On Sunday, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden visited Homestead Miami speedway to serve as ceremonial grand marshals of the Ford 400, where some in the crowd booed them.
The White House downplayed the incident today, with the First Lady’s communications director Kristina Schake saying only that “Mrs. Obama was proud to join NASCAR in recognizing our nation’s veterans and military families to raise awareness of this important issue for all Americans. As she has always said, she will proudly stand with anyone making a major commitment to serve and honor our military community and yesterday, NASCAR did just that.”
On his radio show today, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh gave many reasons for why he thought they were booed.
Citing the 2008 incident where then-Sen. Obama was secretly recorded at a fundraiser describing small town Pennsylvanians in hard economic times as getting “bitter” and “cling(ing) to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” Limbaugh said “people that go to NASCAR races are the very people her husband called bitter clingers.”
Limbaugh also said “we don’t like being told what to eat; we don’t like being told how much to exercise; we don’t like being told what we’ve got to drive; we don’t like wasting money; we don’t like our economy being bankrupted. We don’t like 14% unemployment. The question is, what the hell is there to cheer for when Miss Obama and Ms. Biden show up?”
The host then took it one step further. “I’ll tell you something else,” he said. “We don’t like paying millions of dollars for Mrs. Obama’s vacations. The NASCAR crowd doesn’t quite understand why when the husband and the wife are going to the same place, the first lady has to take her own Boeing 757 with family and kids and hangers-on four hours earlier than her husband, who will be on his 747. NASCAR people understand that’s a little bit of a waste. They understand it’s a little bit of uppity-ism.”
“Uppity” means “presumptuous,” and is a word with loaded racial connotations. Many in the African-American community associate the word with white racists suggesting an African American is being presumptuous by not knowing his or her proper, lesser, place. In 2008, a couple of Georgia Republican politicians were criticized for using the term, though they asserted that they meant it in the race-neutral dictionary definition way.