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Monday, April 05, 2010

Bigots Among Us

My eyes get misty. The thoughts and feelings come rushing back. A longing returns for those halcyon days when The New York Times was less brazen in its attempts to smear the American Right:

Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy.

Hence their anger and frustration, which is playing out in ways large and small. There is the current spattering of threats and violence, but there also is the run on guns and the explosive growth of nefarious antigovernment and anti-immigrant groups. In fact, according to a report entitled “Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism” recently released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, “nativist extremist” groups that confront and harass suspected immigrants have increased nearly 80 percent since President Obama took office, and antigovernment “patriot” groups more than tripled over that period.

Excuse us, while me and Billy Bob go drag up the extra flammable cross from the basement (available at Hick-Mart at the everyday low price of $49.95). Has anyone passed along the memo that Sarah Palin is a heroine for the Tea Party? It's unlikely that Nancy Pelosi's gender is getting any of the Tea Party people all that riled up. The American Right, including the Tea Party, is pretty supportive of the State of Israel. The Jews in government schtick isn't going to be all that scary to them. Yes, Barack Obama is black, or more correctly of mixed race. The good old boys may not like that, but aside from a few hand made signs, and the odd nut getting noticed by television crews, the Tea Party as Klan potluck meme doesn't really fly. Certainly the DNC, and the broader American Left, devoutly wishes they could dismiss opposition to the President's interventionist plans as so much knuckle dragging from the John Deere crowd, but the reality is more nuanced. 

There are nuts in the Tea Party movement. There are nuts pretty high up in the DNC. The undergraduate Marxist with the "Capitalism Kills" sign is no more representative of the Democratic Party than the Good Old Southern Bigot is a Republican in good standing. With two broad national parties, the lunatic fringe has only so many places to go. The narrow minded redneck is a useful standby in the Democratic rhetorical arsenal - as it is for the Liberals and NDP in Canada. It's a simple caricature which is plausible to people who rarely venture beyond the urban islands of North America. The hick is an old stock figure, every generation reinvents him to its end. He is assumed to be against progress, education and the values of the urban community. Just not with it. It's never asked whether the progress is question is wise or well considered. A battle of ideas instead becomes a clash of rural versus urban, between a presumed improvement in human affairs, and its alleged opponents. Health care reform isn't a public policy initiative, then, it's a totem. A failure at obeisance is heresy, not critical disagreement. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on April 5, 2010 | Permalink


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