Monday, May 03, 2010

if only arizona were the real problem

NYTimes | It’s harder and harder to cling to the conventional wisdom that the Tea Party is merely an element in the G.O.P., not the party’s controlling force — the tail that’s wagging the snarling dog. It’s also hard to maintain that the Tea Party’s nuttier elements are merely a fringe of a fringe. The first national Tea Party convention, in Nashville in February, chose as its kickoff speaker the former presidential candidate Tom Tancredo, a notorious nativist who surely was enlisted precisely because he runs around saying things like he has “no idea where Obama was born.” The Times/CBS poll of the Tea Party movement found that only 41 percent of its supporters believe that the president was born in the United States.

The angry right and its apologists also keep insisting that race has nothing to do with their political passions. Thus Sarah Palin explained that it’s Obama and the “lamestream media” that are responsible for “perpetuating this myth that racial profiling is a part” of Arizona’s law. So how does that profiling work without race or ethnicity, exactly? Brian Bilbray, a Republican Congressman from California and another supporter of the law, rode to the rescue by suggesting “they will look at the kind of dress you wear.” Wise Latinas better start shopping at Talbots!

In this Alice in Wonderland inversion of reality, it’s politically incorrect to entertain a reasonable suspicion that race may be at least a factor in what drives an action like the Arizona immigration law. Any racism in America, it turns out, is directed at whites. Beck called Obama a “racist.” Newt Gingrich called Sonia Sotomayor a “Latina woman racist.” When Obama put up a routine YouTube video calling for the Democratic base to mobilize last week — which he defined as “young people, African-Americans, Latinos and women” — the Republican National Committee attacked him for playing the race card. Presumably the best defense is a good offense when you’re a party boasting an all-white membership in both the House and the Senate and represented by governors who omit slavery from their proclamations of Confederate History Month.

In a development that can only be described as startling, the G.O.P.’s one visible black leader, the party chairman Michael Steele, went off message when appearing at DePaul University on April 20. He conceded that African-Americans “really don’t have a reason” to vote Republican, citing his party’s pursuit of a race-baiting “Southern strategy” since the Nixon-Agnew era. For this he was attacked by conservatives who denied there had ever been such a strategy. That bit of historical revisionism would require erasing, for starters, Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, not to mention the Willie Horton campaign that helped to propel Bush 41 into the White House in 1988.

The rage of 2010 is far more incendiary than anything that went down in 1988, and it will soon leap from illegal immigration to other issues in other states. Boycott the Diamondbacks and Phoenix’s convention hotels if you want to punish Arizona, but don’t for a second believe that it will stop the fire next time.

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