Look, there’s no excuse by now. We’ve been over this a hundred thousand times, and there is simply no logical ground on which to argue that the President of the United States is anything other than an American citizen born on American soil. To argue otherwise is a sign of profound ignorance, racism, or mental defect.
And yet, this is apparently still quite a thing, judging by the recent spat of what I can only describe as Confederate protests. Let’s be blunt: the “Tea Party” movement is nothing less than the manifestation of 20th-century Southern politics on a national scale, in which assorted “big mules” (financial interests and the property-owning elite) whip up a frenzy among the working classes to lash out against The Other – usually the implacable menace of the Negro, but just as frequently some combination of communists, Jews, Papists, Yankees, or whatever. The communists have been made over as socialists and Teh Gheys are now up where the Catholics used to be, but for the most part, the forms and styles of the clowns out honking their horns on April 15th are not materially different from the crowds that howled Strom Thurmond to the Dixiecrat nomination in Boutwell Auditorium back in 1948 – or who boosted the Ku Klux to its highest membership in the 1920s.
The key thing you can say about the teabaggers is that they tend to be 1) white and 2) old enough for segregation to be living memory, which would presume roughly age 50 and up. This is not just limited to the South – even if they weren’t out there cheering Wallace with their parents, they are old enough to remember a time when “we didn’t have all these problems.”
In the long run, you can make a case for containment. We can circle the wagons and wait for the majority of the teabaggers to die off, while long-term demographic trends surrounding immigration and racial minorities grind away at the power base of their movement. But as Keynes said, in the long run we’re all dead. So what if we require relief now?
This is not to say that we should be dragging teabaggers into the street and shooting them. I am assured that “the son of a bitch had it coming” is no longer a legal defense to murder even in the state of Alabama, and besides there’s that whole five thousand years of Judeo-Christian morality in the way. What I am suggesting is that the movement itself needs to be defenestrated – that something has to happen to lance the boil such that marching around with guns telling the President to go back to Africa is so patently unacceptable in society that even to be associated with it is poisonous.
Here’s the problem, though: the teabaggers have their own society and their own media environment. They have an entire cable news network, several national talk-radio outlets, and endless Internet commentary to tell them how right they are. They live in a reality they have constructed themselves, and anything that conflicts with their reality can be rejected out of hand as a creation of the enemy’s media machine, or “political correctness”, or some such. There’s no recourse to reason or logic, because they have their own reason and logic. When an entire political sub-class can turn on a dime in a year with regards to the menace posed by the unchecked executive power of the Presidency, good faith bargaining is not on the cards.
The really scary bit is this: I don’t even think something like Oklahoma City in 1995 would break through the shell anymore. I really do think that a major incident of right-wing terrorism would be greeted by the ‘baggers as either a proud blow against government tyranny or as some sort of government trick to try to discredit them, and they’d plow right on along. At that point, I guess the only question is whether the shock would be enough to shear off the less fanatical and reduce the numbers even further – but given this country’s attention span, I’m not sure that’s feasible. And to be honest, I absolutely believe that another September 11-style attack would not result in a rally-round-the-flag-and-President effect. If some mass-casualty catastrophe happened now, I guarantee that Republicans in the House would enter articles of impeachment the next day. To be honest, if the Republicans get control of the House, I fully expect that before January 31, 2011, some GOP member will introduce articles of impeachment – or at the very least, commence hearings on “the birth certificate” or some other talk-radio fabrication.
So what’s my solution? I don’t have one, because there isn’t one.