Since around the summer of 2008, a group of angry people who have currently coalesced under the banner of the Tea Party have been using every opportunity to obstruct much needed progress in our country. They march under demands and vague calls for smaller government, for “real” Americans to “take back” America, a rollback of every aspect of the welfare state, and lower taxes. They endorse mythical conspiracies about Obama’s birth place, his religion, czars, his supposed role in biblical prophesy, “big government”, and a series of other bogeymen they’ve been told to be very scared of.
With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act this group of people have been frothing at the mouth with a carefully maintained and manipulated rage focused almost entirely at the Democratic party. New Left Media interviewed these people at the capitol building during their protest on the eve of the bill’s passage and unsurprisingly they had little idea of what they were even protesting against; a handful even stating they did not know what was in the bill. What they did know was that the bill was “socialism”, “slavery”, institutionalization of “death panels”, and a “government takeover”. When asked where they receive what little information they do have, right-wing publications like Fox News and commentators like Glenn Beck are the most frequently listed. Not that the public needed further proof that corporate-run news media is simply a pro-business indoctrination process designed as infotainment, but to hear the panic in these people’s voices – their genuine fear and concern – as they rally behind this source only confirms their situation.
As I stated in the previous post (part one), when enough of this kind of rhetoric is used someone scared enough will act on it, and they have. The anger and fear they have been fueled with comes out in racist, homophobic, and generally bigoted violence. This segment buys into largely every division that reactionary leaders throw against the working classes to keep them fighting amongst themselves. Representative Stupak, the man behind the bill’s anti-choice provisions is being called and harassed by like-minded anti-choicers! Despite his draconian demands he is still looked at as a traitor to the anti-choice movement-conservatives. The children of pro-reform legislators have been targeted for “assassination.” Conservative blogger Solomon Forell went on Twitter to call for the President’s assassination. Representative Tom Perriello’s house was targeted, and Democratic congress member’s offices have been consistently targeted.
These acts are being encouraged by Republicans and movement-conservatives within the government and media. Of course they’ll deny it, but when violent and hateful imagery find their way into public discussions these will only encourage those willing to resort to violence. When acts of violence break out these people are the last to accept responsibility, asking their critics, ‘who could have seen it coming?’ Sarah Palin has been disgusting with the way she is using violent imagery to campaign. Representative Steve King talked of secession and told supporters, “Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s take them out. Let’s chase them down. There’s going to be a reckoning!” Glenn Beck used racism against Latinos to say, “Jesus Martinez” might favor the health bill, “[b]ut not the Jesus from Nazareth that I know.” Neal Boortz, a right-wing radio host, on Twitter said, “Today will do more damage than 9/11.” Other examples are numerous and easy to find.
Why then, are we seeing an increase in this violence and rhetoric after the bill has become law? After all, this bill was a give-away to insurance companies and only helps them retain power. However those in favor of reforming healthcare always talk of this bill as an important ‘first step’. Obviously those in power would like this to be the last step so by creating such controversy around this bill it practically prohibits any reformist from taking steps to create a second bill which would do more to limit insurance companies’ power. They are making it into an off-limits discussion that can’t be come back to. This is also being used to stop Democrats from progressing any sort of agenda – which makes the Republicans look strong and the Democrats look weak – just in time for the 2010 elections. Finally, this serves to become yet another wedge issue that divides the working classes amongst themselves.
Is violence against a government ever warranted? Of course! Iran’s Green Wave has reason, Chechens in Russia have reason, and the disenfranchised in Honduras have reason, just to name a few. Scared Tea Partiers do not. These individuals who claim that government can’t do anything right and that it should be “smaller” (whatever that means) are often seeking government assistance in the form of Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, or unemployment assistance. They enjoy the very things they rage against, often without even realizing it. It is for these reasons we have to deny that the anger being groomed for them does not stem from these causes but rather a dying world of white male hegemony they long to return to, as Frank Rich writes:
If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play.