Posted by: Randy Allgaier | August 7, 2009

Town Hall Astroturf Protests and the “Birthers”: The ugliness of racism and hatred


The town hall protests that are occurring around the country have very little to do with healthcare reform – the subject of these town halls convened by members of Congress.  They are an intersection of high powered lobbyists for the insurance industry, ignorance and racism.

 Across the nation, the same conservative lobbying groups like FreedomWorks.com (the one run by Dick Armey of Jack Abramoff fame) that brought you the infamous teabagger protests are organizing to flood town hall meetings with outraged yokels shouting about socialism.  This is not grassroots, this is Astroturf.

 Some legislators have already faced the terrifying spectacle of bestickered mobs chanting “Just Say No!” or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (I really don’t think that  the Pledge was written to derail thoughtful discourse).    These are the same people who were showing up at Sarah Palin rallies calling Barack Obama a terrorist, a socialist, a Nazi, and crying over the direction of their country.    Now Congress members are receiving death threats and are being lynched in effigy.  These people are scary and are dangerous.  The rhetoric is getting increasingly violent and could, end up in acts of violence.  It is eerily reminiscent of some of the ugliest McCain / Palin rallies.

 Of course Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck are certifiable but they have an audience.  They have audiences of people who can be manipulated by fear and the health insurance lobbyists are using this audience in a campaign of misinformation and intimidation; a campaign that it meant to shut down civil discourse- the cornerstone of our nation’s democracy.   They are playing into their fears.

 When you hear people screaming that they don’t want government messing with their Medicare (the very essence of a government run single payer system that works well) you know that these people are not well informed and have no interest in being informed about the issues. 

 You have people screaming that the proposals in the House and the Senate are about nationalizing healthcare and forcing a single payer system on the nation.  While I am a supporter of single payer, I agree with the assessment of President Obama that the nation is not ready for it and in fact single payer was never on the table for the Obama administration. 

 Today in the news I saw some former Dick Armey aide who is involved with FreedomWorks.com say that these protests were organic and people truly understand the specifics of the proposals in Congress.  I’ve never heard something so laughable in my life.  If in fact these people understood the issues they wouldn’t be saying things so absurd and so, well, stupid. 

 More insidious to me is that the health insurance industry is playing with fire.  It is playing with the racist hatred of some white Americans who cannot accept that we have an African American president.  They are using the very same people who are the “birthers”.  When you consider that 58% of Republicans  and most  Southerners either do not believe that the President is a citizen or are unsure- you have a group of people who are deluded and do not want to accept the outcome of the election:  an African American holds the most powerful office in the land.  These people are desperately holding on to an America of the past not the future. 

 The future scares these people.  The rapidly changing face of the American people is revealed in new census projections that predict that groups that are now labeled minorities will form the greater part of the country’s population by 2042.  According to the US census bureau, the dominance of non-Hispanic white people, who today account for two-thirds of Americans, will be whittled away, falling steadily to less than half in 2042 and 46% by 2050.  This is a future that some white Americans, especially in the rural south cannot accept. 

 The people showing up to these rallies haven’t bothered to look at the legislation and have no interest in the truth or the facts, they want to hold on to a past that is no more.

 In a recent column Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker wrote:

 “The curious Republican campaign of 2008 may have galvanized a conservative Southern base — including many who were mostly concerned with the direction Democrats would take the country — but it also repelled others who simply bolted and ran the other way. Whatever legitimate concerns the GOP may historically have represented were suddenly overshadowed by a sense of a resurgent Old South and all the attendant pathologies of festering hate and fear.

 What the GOP is experiencing now, one hopes, are the death throes of that 50-year spell that Johnson foretold. But before the party of the Great Emancipator can rise again, Republicans will have to face their inner Voinovich and drive a stake through the heart of old Dixie.”

 In a recent appearance on “Hardball” Parker talked about the reason the “birther” movement, the zealous and scary protests at healthcare reform town halls, and the racism on display in the Sotomayor hearings have taken hold in the South.  She said it can be summed up in two words:  The Confederacy.  States rights, secession, racism are all alive and well in the old Confederacy.

These town hall protests have nothing to do with healthcare.  Well they do for the corporate lobbyists that are organizing these poor ignorant racists who will lap up anything they are fed that feeds into their fears. But for those who are being manipulated, it is about expressing the fear and hatred for the multicultural future of this nation.

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