The following is from the Black Commentator.
PUTTING THE SHEETS ON: THE TEA PARTY CREW SHOWS IT'S COLORS
By Bill Fletcher Jr.
It was just a matter of time, and most Black people knew just that.
At an anti-healthcare rally in Washington, DC, right-wing demonstrators associated with the so-called “Tea Party” movement verbally assaulted Congressman John Lewis. Calling upon him to vote against the healthcare legislation, they chose to use the “N” word in describing the Congressman.
So, now the gloves are off and the sheets are on. The entire pretense regarding an alleged non-racial movement of angry (white) people is gone. What most Black people knew all along has been confirmed. Lying only slightly beneath the surface was and is a toxin that has almost nothing to do with healthcare. One finds one’s self reminded of the words of the Rev. Jesse Jackson from more than thirty-five years ago when he was commenting on white opposition to school busing for desegregation: “It’s not the bus; it’s us.” Well, team, the Tea Party opposition, and more particularly the vehemence of it, has more to do with their perception that the USA is no longer in the control of whites, and more specifically, that it does not pay to be white any more.
White anger about their collapsing lives in the midst of a declining living standard spanning more than thirty years compounded by the immediate crisis of our current Great Recession, has bubbled into all sorts of irrationalist thoughts and behavior, a point I have made in countless columns. Until now, the right-wing Tea Party crowd has attempted to be coy in its crypto-racist attacks on the Obama administration particularly. The use of the so-called Birther Movement (those who argue that President Obama was not actually born in the United States and, therefore, is ineligible to be President of the United States) by the Right is just one example. The allegations by these lunatics have nothing to do with the facts. It has been demonstrated time and again that Obama was born in the USA. Yet, for the angry, white political Right all that matters is that in their minds it is inconceivable that a Black person was elected President. Their only answer is that it must have been fraudulent.
Now, however, the Tea Party crowd, in all of their anger and frustration, has let a few things slip. If their opposition to healthcare had nothing to do with race, then why the use of the “N” word? Was it some deep, irresistible impulse that was beyond their control?
Since the gloves are off, progressives, Black and non-black, need to face facts. We cannot treat the Tea Party crowd as simply a set of angry and misled, but otherwise good natured people. This crowd, as a crowd, constitutes a right-wing, racist movement that must be opposed; in fact, it must be disrupted. Their version of populism may, at times, speak to a legitimate anger felt by many people in the USA as wealth polarizes, and as the Obama administration makes unacceptable compromises with corporate America. But what is really at stake is not that at all. It goes back to the country that they believe that they lost.
Here can be found the irony of this situation. We, on the left side of the aisle, recognize that the Obama administration and the majority of the Democratic Congress have been half-stepping in addressing the current economic and environmental crises. In some cases, they have been worse than half-stepping (such as through the escalation of US involvement in Afghanistan). Yet the Tea Party crowd is actually angry about any tendency toward redistribution of wealth in favor of people at the bottom, even when those people at the bottom are themselves or their loved ones. To the extent to which the Tea Party crowd has bought into the notion that healthcare reform (in whatever form) is for someone else, specifically, is for the so-called undeserving poor, blacks, immigrants, etc., they line up for war against it. This, it should be noted, is a recurring pattern in US history where large sections of the white population regularly act against their own interests to the extent to which they perceive those interests as being the interests of people of color.
For progressives, the irony increases when we recognize that many of the reforms that the Tea Party crowd opposes are, at best, minimal efforts towards any sort of redistribution, environmental defense, or rule of law. Right-wing populists wish to paint those who have no healthcare as both undeserving and black or brown despite the reality of how diverse the healthcare-less or those with minimal healthcare may be. Right-wing populists, in general, are not particularly concerned about the deficit either, except and insofar as the deficit is aimed at addressing any of the gross wealth disparities in US society. Their hypocrisy stands tall for all to see whenever there is a war and they are prepared to uncritically support or directly advance the plunging of this country into greater and greater debt, all in the name of patriotism.
What became clear this weekend with the racial epithets as well as the gay baiting against Congressman Barney Frank by the anti-healthcare reform crowd is that for the right-wing populists the healthcare debate was really about the ‘other America,’ the one that they believe has come to eclipse them and their dreams.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and co-author of, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.