Wednesday, September 16, 2009

If It Quacks Like A Bigot... can call it a duck, but it's bigotry:

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was among the first to assert that Congressman Joe Wilson's heckle revealed an underlying racism:

Surrounded by middle-aged white guys... Joe Wilson yelled 'You lie!' at a president who didn't. Fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!... But Wilson's shocking disrespect for the office of the president - no Democrat ever shouted 'liar' at W when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq - convinced me: Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it.
 Her belief racism was at play was echoed by Democrat Representative for Georgia, Henry Johnson, who told media: "I guess we'll probably have folks putting on white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside intimidating people. That's the logical conclusion if this kind of attitude is not rebuked."
 Now, I'm posting some of this tongue-in-cheek. I don't think the color of Obama's skin matters as much to Wilson and the other bigo-- I mean, Republicans as his policies and, more important, the position he holds. After all, Bill Clinton was about as white as they get, despite being called "America's First Black President", and look what these jackals did to him.
No, I think Obama is being clever as all get-out here. He's got his surrogates playing the race card for him, because he knows the one thing Republicans are terrified of right now is being portrayed as racists. After all, Obama won in a veritable landslide over the second whitest politician in America, John McCain, so to be racist at this point would be shown to be woefully out of touch.
What I think the Republicans are doing is playing dirty pool, a game they've excelled at since at least Lee Atwater helped Bush the Elder win the Presidency in 1988. Yes, there are clear insinuations in Wilson's outburst of disrespect, but my suspicion is that's more about a rookie President being put on the ropes by a "loyal" opposition (who really had the floor in August to try to derail national healthcare reform) and finally going that one last obvious step over the line.
But note what occured in August: the astroturf movement that saw town hall meetings across this nation interrupted by organized yahoos executing instructions from their puppet-masters like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, the paranoid inflation of numbers of people opposing Obama's policies, even mocking his decision to take a vacation "at a critical juncture in American history".
All of these pushed an envelope of paranoia and desperation that even a moment's reflection reveals. Wilson's "lie" chant merely sealed the deal for Americans who may or may not have put out that moment's reflection. It coalesced and concretized the perception that not only are the Republicans out of power and losing their grip on the electorate after spending twenty years demonizing liberalism and Democrats, but that the Republicans know theirs is a sinking ship and that it's not about helping people live better lives, it's about holding onto power to reward their cronies and conspirators in plutocracy.
That's not to say there is not an element of racism in this opposition. For one thing, it's easier to oppose someone whom you have dehumanized and pointing out differences dehumanizes people. "They" can do what "they" want because "they" are (insert trait here).
It makes it easier to portray yourself as a savior, saving "ordinary folks" from the clutches of "they," but it's also a lazy way out of honestly engaging in policy discussions.
By dehumanizing someone, you make their opinion and views irrelevant to the discussion. "They" are not as good as "we" are, so "we" don't have to take their arguments seriously.
But of course, you miss out on the many opportunities to test your views, to strengthen and bolster those views, and to improve policy for everyone.
Obama's playing this correctly: he's taken the high road (note the very high-minded section of his speech the other night pertaining to realistic solutions being considered), while allowing his surrogates to dip into the same mud his opponents have smeared.
The Republicans' real problem is, they don't have a responsible and prestigious enough spokesman who can meet Obama's tactic head-on. All their spokespeople are either wallowing in the same mud that Jimmy Carter and others are flinging back at the GOP or the spokespeople who could conceivably wrest this debate back to a temperate level have been isolated and quarantined as irrelevant by the GOP.
Like Michael Steele, who could easily have met Obama on his playing field but for some bizarre reason decided to genuflect to the nattering nabobs of negativism in his own party.
Or John McCain, who has had to fight a rear-guard action in his own party to protect his reputation from Sarah Palin and the other neaderthals.
Instead, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, two men who have absolutely nothing at stake in politics, who can shift positions on any issue at any time if their ratings appear to warrant it, have taken the helm of the Republican party.
This is much like allowing Bozo The Clown to run a bank. It's entertaining, but ultimately unprofitable.