Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's White Fright, Stupid

In his weekly New York Times column, Frank Rich peels the lily-white onion and discovers what we've known all along: The apoplectic response to the passage of health care reform has little to do with the proximate cause. And it didn't start with this bill.

Says Rich:

But there was nothing like this. To find a prototype for the overheated reaction to the health care bill, you have to look a year before Medicare, to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both laws passed by similar majorities in Congress; the Civil Rights Act received even more votes in the Senate (73) than Medicare (70). But it was only the civil rights bill that made some Americans run off the rails. That’s because it was the one that signaled an inexorable and immutable change in the very identity of America, not just its governance. 

Hmm. Civil rights. Perceived loss by certain groups as the playing field was slowly being leveled.

That a tsunami of anger is gathering today is illogical, given that what the right calls “Obamacare” is less provocative than either the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Medicare, an epic entitlement that actually did precipitate a government takeover of a sizable chunk of American health care. But the explanation is plain: the health care bill is not the main source of this anger and never has been. It’s merely a handy excuse. The real source of the over-the-top rage of 2010 is the same kind of national existential reordering that roiled America in 1964.

So what is the genesis of this angst, the volatile fuel that's causing tea bagger rockets to whiz past monuments in the night, Sarah Palin's Facebook page during the day, and empowering angry simpletons to hurl bricks through glass windows at targeted members of Congress, obviously taking their revolutionary training by watch Palestinians throw rocks at Israeli tanks seconds before being cut down in a fusillade of bullets. 

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. It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.

You spine-chilling conglomeration of gays and chicks, blacks and browns, all coming together to push through significant changes in a political landscape dominated by the stall and the sound-byte. Have you no idea what you've started?

Momentum. And it's frightening the white guys with lace on their panties and guns in their trucks who see this as rapidly escalating into the Ardennes forest in the winter of '44 as they hunker down while shells rain down upon them. Like Patton, who shall come to reinforce the surrounded tea party lads before food and water run out, ammunition runs low, and the are forced to fight to the last man?

I don't see any groups stepping up, do you?

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