Nobel Nastiness

How Obama Can Silence His Critics

It is a sign of our weird political moment that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama will probably hurt him among some of his fellow citizens. His opponents are describing the award as premature. The deeper problem is that the Nobel will underscore the extent to which Obama is a cosmopolitan figure, much loved in European capitals because he is the change they have been looking for.

Most Americans will probably be happy to have a leader who wins acclaim around the globe. But, paradoxically, a decision made in Oslo to honor Obama's peaceable intentions may make it more difficult for him to reconcile a body politic roiled by years of cultural warfare, partisan animosity, and ideological extremism.

The effort to understand where Obama hatred comes from has been one of the few growth areas in the U.S. economy. There is no doubt that some of the anger is fueled by racial feeling, which is not the same as saying that all opposition to Obama is explained by racism. Most Obama opponents are simply conservative Republicans who disagree with him. But there are too many racist signs at rallies and too many overtly racial pronouncements in the fever swamps of the right-wing media to deny that racism is part of the anti-Obama mix.

Obama can't do much about those who oppose him because of his race. Even a 1-percent unemployment rate wouldn't change the minds most scarred by prejudice. But there is a second level of angry opposition...

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About the Author

E. J. Dionne Jr. is a syndicated columnist, professor of government at Georgetown University, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book is Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (Bloomsbury Press).