession. Conservatives will predictably respond in a shrill manner to such a suggestion. Nevertheless, given the ways in which racism and sexism are dominant landmarks on the cognitive map of contemporary Right-wing politics, the synergy of those two social forces are over-determining the Republican Party’s hostility to a black president, and a female Secretary of State.

The manufactured Benghazi scandal is a perfect storm for a Republican Party wherein racism and sexism are synonymous with contemporary conservatism. 


Scopedog said...

"The manufactured Benghazi
scandal is a perfect storm for a Republican Party wherein racism and sexism are
synonymous with contemporary conservatism."

That pretty much says it all. And yet I keep wondering--what the hell are we going to do about it? Are we going to call them out on it--or are we going to go, "Well, let them do it anyway, because Obama did do this or that, and he must be punished anyway."

Vic78 said...

If one plays stupid long enough, there's a point when the person stops playing. Gingrich and Bush were playing back then. These conservatives are a gang of idiots. Just look at the repubs in congress that plan on running for president. I would think God liked me if Rubio or Ron Paul's idiot son were to run against me.

This is worse than the Clinton scandals. They're going after the president for their intentional fuckups. They turned down the request for needed funds. I say the Democratic Party needs to get their heads out of their asses. They need to deal with what's happening today and forget about Hillary.

chauncey devega said...

The Republican Party does not believe, in its present iteration at least, in government or governance. Hopefully, the adults in the room can reform that Party so it serves the people's interest. I doubt it though.

chauncey devega said...

Funny, few I have seen are calling out this obvious dimension. We shall see.

Lee Viola said...

The Rude Pundit sort of hits the mood on the head here. Sorry I can't provide a direct hyperlink---it's the way his website is composed. Look for the "Eulogy" article:


I voted for Obama twice. No way I couldn't, with Palin, Ryan, Romney, McCain, and the rest of the bastards lurking. Yet I never for a second held that Obama or his surrogates had my back. My guess is that he'll be impeached. They'll have their lynching. And at this point, with Gitmo still open, drone warfare, attacks on marijuanna dispensaries, silly stances on OTC birth control, who the fuck cares what happens to him?

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Lorenzo Jonas said...

Vendettas, as a general rule do not work politically, unless you're in Soviet Russia circa 1977

Ben Grim said...

Why are they going at Obama over this 'manufactured' scandal? If the same thing happened in the Bush administration the GOP wouldn't be trying to make a presidential scandal over Ben Ghazi.

But the Democrats would.

chauncey devega said...

that is a prescient--perhaps and hopefully premature--post. good though.

chauncey devega said...

False equivalence?

chauncey devega said...


Ben Grim said...

just pointing out that where people stand on this issue is determined by party affiliation. true equivalence. man, if bush had done the things obama has done the past 4+ years he'd be catching an abundance of flak from so-called liberals. nothing false about that it.

Dustin Jaquez said...

This sort of generalization is unworthy of a writer of your talent. I like a lot of your posts because of their passion for the truth, but this one is lacking.

Here's Benghazi from a sane person's perspective (ie a true non-partisan)

No Obama probably didn't know or remember specifically of the notification of this plan and even if Hilary did know, she gets this sort of intel every damn day so I don't blame her for not following through. Fact is, a lot of people want to bomb our embassies and Im sure we are aware of many plots and do nothing about it...which is normal, otherwise we'd be guilty of paranoia.

Obama knew afterwards that in fact it was an intended group activity guided by a Muslim extremist group, doesn't really matter which one. I think calling this a non-terrorist act was silly and omissive, a statement he certainly should be called out for. Otherwise, this was a slight oversight; but it was the shady coverup that allowed for the Repubs to jump all over it.

Republicans did use this as a focal point: some did so because Obama is black, some because Hilary is a woman. Others called him out because...well, he skewed the truth intentionally.

Simply: he should've been called out on this and he was. Yes, the Repubs are doing it for their own reasons but we don't need that reasoning to conclude this. Similarly, I don't particularly care why Obama and Hilary omitted and twisted this one, slap on the wrist that they did.

Sarah hates Jimmy. Jimmy stole candy. Sarah tattled that Jimmy stole Candy.

You really think Obama didn't steal the candy on this one? I think he stole a piece or two. I don't hate him for it, but I don't see how this is in doubt.

chauncey devega said...

A complement followed by a criticism. Very basic. Please explain this great conspiracy as I am misunderstanding it?

Dustin Jaquez said...

There is no great conspiracy. Obama lied about the nature of the attack. A simple fib that should be acknowledged. The racists and sexists are quick to criticize, but like I said that doesn't change the fact of the lie.

chauncey devega said...

Really. Even give the leaked emails? Don't run with Tea Party GOP's cooked version of events...which has been exposed repeatedly as a lie.