White Backlash, Part Deux
RightWatch: In the 1960s, Alabama Gov. George Wallace whipped up white opposition to civil rights advances. Is the Tea Party déjà vu all over again?
Don't take my word for it. Writes Joan Walsh at Salon, "These are the same people who've been fighting the Democratic Party since the days of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the beginning of the War on Poverty, almost 50 years ago. They associate those long overdue social reforms with giving folks, mainly black people, something they don't deserve. I sometimes think just calling them racist against our black president obscures the depths of their hatred for Democrats, period."
The Tea Party's leaders, of course, deny that racial bigotry has anything to do with their movement -- just as Perry denies that his loudmouthed campaign to restore state sovereignty has anything to do with the anti-black states' rights movement of the past. Indeed, black Tea Party favorite Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) had the nerve to compare himself favorably to legendary freedom fighter Harriet Tubman.
I grant that the Tea Party's grievances go beyond racism to legitimate differences of opinion about taxes and government spending. But that doesn't explain why Perry feels comfortable insinuating that Obama's lack of military service suggests that he does not love America the way the Texas governor does.
Our first black president couldn't be more different from Perry, who, in his book Fed Up, describes himself as "the kind of guy who goes jogging in the morning, packing a Ruger .380 with laser sights and loaded with hollow-point bullets, and shoots a coyote that is threatening his daughter's dog."
When I read that kind of self-congratulatory chest-thumping, when I hear Perry sneering that the chairman of the Federal Reserve should get "ugly" treatment for his potentially "treasonous" conduct of monetary policy, or that global climate change is a hoax cooked up by scheming scientists, the rhetoric is all too familiar.
It's the voice of George Wallace, inveighing against "pointy-headed intellectuals," and Nixon's hatchet man Spiro T. Agnew denouncing the "nattering nabobs of negativism."
This isn't how you have a reasoned debate over serious national problems. This is how you stir up a mob.
Jack White, a frequent contributor to The Root, is a longtime observer of national politics.