The Republic of T.

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Conservatives’ Race to Oblivion, Pt. 1

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Conservatives' Race to Oblivion

I’ve used this quote (attributed to Maya Angelou) before: “When people show you who they really are, believe them.” I guess in periods of tremendous change people really reveal who they really are. I’ll return to this in more detail post, but the news and debate leading up to and following the passage of health care reform in the House is at least worth a quick roundup, if only because how it all comes together in a clear context.

First, let me reiterate that I’ll be the first to say that the anger directed at the president, Congress, and the policy changes they’re trying to make are not entirely rooted in racism, but have deep roots in the economic consequences of the last few decades for the people in some of the reddest states. That said, it’s becoming impossible to ignore that a significant amount is also rooted in the racism and ethnocentrism conservatives have used to divert their constituents’ attention — and rage — towards more convevient targets.

By now, everyone knows that only one Republican voted for the House health reform bill, Joe Cao (R-LA).

Mr. Cao (pronounced gow; rhymes with cow), a freshman from New Orleans, was elected last year in an upset victory over Representative William J. Jefferson, a Democrat who was under indictment on federal corruption charges at the time and has since been convicted.

“Tonight, I voted to keep taxpayer dollars from funding abortion and to deliver access to affordable health care to the people of Louisiana,” Mr. Cao said in a statement posted on his Web site.

“I read the versions of the House bill. I listened to the countless stories of Orleans and Jefferson Parish citizens whose health care costs are exploding – if they are able to obtain health care at all. Louisianans needs real options for primary care, for mental health care, and for expanded health care for seniors and children.

In the statement, Mr. Cao also said that he had secured a personal commitment from President Obama on health issues important to Louisiana, including disparities in federal reimbursement rates for Medicaid. And while many Democrats complained that tighter restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions had threatened support for the bill on their side, Mr. Cao said that those tougher restrictions encouraged him to support the bill.

It’s been noted that Cao was the focus of intense lobbying by all sides of debate. But as a former Roman Catholic priest and a freshman who jumped into politics after Hurricaine Katrina, I tend to believe him when he says his decision was a matter of conscience and what he felt would best serve the people in his destrict.

(Cao, represents the part of the same state as Sen. Mary Landrieu — who apparently does a better job of spouting GOP talking points than Cao — which ranks among the top ten states with the highest percentage of uninsured citizens. While I’m opposed to the Stupak amendment, and believe it will have devastating consequences for millions of women, I have to give it up for a freshman Republican congressman who sees and acknowledges the serious need for health care reform in Louisiana — especially juxtaposed against a Democratic senator who apparently can’t.)

And here is where the story gets depressingly familiar. It would be normal for The GOP, or any party, to see a decision like Cao’s as a betrayal of party unity and loyalty. The anger of Democrats and progressive directed a Sen. Joe Lieberman and his filibuster blustering is another example. However, the tone of the repsonse from the GOP base ratchets things up considerably.

Matthew Yglesias posted about right-wing twittering in response to Cao’s vote.

Representative Joseph Cao is a freshman Republican who won 49.6 percent of the vote against a corrupt incumbent in a district that’s 64% black and has a median income of $25,000. I think it should come as no surprise that someone in that situation might want to break with the GOP leadership now and then. For example, he voted for the health care reform bill last night. For his trouble, he’s being treated to some interesting tweets:

RT @RightBloggerPat: @AnhJosephCao You Bastard piece of shit fuck! GO BACK TO Saigon, South Vietnam where you fucking BELONG GOOK! #TCOT

There’s also a whole bunch of folks who’ve decided that it’d be hilarious to start referring to Rep. Cao as “Mao” because, you see, they’re both responsible for the deaths of millions Asians. Also this.I think the conservative movement is going to continue to struggle in a decreasingly white America.

The tweets Yglesias cited are pretty clear, but pictures may still be worth a thousand words. The first tweeter quoted by Yglesias is still “out,” for the time being.

The second tweeter, to whom the first responded has since pulled the shades, but not quickly enough to keep Google Cache from getting a peek. Yglesias doesn’t quote this tweet, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t be seen.

I’m not even going to look at what the Freepers are probably saying. Some other brave soul can venture into that dark corner of the far right.This, mind you is comes on the heels of a protest against health care reform where the following posters were prominiently displayed.

The caption reads “National Socialist Healthcare. Dachau, Germany – 1945.”

Naturally, Jewish organizations were outraged (as most other people would be).

Yesterday the National Jewish Democratic Council’s (NJDC) President, David A. Harris, released a statement outlining the outrageous behavior of the crowd at the Tea Party “press conference” sponsored by the GOP House leadership. The crowd held signs noting that “Obama takes orders from the Rothchilds” [sic] and likening the Democratic health care legislation to Nazi Health Care as represented by corpses at the Dachau concentration camp. Contained in NJDC’s release was a call to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) to rid Republican events of these inappropriate Holocaust comparisons and outright anti-Semitic messages, and to clearly condemn them once and for all.

The House Republican Leader’s press spokesperson replied, “Leader Boehner did not see any such sign. Obviously, it would be grossly inappropriate.”

This morning The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reported that these signs and other comparably disgusting ones could not possibly have been missed by Boehner and other GOP members of Congress because they were right in front of the GOP speakers. Moreover, Milbank highlighted the comments of other GOP-sponsored speakers speaking about Reverend Wright brainwashing President Barack Obama to “damn America” and fuming about “death panels.”

Another declares “Obama” takes his orders from the Rothschilds.

The reference lends further credence to reports of paranoia and conspiracism on the far-right that’d apparently driving the Republican party. Note: progressives can be heard almost everywhere criticizing the Obama administration for what seems to be a soft-touch approach to Wall street, but almost never will you hear or see them make references to fears about the Illuminati. Even George W. Bush didn’t receive this kind of treatment from progressives or progressive leadership.The rest are equally disturbing, and disturbed.

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And while is could be argued that most of the anti-Obama, anti-health care reform rantings haven’t come from conservative leadership, that leadership — as Paul Krugmam noted, stood silently while these signs and others were proudly and prominently displayed at what was not a protest but officially billed as a “press conference”; one at which the speakers took no questions, but at least one (Rep. Steve King) stopped to autograph one of the signs. (Granted, political leaders who can’t make it through the pledge of allegiance without flubbing it, or tell the difference between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence might fail to see the placards held aloft just a few rows from the stage.)

Last Thursday there was a rally outside the U.S. Capitol to protest pending health care legislation, featuring the kinds of things we’ve grown accustomed to, including large signs showing piles of bodies at Dachau with the caption “National Socialist Healthcare.” It was grotesque – and it was also ominous. For what we may be seeing is America starting to be Californiafied.

The key thing to understand about that rally is that it wasn’t a fringe event. It was sponsored by the House Republican leadership – in fact, it was officially billed as a G.O.P. press conference. Senior lawmakers were in attendance, and apparently had no problem with the tone of the proceedings.

True, Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, offered some mild criticism after the fact. But the operative word is “mild.” The signs were “inappropriate,” said his spokesman, and the use of Hitler comparisons by such people as Rush Limbaugh, said Mr. Cantor, “conjures up images that frankly are not, I think, very helpful.”

What all this shows is that the G.O.P. has been taken over by the people it used to exploit.

(Boehner’s office, for what it’s worth, says he didn’t see any such signs, but that they were highly inappropriate )

As noted above, Dana Millbank pointed out that the signs couldn’t have been missed by GOP leadership. Ira N. Forman names the rest of the GOP lawmakers in attendance.

Boehner and the other GOP members present — including GOP House Whip Eric Cantor, and Representatives Bachman (MN), Foxx (VA), Hensarling (TX), King (IA), Broun (GA), Schmidt (OH), Cassidy (LA), Akin (MO), and Carter (TX) — can no longer hide behind weasel words like that they “did not see any such sign.” This was their press conference and the signs were right in front of their faces. The spelling-impaired “Rothchilds” sign-holder was spouting nonsense about a “Jewish plot to introduce the anti-Christ.” These were their own speakers spouting outright lies. This was their political base. These types of disgusting, inappropriate Holocaust comparisons and hate filled, paranoid messages have been a part of GOP and conservative events since the carefully planned town hall meetings of last summer.

It’s also worth noting that this was all happening not to far away from — in fact, within reasonable walking distance of — the Holocaust Museum, which was the site of a deadly shooting, carried by a white supremacist who posted and found acceptance at Free Republic, and who would probably have felt right at home at this gathering.

Or the one before that. Or the one before that. Or…

Series NavigationConservatives’ Race to Oblivion, Pt. 2 of 3

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Democrats Hypocrisy over Nastiness in Politics | Political Byline

  2. I don’t condone nor support the use of racist or derogatory language on either side. On the other hand, to broadly paint the right as a bunch of racist ingrates is prepostorous. I have personally been to tea parties that were for the most part peaceful – you would be surprised. Out of a crowd of thousands there were 2-3 nuts. Of course the local press narrowed in on these 2-3. What say you?

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