When I sat down to my computer Monday morning to write about the racial overtones in some of the anti-Obama protesters, I had not read Maureen Dowd’s column in the New York Times. All weekend, I had been wrestling with the question of whether or not to raise the issue of racism and tried to communicate my ambivalence about it in my blog post. Obviously, not all opposition to Obama is racist. But, some of it is and it behooves those on the right, and especially those in the GOP and conservatives, to remove the racist cancer from their ranks before it taints them.
This morning’s Post has an obituary for Elizabeth "Beth" Rickey who died last Friday at age 53. Miss Rickey was a Republican activist in Louisiana. She was elected to the Republican State Central Committee at age 32 and it was there that she served her party and the country by urging her colleagues to censure a fellow Republican who had come out of nowhere to nab a seat in the state legislature: David Duke. They declined, and Mr. Duke went on to run for governor but Miss Rickey’s work exposing Duke neo-Nazi ties and his denial of the Holocaust was not in vain and in the general election, Duke garnered only 38.8% of the vote. Yes, you read that correctly – 38.8% did vote for a Holocaust-denying neo-Nazi.
The conservative movement and the GOP need more Beth Rickeys right now. First we had the "birthers," those who persistently question, without a shred of evidence and in the face of much counter-evidence, that President Obama was not born in the United States and is not, therefore, a "legitimate" president. Then, we had those who showed up at presidential events carrying guns and those who showed up at town meetings accusing Obama of pursuing socialism or, as the woman at Barney Frank’s town hall meeting thought, pursuing "Nazi policies." And, then we have the comments of the protesters, no matter how many they are, that seem remarkably concerned with the Seventeenth Amendment and have decided, all of a sudden, that now is the time to march on Washington. Whether these yahoos are racist, or whether they really, really are concerned with the Seventeenth Amendment, I just don’t see how it is in the interest of the GOP not to expel them. Evil or Kooky? That is not a choice. That was not Beth Rickey’s choice.
In addition to the criticism from the usual fringe websites that my post received, it appears other news outlets saw what I saw last Saturday: racist overtones. What is astounding is the patheticness of the responses to such a serious concern. Some have focused on the size of the crowd to show liberal bias in the media. The press reported that Saturday’s TeaBaggers number 60-70,000 but the organizers claimed more than a million attended. Alas, the photo they released to bolster their claims, which showed the entire Mall in Washington filled with people, was from an earlier rally, as evidenced by the fact that the photo did not have a museum built in 2002 in it.
My favorite reply is on the blog at the Weekly Standard (There blog does not permit a direct link, so find Tuesday's posts and scroll down). There, Mary Katherine Ham takes on a Washington Post story that focused on the racial aspect of the protest. The article noted that a "Black Family Reunion" was also being held on the Mall and that many of the white TeaBaggers walked past the black group and some TeaBaggers even stopped at the booths to get some food. Ham writes: "It would seem that the peaceful coexistence and even—gasp!—commingling of these two events on the national Mall might reassure the reporter and all involved of the ability of Americans of different races and political viewpoints to, well, peacefully coexist." Miss Ham might be surprised to know that it was not uncommon for blacks and whites to "commingle" in the Jim Crow South. She might be surprised to know that the Rev. Jerry Falwell had a black nanny, hung out privately with the black custodian at his school, and enjoyed the company of the black man who made the molasses on the family farm, all relatively intimate encounters and relationships that existed within the framework of the legal and social disenfranchisement of blacks. Peaceful coexistence my tush! Is this the Weekly Standard’s "BBQ Standard for Racism?" If you eat my BBQ you must not be a racist? Please.
Most of those who oppose the President are not racists. Not all who opposed President Bush were conspiracy theorists who believed the government was behind 9/11. Most Louisiana Republicans are not neo-Nazis. But, it behooves those with legitimate concerns to ostracize those who motives are darker and more dangerous. Democracies depend upon a robust loyal opposition and I always look forward to arguing politics with my conservative friends. But, there is no arguing with birthers or racists and, sadly, you have to be blind not to see that there are, as I suggested, racist overtones in some of the more vocal of President Obama’s critics.