Although conservatives are loathe to admit it, much of the Republican Party’s anti-Obama sentiments are driven by racism—the unprecedented obstructionism and incidents such as the “birther movement” clearly contain racist undertones.
Science is now confirming this hypothesis. According to researchers at Stanford University, when white voters were shown photos of President Obama with digitally-altered (Photoshopped) darker skin, these individuals became twice as likely to identify with far right-wing groups such as the Tea Party.
The Washington Post details how sociologist Robb Willer conducted the experiment from 2011 to 2015. Willer was questioning how the Tea Party arose so swiftly and powerfully following Obama’s inauguration in 2008, ousting many moderate Republican incumbents.
“[It] left a lot of analysts slack-jawed, wondering: What was this latent force that drove the emergence of this movement?” Willer expressed.
In his research, Willer and his colleagues showed two groups of white voters pictures of many celebrities, including Obama. However, while one group was shown a photo of Obama with lighter skin, the other group was shown Obama with much darker skin.
When later asked whether they supported a group such as the Tea Party, the white respondents who saw Obama with darker skin were twice as likely to say yes.
Willer connected these sentiments to the emergence of a GOP candidate such as Donald Trump. “A lot of analysts have been shocked to see a major party candidate receive so much popular support despite a track record of controversial statements toward multiple ethnic groups. It's less surprising if you think of the Tea Party as a sort of historical bridge to the Trump candidacy,” he noted.
The Tea Party was undoubtedly a precursor to Trump, and both the party and the candidate demonstrate how racial biases continue to infiltrate our political discourse, despite strong efforts to combat this.
Regardless, next time conservatives accuse liberals of “race-baiting,” they should take a hard look at this study.
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