• Above all others, the real celebrity here has been Rush Limbaugh. He's done this kind of thing before -- remember the "Barack, The Magic Negro" song? But in the wake of the Gates incident, he's managed to become even more hard-edged about it. "Here you have a black president trying to destroy a white policeman," Limbaugh declared this past Friday. Yesterday, he shared a dream he's had about the dangers to capitalism: "I had a dream that I was a slave building a sphinx in a desert that looked like Obama." And he joked that food-safety advocates will go after all the unhealthy foods people like to eat, one by one -- but they'll have to wait until Obama is out of office to ban Oreos.
• Glenn Beck said this today on Fox News: "This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture. I don't what it is. You can't sit in a pew with Jeremiah Wright for 20 years and not hear some of that stuff, and not have it wash over."
• During his new crusade of Birtherism, Lou Dobbs suggested on his radio show this past Wednesday, right before the Gates flare-up, that Obama could be an illegal immigrant, tying this into his usual preoccupation. "I'm starting to think we have a document issue," Dobbs said. "You suppose he's un-- no, I won't even use the word 'undocumented,' it wouldn't be right."
Hey Rush, don't you know that "oreo" is an insult? Or will you next be calling the President a "jive turkey" in another lame attempt at humor? Glen Beck frankly, is on the verge of an on-air nervous breakdown--and I fully intend to post the video here when it happens. And Lou Dobbs is just......sad.
It's the Southern Strategy all over again, the divisive Republican political strategy designed to stoke racial fears and take white votes away from the Democratic Party, first successfully employed by Richard Nixon, enthusiastically adopted by Ronald Reagan, and perfected under Karl Rove and George W. Bush.
Lee Atwater, Karl Rove's political mentor, once said this about how the strategy evolved:
"You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.' By 1968 you can't say 'nigger'—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.It's 2009, but crying "nigger nigger nigger" seems to be coming back in style once more. As Rachel Maddow pointed out tonight, it almost seems that Public Enemy should update and re-release "Fear of a Black Planet." The fear amongst these wingnut pundits is vibrant and palpable, yet their attempts at stoking racial hatred seem almost....quaint, to borrow Alberto Gonzales' infamous expression. In the wake of the Gates arrest, America seems less "post-racial" than it did a few weeks ago, but I can't help but wonder exactly how many people are going to fall for this line of bullshit, this time around.
And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, 'We want to cut this,' is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than 'Nigger, nigger.'”
Tough economic times have always been a time of opportunity for race baiters and sowers of hate and discord. The recession and the health care debate have more people worried about the basics of life more than any time since 9/11. This doesn't excuse or condone the words and deeds of these far-right demagogues, but it does give us a glimpse at their worst fears: a time in which the primacy of white men will no longer be. Fortunately, they in truth have no say in that matter, and they no longer possess the power to forestall that time.
I believe that at the end of the day, a majority of Americans will not fall for their heinous lies. More and more people are intelligent and informed enough to be immune to the propaganda coming from Rush, Beck, and their ilk. These frenetic wingnut pundits, and their increasingly desperate and panic-stricken outrage can only, as Lincoln said, fool some of the people some of the time.
It's getting to that day that's the hard part.
* "It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.
Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?
Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!"--Oliver Cromwell MP's speech on the dissolution of the Long Parliament, given to the House of Commons, April 20, 1653.