It’s hard to tell who drives the racist right further over the edge — Barack Obama or John McCain. The prospect of a liberal black man as president makes them all twitchy and itchy, and there’s nothing they’d like to do more than vote against him. But then they’d have to vote for a phony like McCain, who doesn’t even pass their sniff test.
AlterNet’s Gabriel Thompson was in Alabama last weekend for the annual conference of the Council of Conservative Citizens, and his report is well worth the eye-opening read, just to get a sense for what a pack of jabbering cross-burners these folks really are. And as you can imagine, the prospect of an Obama presidency is driving them into a cannibalistic rage:
While Barack Obama has been subject to a whispering campaign, those whispers begin somewhere as shouts — and that somewhere is in places like the CCC’s annual meeting.
"There’s an election coming up, and no matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you better pay attention to what’s going on," Bishop says at the conclusion of his remarks. At this, the crowd murmurs. "We got a young man running for president. Don’t make no difference whether he’s black, white or yellow. But I have a problem with his ideology, with the things he believes in. Obama for president. I can’t even say that. This is a great turning point. ‘Mohammed’ Obama, is that right?"
"Hussein," the crowd calls out.
"That is something we just can’t afford in this country," Bishop says. "My grandkids can’t afford it. If you care about your grandkids’ rights, then this is the election. If the Hispanics and the blacks get together, ladies and gentlemen, we’ll do what we’re told. Now I know that McCain isn’t as conservative as we’d like –"
"He isn’t a conservative at all!" someone yells.
"You got that right!" adds another.
"But he can be our salvation," continues Bishop, clearly upset at the interruption.
"It’s time for you to stop talking," shouts an angry voice.
By now Bishop is livid. "Well, don’t come crying to me when you get your tails beat and have to say, ‘Yessuh, Mr. Obama.’"
All kinds of meaty takeaways in that:
– The far right, as I’ve observed previously, acts as a kind of echo chamber for the mainstream right where talking points, ideas, and agendas are tested out and gradually shaped. We’ve already been hearing the "Muslim Obama" crap from a large number of ostensibly mainstream right-wingers, so it’s just about a dead certainty the volume and intensity of it will rise as Election Day nears.
– What these guys are really scared of is being treated by black people in exactly the same way they have treated them ("Yessuh, Mr. Obama") if/when economic and social positions shift. (This is, incidentally, an old motif that dates back to the lynching-era hysteria about blacks raping white women when, in reality, white men raping black women was a commonplace, both before and after slavery.) And that is the chief anxiety of these men — that their own mistreatment of their fellow humans will come back to haunt them. As it happens, this is in fact a powerful appeal across many sectors of white society. So expect to hear strands of it woven into the GOP’s attacks on Obama.
– These guys really just can’t stomach McCain, mostly because he fails their "purity" tests. A lot of them feel sold down the river by Bush — though almost certainly this is not because Bush wasn’t conservative enough, but because he was incompetent and his presidency a disaster. McCain, in these people’s eyes, isn’t a true "conservative" — particularly not on the all-important right-wing hysterical issue du jour, immigration. And there’s a reason for that.
I know, I know. Couldn’t be happening to a nicer bunch of folks.