Since Civil Rights in the 1960s, the United States of America has tried to pretend that we are having a policy debate between the Democratic and Republican parties. In fact, public acts and statements by Republican politicians and pundits have been increasingly about race and the baggage that goes with it in the South, particularly in the lily-white "Christian" churches. Barack Obama officially broke through the "policy" part of that wall in his Health Care speech to a joint session of Congress, by promising to call out the lies and liars—the Deathers, the Tenthers, those talking about Socialism/Communism/Nazism/tyranny/the Antichrist, government funding for abortion and sex change operations, health care for illegal immigrants, etc. etc.
We didn't have to wait for the next step. In the middle of that same speech Neo-Confederate Rep. Joe Wilson, R-SC, shouted, "You lie!", and then issued a non-apology apology to the President, but not to Congress. A rough translation of what he said is, "I'm sorry you made me so angry."
Now the third, fourth, and fifth shoes have dropped, with promise of more. Carter and Cosby are predictably Liberal in denouncing Republican "Southern Strategy" racism. But not Democrat-basher Maureen Dowd.
Everybody has heard by now that former President Jimmy Carter responded to Joe Wilson's outburst with a public statement on racism in Obama-bashing. The Right reacted with predictable fury, but this time instead of the voices of reason being silenced, more of them are coming out of wherever they've been hiding, or out of denial.
Here is Bill Cosby's take on Carter. (Please don't Read the Trolls in the Comments section.)
But they're just lousy Liberals. The real news is that a certified Democrat-basher has joined the ranks.
Maureen Dowd has admitted in the New York Times that she can't keep up the Politically Correct charade about Republicans any more. Those demonizing President Barack Obama, those intent on defeating Health Care reform, those who publicly want the President to fail, who bring guns to Health Care town halls, who threaten secession or another Civil War, all of them (except the few driven by corporate greed) are driven by racism and other forms of hatred.
Not frank and overt White Supremacy, in most cases. Not "Kill Them All"/"The Final Solution," although death threats against Obama personally are running four times higher than against Bush. Not re-enslavement. But definitely bringing back Jim Crow. Definitely "putting them in their place," and making it painfully clear what that place is—under the heel of Whites.
I'm not quoting Dowd's whole article, just the bits that I thought worthy of comment. Some of you will enjoy getting the rest from the NYT Web site link above.
Boy, Oh, Boy
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: September 12, 2009
The normally nonchalant Barack Obama looked nonplussed, as Nancy Pelosi glowered behind.
Surrounded by middle-aged white guys — a sepia snapshot of the days when such pols ran Washington like their own men’s club — Joe Wilson yelled "You lie!" at a president who didn’t.
I'm sure that there are many interpretations of our President's expression at that moment. I was thinking, "There you go again," about Wilson, as a representative of White Southern male Republicanism. But I read the President's expression as his usual cool. "There, you see, just what I was saying." He has been there before, like any other Black man in America.
But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!
Yup. That's a great addition for Code Words on dKosopedia. Thanks, Maureen.
The congressman, we learned, belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, led a 2000 campaign to keep the Confederate flag waving above South Carolina’s state Capitol and denounced as a "smear" the true claim of a black woman that she was the daughter of Strom Thurmond, the ’48 segregationist candidate for president.
Remember how Senate Majority Leader Sen. Trent Lott, R-MS lost his position in 2003 for praising Thurmond, saying, "We wouldn't have had all these problems" if Thurmond had won? Things have changed a lot since then, but it's clearly two steps forward, one step back.
I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids—had much to do with race.
It's hard to give up our illusions. It's hard to accept that our friends and neighbors are capable of such mass evil, and that all of the accusations were Dog Whistle code for "OMG, he's Black (and he wants to be another Lincoln)." But it isn't the first time that honest citizens have had to recognize that their friends and neighbors have gone off the deep end.
"A lot of these outbursts have to do with delegitimizing him as a president," said Congressman Jim Clyburn, a senior member of the South Carolina delegation. Clyburn, the man who called out Bill Clinton on his racially tinged attacks on Obama in the primary, pushed Pelosi to pursue a formal resolution chastising Wilson.
Remember when they were delegitimizing our first "first Black President"? Clinton called for a public conversation on race after all that other fuss, but nothing happened for another decade. Well, the Republicans have gone too far, and it's finally begun.
At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that somewhere in South Carolina they are electing Jim Clyburns. North Carolina went for Obama last year, and South Carolina as a whole was in play. Demographic trends tell us that South Carolina will tip toward sanity, possibly as early as the 2012 elections, but certainly by 2016. Even Alabama and Mississippi, someday.
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.
Exactly. That, in particular, is what the whole Birther nonsense is about. He's Kenyan, according to the fake birth certificates. Or British, because Kenya was a colony at the time. Or an Arab. Something. Anything that gives us an excuse not to respect him, except saying publicly that he's Black.
Wilson also showed shocking disrespect toward both Houses of Congress, which is why he got the Pelosi laser death stare (He is one of hers, after all.) while Biden looked away.
Even if he and the coterie of white male advisers around him don’t choose to openly acknowledge it, this president is the ultimate civil rights figure — a black man whose legitimacy is constantly challenged by a loco fringe.
Now, I don't fault the President or his advisers for not being the first to make this point. He, and they, don't want to be the lightning rods for the full force of Southern White paranoia. It's bad enough now.
As during the campaign, it is better to stand above the fray and let others argue, except at a few critical moments, and then make a single powerful speech, or a few well-chosen public appearances with those most affected by the issue in question. Let Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Ed Schultz at MSNBC take the heat unless something requires the President to speak. Or let The Nation take it. Pacifica Radio. Democracy Now. The Huffington Post. Daily Kos. FireDogLake. The Progressive media and blogosphere in general. And now, Jimmy Carter, Bill Cosby, and even Maureen Dowd at the NYT.
Hey, even community organizers.
Republicans: Ze-ro! Ze-ro!
Democrats: Yes, we can! Si, se puede! Yes we did!
For two centuries, the South has feared a takeover by blacks or the feds. In Obama, they have both.
And they are deathly afraid of Reparations. To them, that's the ultimate tyranny. It means all the wealth of the South that was built by slaves being taken from them and given to Blacks. Much worse than the loss of personal property (No pun intended, but I'll take it) and White political rights by former Rebels during Reconstruction, leading to the KKK and Jim Crow.
The state that fired the first shot of the Civil War has now given us this: Senator Jim DeMint exhorted conservatives to "break" the president by upending his health care plan. Rusty DePass, a G.O.P. activist, said that a gorilla that escaped from a zoo was "just one of Michelle’s ancestors." Lovelorn Mark Sanford tried to refuse the president’s stimulus money. And now Joe Wilson.
"A good many people in South Carolina really reject the notion that we’re part of the union," said Don Fowler, the former Democratic Party chief who teaches politics at the University of South Carolina. He observed that when slavery was destroyed by outside forces and segregation was undone by civil rights leaders and Congress, it bred xenophobia.
"We have a lot of people who really think that the world’s against us," Fowler said,
Just like the Serbs. It's true, too. We are ganging up on them. Paranoids can have real enemies, they say.
"so when things don’t happen the way we like them to, we blame outsiders." He said a state legislator not long ago tried to pass a bill to nullify any federal legislation with which South Carolinians didn’t agree. Shades of John C. Calhoun!
Yes, the Tenthers claim that the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution makes national health care unconstitutional. Along with the income tax, the "War of Northern Aggression", all Civil Rights legislation, and no doubt the Fourteenth Amendment, too, since South Carolina didn't get to vote on Constitutional Amendments after the War.
Clyburn had a warning for Obama advisers who want to forgive Wilson, ignore the ignorant outbursts and move on: "They’re going to have to develop ways in this White House to deal with things and not let them fester out there. Otherwise, they’ll see numbers moving in the wrong direction."
No, in the long term, Clyburn is wrong. You can't escape demographics. But we're going to have to develop ways to deal with things in the short term. The only change I can believe in is Gandhi's, later adopted by MLK: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." Make friends with some poor people, and find out what will help them, or at least what will help their children. Make friends with some racists. They can be quite pleasant when they don't have their backs up, and they need to hear from Blacks and from White liberals, and the rest of us, that we are quite willing to live and let live.
We won't do it by criminalizing racism further (although we should enforce existing law more). The only method I know of for breaking down a caste system is better cooperation among those at the bottom and between them and those of good will who don't believe in caste. Then we get to outlive racism and oppression, today's poor become prosperous, and we all live well. Better than revenge, any day.