By Frank Rich
They can’t. Demographics are avatars of a change bigger than any bill contemplated by Obama or Congress. The week before the health care vote, The Times reported that births to Asian, black and Hispanic women accounted for 48 percent of all births in America in the 12 months ending in July 2008. By 2012, the next presidential election year, non-Hispanic white births will be in the minority. The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded.
If Congressional Republicans want to maintain a politburo-like homogeneity in opposition to the Democrats, that’s their right. If they want to replay the petulant Gingrich government shutdown of 1995 by boycotting hearings and, as John McCain has vowed, refusing to cooperate on any legislation, that’s their right too (and a political gift to the Democrats). But they can’t emulate the 1995 G.O.P. by remaining silent as mass hysteria, some of it encompassing armed militias, runs amok in their own precincts. We know the end of that story. And they can’t pretend that we’re talking about “isolated incidents” or a “fringe” utterly divorced from the G.O.P. A Quinnipiac poll last week found that 74 percent of Tea Party members identify themselves as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents, while only 16 percent are aligned with Democrats.
After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, some responsible leaders in both parties spoke out to try to put a lid on the resistance and violence. The arch-segregationist Russell of Georgia, concerned about what might happen in his own backyard, declared flatly that the law is “now on the books.” Yet no Republican or conservative leader of stature has taken on Palin, Perry, Boehner or any of the others who have been stoking these fires for a good 17 months now. Last week McCain even endorsed Palin’s “reload” rhetoric.
Frank Rich says conservatives would've tarred and feathered Obama with some other issue if the stimulus package, General Motors takeover, and healthcare reform hadn't been available. The evidence proves Rich is right.
Let's look at the long list of attempts to label Obama black, foreign, and un-American. Just off the top of my head, there's:
None of these have anything to do with government spending or taxation. All of them reflect the beliefs of teabaggers, talk radio, and other rabid conservatives. They hate Obama not because he's a "liberal" Democrat but because he isn't a WASP.
These people weren't crying about "death panels" because they seriously believed that was part of the Democratic agenda. They were crying because they found another way to paint Obama as a threat to their white power and privilege. Now that Congress has passed healthcare reform, they'll find something else to cry about.
Frank Rich has nailed this point before and he's done it again. For his previous columns on the subject, see:
"Birthers" = scared white people
Last gasps of the Class of '94
Palin's "real America" vs. America
For more on the Tea Party movement, see:
Teabaggers = hatemongers
Klansmen, militias, and teabaggers
Teabaggers want doddering white guy
Below: The teabaggers' view of the Obamas in a nutshell.