By now, most of you have read about the Daily Kos poll of Republicans in which, among other things,
- 61% either agreed or were not sure that Barack Obama should be impeached
- 58% either believed or were not sure that Obama was born in the United States
- 63% think he is a socialist
- 57% either believe or are not sure that he "wants the terrorists to win"
- 76% either believe or are not sure that ACORN stole the 2008 election
- 86% either believe or are not sure that Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president
- 64% either believe or are not sure that Obama is a "racist who hates white people"
Are they? There is an always has been a yahoo, Know Nothing element in American politics. Moreover, this element is usually courted by the conservative political party of the day. Democrats are no exception: After the Civil War, they co-opted the most violent members of southern society, continued fighting the war through terror tactics, and eventually scuttled the southern Republican party. Southern Democrats disenfranchised African-Americans with Jim Crow laws and returned them to a state that many argued was no better than slavery. The media and judiciary openly supported the Democrats, and the "success" of this particular "movement" lasted for a hundred years until the Civil Rights movement eclipsed it by harnessing northern sympathy and ending the reign of Jim Crow. White southerners established the myth of Reconstruction, in which a vengeful and avaricious North brutally oppressed a beaten but noble South. This myth survived the Civil Rights movement and has only recently been challenged. So, don't think these crusades can't work.
There's no doubt in my mind that many of today's conservatives are willfully ignorant. It has always been thus; the historical antecedents are many and not hard to find. As the Reconstruction myth demonstrates, it's not hard to establish a new reality by repeating a lie often enough.
"The spark of patriotic indignation that inspired those who fought for our independence and those who marched peacefully for civil rights has ignited once again," wrote Sarah Palin of the tea baggers in USA Today. Now, this is beyond offensive. No tea bagger has put his or her life or livelihood on the line to overthrow a century of barbarous tyranny. And I'll bet that the fathers of more than one tea bagger stood on the wrong side of the bridge at Selma. And yet the leaders of these people have told themselves that they are heirs to the Civil Rights movement so often that it has become an article of faith to them. The organizations that oppose affirmative action and a woman's right to choose invoke Martin Luther King's name so readily that one barely has time to feel nauseous.
And so it goes. Barack Obama is a socialist, socialist, socialist. He's a Marxist, Marxist, Marxist. And -- just so you'll feel good about yourself -- it's him and not you who is racist, racist, racist. The Democrats are left wing, left wing, left wing. (As I told a conservative friend, would that it were so.) ACORN, ACORN, ACORN. Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism. These are loaded words to the yahoo contingent, and so much the better when a popular puppet like Sarah Palin delivers them. Send them out there enough times and the response will be like a recalcitrant bull goosed with a cattle prod.
Does the Daily Kos poll prove that Republicans are stupid? I don't know: I'm sure that there are plenty with high IQ's. But I don't need the KOS poll to tell me that there is a critical mass of willing minds susceptible to blunt instrument propaganda and propaganda techniques. That's no surprise, either, and extreme conservatives from time immemorial through Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh have exploited it. In short, smart conservatives are ever ready to take advantage of gullible people whose emotions, once harnessed, will in the end perpetuate the right-wing power elite.
If this movement sustains itself, the tea baggers will attend Republican precinct meetings and attempt to infiltrate the party. They might even succeed in electing a Republican president in 2012. But at the end of the day, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will still be their leaders, Sarah Palin will continue to pocket six-figure speaking fees, and corporate, pharmaceutical, and insurance interests will still control Republican policy. Same as it ever was...
I've been asking myself what it is about Barack Obama personally that elicits such virulent, pathological hatred from the wingnuts. The McCain campaign played the race care by trying mightily but unsuccessfully to paint Obama as an "other," but this tactic failed spectacularly. Plus, anti-Clinton acrimony was (and is) perhaps even more intense. Thinking about what the two men have in common, I realized that both were born to single mothers in modest circumstances and both rose above those circumstances to attend elite schools and embark on a career in politics that led the presidency. Far from being the other, both are uncomfortably like the people who hate them, at least in their origins. My take is that a powerful strain of resentment has combined with deeply rooted self-loathing to form an irrational animosity toward the two men...
The GOP's chief budget writer wants to -- surprise, surprise -- cut Medicare and privatize Social Security. He also wants to raise the retirement age and reduce Social Security benefits...
Don't miss Larry Blumenfeld's review of Ned Sublette's The Year Before the Flood. Blumenfeld connects the themes of Sublette's excellent book to the post-Katrina politics of the Crescent City in what amounts to a fascinating essay about the current state of New Orleans arts and culture...
Makin' a living the old hard way. Takin' and giving day by day. I dig snow and rain and bright sunshine. Draggin' the line...
Goldman Sucks Dept. Outside of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld troika, has any group ever been more arrogant and out of touch than the banking and finance barons?...
NOLA's Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison playing "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise":