David Brooks argues that the teabagger phenomenon, with all its craziness, isn’t fundamentally “about” race. Instead, he says, it’s an instance of the eternal populist protest against the “elites.”
Why is this an either/or? Yes, the teabaggers have much in common with previous revolts of the ignorant. But racial animus is no stranger to those revolts, and Glenn Beck (for example) has made Obama’s supposed hostility toward whites a significant theme; those Obama-as-witch-doctor posters didn’t come out of nowhere.
Other than the racial element, what’s new this time is the willingness of a big chunk of the ruling elite, including the leadership of one of the two great political parties, to align itself with the lunatic fringe. The GOP of the 30s got pretty rabid about Roosevelt, but GOP electeds never adopted the Liberty Lobby/Father Coughlin accusations about FDR and the world Jewish conspiracy. Contemporary Republican leaders are willing to join the folks with pitchforks as they worry about the President’s birth certificate.
That’s change, but not the kind we voted for.
I admit to having been wrong; I was convinced that Obama’s self-evident excellence as a human being would reconcile whites to being ruled by him, and thought that his race might even mitigate his superiority. Maybe that would have been true, in better economic times. And it still may become true. Or it could be that his Presidency will put a deeper devide between white racists and the rest of us palefaces. But so far, not so good.