The Artful Smear

In November 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president, the nation’s economy was in shambles, unemployment was high, and two unpopular wars in the Middle East raged. The Onion, a satirical news group proclaimed, “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job.”

President Obama has done that job while facing a long list of personal challenges. He has continually faced allegations that he was not born in the U.S. (He was in fact born in Hawaii), is secretly a Muslim (He is in fact Christian), and that he is not a patriot. (Seriously.) The volatile question of Race has consistently dogged him in both overt and insidious ways.

Hillary Clinton’s political campaigns have repeatedly brought Sexism out of hiding. T-Shirts proclaiming “Bros before Hos,” and products like the “Hillary Nutcracker,” spawned humorous media stories and were widely sold on the Internet in 2008. Female politicians “cannot be unkempt…they have to be carefully coifed and scripted at all times…they can’t be too quiet or too loud, too emotional or too cold, too meek or too aggressive.” They should “be pretty, but not too pretty.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton’s opponent in the 2016 presidential contest enjoys labels like “sincere” and “authentic” in spite of or because of his unkempt hair, ill-fitting suits, and unpolished accent. Everybody’s crazy grandpa Bernie Sanders, is drawing large crowds and calling for “political revolution.”

In 1968, The BeatlesJohn Lennon wrote Revolution, a song that the “political left” viewed as a betrayal of their cause. But Lennon was alarmed by anti-war protests that had become extreme (“count me out”) and expressed doubt about destructive political tactics of the time.

In the days before the recent Iowa caucuses, Mr. Sanders’ supporters became extremely vocal with derogatory and misogynistic messages aimed at Mrs. Clinton. And on caucus night the Sanders rally took a “darker turn” with ugly chants of “she’s a liar” and loud boos when her image appeared on the room’s large screens. Indeed, the Sanders staff had to turn off the televisions. And they’ve cautioned the “Bernie Bros” to tone it down.

This week, President Obama made his first visit to a mosque in America, seeking to rebut “inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim-Americans" from Republican presidential candidates. As a man who spent his childhood partly in Asia among Muslims, Mr. Obama wants to change the world by countering a “warped image of Islam.” As one of his young Muslim-American advisors said, “you can make it if you try in America - no matter who you are or how you pray.”

For a compelling history of the 2008 campaign, as told by news media, politicians, and ordinary people, see King's Dream: Barack Obama Becomes President of the United States of America.