Friday, February 19, 2010

Teabaggers, Birthers + Militia: A Love Story

Taking in all this craziness I was thinking about how American this phenomenon is: the guns, the ignorance, the isolationism. But you know what? It isn't just an American thing. Take away the guns part of the equation and you have the same thing in Europe as well. (During a brief stay in Madrid a few years ago, I saw anti-Semitic graffiti in an upscale neighborhood close to downtown; was told to stay in on a night in which a soccer team favored by racist skinheads won a deciding match; routinely came across anti-racism activists, the likes of which I hadn't seen in NYC since the days of S.H.A.R.P. Remember them?)

But more importantly, these people have gained power all across the Old Continent, right-wing extremists representing constituencies in the same manner as our congressmen and women, and in certain instances getting a substantial amount of votes in nationwide elections. And that's where I feel the Sarah Palins and the Michelle Bachmanns want to take the Tea Baggers, Birthers+Militia folks: mainstreaming the fringe into the bosom of the GOP, and redefining the party in the process. Don't forget, these are all constituencies--along with the biggest of them all: the Christian Right--the Republicans have always discreetly courted but ditched whenever politically expedient. Well, looks like they're mad as hell and won't take it anymore. Where this leaves the traditional conservative establishment is anyone's guess.

Basically what we have is the confluence of a reawakened '90s militia movement (with a black president as an incredibly valuable recruiting tool) and a Ross Perot-type phenomenon in the Tea Baggers/Birthers. But while the GOP may feed off the anti-Obama sentiment these groups espouse, they are keenly aware of how these folks could conceivably splinter off into some third party, decisively hurting Republican chances. Which is why you see Sister Sarah patiently trying to nudge these folks off into the Republican side. (Where they could ostensibly support her as a GOP candidate.) Unfortunately for her, a few of these folks have picked up on this opportunism of hers and have been speaking out on the subject. Will it take? I dunno, the lady is very charismatic...

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