Tuesday 15 September 2009
by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Columnist
How many white, middle-aged, overweight, pissed-off right-wingers does it take to unscrew a light bulb?
Depends on who you ask.
Organizers for this past weekend's anti-Obama protest in Washington, DC, were slinging around crowd-size estimates of two million people before the curtain was thankfully drawn on the thing, despite the fact that the number was actually in the vicinity of 30,000. They were in the nation's capitol, so they said, to protest against too much governmental control over the lives of Americans, to protest taxation in general, to screech about birth certificates, to denounce President Obama and to see and be seen amid a throng of fat, white people who look just like them.
Call it a group hug for the demonstrably deranged. But there was more to it than just standard-issue anti-Obama sentiments being aired in the streets. Layered beneath the whole scene was a hard vein of bitter racism the participants didn't even try to hide.
"Packs of taxpayer marchers shuffled down Pennsylvania Avenue proudly waving signs," wrote author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson. "'The Long Legged Mack Daddy,' 'Where's the Birth Certificate,' 'Mississippi Freedom Riders,' 'Whoa Boys Take it from Here' (Obama waving to black and Islamic militants). Many defiantly waved Confederate flags and the Texas state flag (separatist movement emblem). Meanwhile, South Carolina senator Jim DeMint, Congresspersons Mike Pence, Phil Gingrey and Marsha Blackburn, and organizer mouthpiece scandal-plagued former House majority leader Dick Armey profusely swore that the march had nothing to do with race, politics, or even President Obama. The racist flags, symbols and signs, though, gave big lie to their profuse denials. Racism was on full and ugly display on the Capitol Mall. No attempt was made to mask it. Some protesters seemed quite proud to openly send a message about race and Obama."
The Agonist blog provided the following sharp analysis of the overall meaning behind the DC protest this weekend: "These teabag parties represent the newly disenfranchised white, rural voter - the backbone of the Republican Party and its southern strategy. The outburst this week by Rep. Joe Wilson, the obscure South Carolina Congressman who called President Obama a liar during his speech to a joint session of Congress, was prompted by Obama's statement that nothing in the healthcare reform package he is proposing would provide care for illegal immigrants. The fear of immigrants is a primal constant in American politics, but since the adoption of the southern strategy, this fear is at its core a racial concern. Immigration in the past 30 years is no longer about poor white people coming from Europe, it's about brown people coming from Mexico. Now that an African-American is president, protests against illegal immigrants can be a respectable way for people to say what is really on their mind - they cannot accept a black person as president."
Amusing aside regarding Representative Wilson and his rude outburst: "In 2003, Wilson voted to provide federal funds for illegal immigrants' health care. The vote came on the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, which contained Sec. 1011 authorizing $250,000 annually between 2003 and 2008 for government reimbursements to hospitals who provide treatment for uninsured illegal immigrants. The program has been extended through 2009 and there is currently a bipartisan bill in Congress to make it permanent."
Well, nobody said you have to be smart in order to become a hero to the far right. In fact, it helps to be dumber than a sack of hair, if only to match wits with the kind of people who were marching this weekend holding signs that read "Bury Obamacare With Kennedy." Stay classy, GOP.
To be fair, not everyone in the Republican Party was thrilled with the nauseating display of hatred and unabashed racism in DC this weekend. Several of the GOP's leading lights have raised deep concerns about the party being overtaken by these insane idiots. "Such insiders point to theories running rampant on the Internet," reported The Los Angeles Times on Monday, "such as the idea that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and is thus ineligible to be president, or that he is a communist, or that his allies want to set up Nazi-like detention camps for political opponents. Those theories, the insiders say, have stoked the GOP base and have created a "purist" climate in which a figure such as Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) is lionized for his 'You lie!' outburst last week when Obama addressed Congress. They are 'wild accusations and the paranoid delusions coming from the fever swamps,' said David Frum, a conservative author and speechwriter for President George W. Bush who is among the more vocal critics of the party base and of the conservative talk show hosts helping to fan the unrest. 'Like all conservatives, I am concerned about this administration's accumulation of economic power,' Frum said. 'Still, you have to be aware that there's a line where legitimate concerns begin to collapse into paranoid fantasy.'"
Frum was being nice, actually, because he knows better than anyone what took place in Washington this weekend. It was a Klan rally minus the bedsheets and torches. These people don't even have enough shame to hide their faces anymore. If more Republicans like Frum don't come forward to denounce such activities from their right flank, that right flank is going to finish the job of taking over the GOP, and hard as it is to believe, this kind of obnoxious craziness is going to seem quaint by comparison to what will be coming next.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.