Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 22, 2010

November is nearby and so are the midterm elections. Rhetorical pyrotechnics, no matter how brightly they coruscate in the sky, do not seem to be enough to awaken the somnolent legions of progressives and moderates who are ceding the high ground and the low ground to the right wing of the right wing. Winter may come early this year and for years to come if the G.O.Tea Party has its way.

Race and the Tea Party

Recent news reports have highlighted the apparent attraction that the Tea Party has for angry voters. That anger reportedly stems from the maddening perception that the government interferes too much in the lives of Americans and that the principles of the Founding Fathers should be the sole guiding principles for all governance.

It might be useful, however, to consider the rational basis for this anger and what kind of voter the G.O.Tea Party has attracted. After all, there are some fairly subtle constitutional debates that arise when considering the strict interpretation of the United States Constitution given that it was written over two hundred years ago at a time when slavery was legal, women could not vote and rapacious and persistent genocide was being perpetrated against Native Americans.

Most historians and legal scholars would agree that the unique exceptionalism of the Constitution is that it is an organic document, designed to change. This change can take place through judicial interpretation or amendment. The idea of the Founders was to create a document that could evolve and adapt over time. Otherwise, we would be living in a country where slavery was legal, women couldn’t vote and the physically disabled would not deserve any special consideration as a matter of law.
Simply put, the Constitution was never meant to be the Ten Commandments.

The flawed constitutional analysis of the G.O.Tea Party is paired with a mystical desire to “get government out of the lives of Americans”, even though it is very unclear what aspect of government should be out of our lives. Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for senator in Kentucky believes in removing government from our lives. This would be the same Dr. Rand Paul that accepts Medicaid and Medicare payments for fully 50% of his patients.

Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for senator in Nevada receives medical insurance and healthcare coverage through her husband’s federal pension yet she is part of the G.O.Tea Party movement to get government out of our lives.

Would it be the government that devised and implemented the G.I. Bill that is absolutely responsible for the creation of a true middle class in this country? Would it be the Food and Drug Administration that is responsible for making sure that market forces don’t result in a failure to adhere to basic health standards in the production and delivery of what we ingest daily?

Perhaps the G.O.Tea Party would eliminate unemployment insurance (that would be Joe Miller, G.O.Tea Party candidate for senator in Alaska)? That is the government program that has helped countless millions of Americans and their families avoid homelessness and hunger during this economic depression.

Perhaps G.O.Tea Party is in favor of eliminating farm subsidies that skew and destroy agricultural economies around the world? Not likely.

So what aspect of government should be out of our lives? The military? The Federal Aviation Administration? The U.S. Parks Service? The Army Corps of Enginers? The Postal Service? It is difficult to understand how these critical government services are the source of such rage.

Perhaps we should examine this rage more closely. Since its inception, barely three months after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the Tea Party movement has attracted overtly racist supporters, including some of the most dangerous white supremacists in this nation.

Tea Party rallies have featured President Obama being lynched in effigy, dressed in Africa garb and painted like a minstrel. Questioning Barack Obama’s birthplace and mocking his name are all part of a racially-based disaffection with this President that transcends policy differences and constitutional debates.

Congressman John Boehner, who is salivating at the prospect of becoming Speaker of the House as you read this column, was quoted as saying that President Obama could save money on his inauguration by having a “fried chicken dinner”. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he and his G.O.Tea Party cohorts intend to teach Barack Obama a lesson (blessedly, he did not refer to the President of the United States as a “boy”).

If the policy differences regarding the presence of government are false straw men, and if the constitutional debate is at best the result of subtle philosophical perspectives regarding the United States Constitution, what is all the fuss about? Clearly the mere presence of a black President of the United States has been enough to throw logic, common sense, good taste and equanimity out the window.

And the silence in the presence of this onslaught is deafening.

Driving Miss Ginni Crazy

Last week in Point of View’s “Weekend Edition” I wrote about Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pointing out the disquieting aspects of her raucous and loud rhetorical attacks on the President of the United States while her husband sits on the Supreme Court. The ensuing free speech debate was discussed and ultimately tabled.

This past weekend Ginni Thomas took time off from attacking Barack Obama to call Anita Hill at 7:30 in the morning to demand an apology from her. The news reports of this bit of unfathomable hubris read like something from the National Lampoon, except that it was real. One wonders at the source of her empowerment.

Is it because, as a new leader of the right wing of the right wing she felt that she could simply call Anita Hill and demand that she apologize to her husband? Did Ginni Thomas take her “Miss Daisy” pills that morning and decide to put an uppity black woman in her place?

Or was she channeling Michael Corleone from Godfather II who famously said, “Today we take care of all family business”? Perhaps she was giving us a prequel of a Tyler Perry sequel, “Diary of a Mad White Woman”.

Maybe she was just warming up for the glow of victory that she anticipates on November 2nd?
I only hope that she is disappointed when she wakes up on November 3rd. Instead of Miss Daisy pills perhaps she will be eating humble pie.

Have a great weekend!

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