The more I think about it, the more the townhall anti-Obama anger isn't explained completely by the issues (sorry, Frank ). There's also something about Obama himself-. But that something (or the main something) isn't his race. It's that he's a relative newcomer, as Presidents go--an unknown quantity, an enigma , with a short track record and patches of that record left fuzzy. That means opponents can fill in the blanks with ominous possibilities. It makes paranoia more rational, if you will.
For example, a few months ago I went to a discussion of the pending "card check" bill Obama has endorsed (enigmatically!). Talk turned to the bill's astoundingly intrusive provision for federal arbitration of initial labor contracts, which would inevitably involve not only the setting of wages but also the organization of work itself. A conservative law prof said he knew Obama as a colleague, and the Obama he knew wouldn't really want that level of detailed and pervasive (if uncoordinated) government direction of economic enterprises . Was the prof right? I have no idea. In contrast, I think I have a pretty confident idea of where Bill Clinton would come down on that issue. I even have a clear idea of where Jimmy Carter would come down on the issue.**
The uncertainty about Obama made it wildly important that he not do things that would give the most common ominous speculation--that he's way on the left of the possible envelope--any traction. Obviously, Obama's White House understands this. Larry Summers is not a lighnting rod for the right. But the Obama-ites apparently failed to internalize this imperative sufficiently to allow them to exclude the Van Joneses and Yosi Sergants from government with the ruthlessness required in a year when they were asking taxpayers to trust them with administering an unprecedented stimulus package and restructuring Detroit and the financial system--all before transforming the nation's health care system. They've been ruthless, just not ruthless enough. Maybe they were lulled into thinking the MSM would, or could, protect them as it had during the campaign (e.g., when Rev. Wright cropped up). But asking 21st century Americans to rely on the assurances of elites is a good way to produce a populist revolt.
After a few years of Obama, voters will have a surer sense of him on their own and the paranoia should subside. Unfortunately, his biggest legislative fight is now.
**--Of course, one reason a voter might not have a clear idea is that it's been heretofore hard to imagine that mandatory federal arbitration would even be an issue--in recent decades it's been beyond the mainstream pale. If unions didn't like a deal they could strike and try to get a better deal. Then labor got desperate and came up with mandatory arbitration.
Unfamiliar issues + Unfamiliar president = Paranoia.