Packs of taxpayer marchers shuffled down Pennsylvania Avenue proudly waving signs. "The Long Legged Mack Daddy," "Where's the Birth Certificate," Mississippi Freedom Riders," "Whoa Boys Take it from Here" (Obama waving to black and Islamic militants). Many defiantly waved Confederate flags and the Texas state flag (separatist movement emblem).
Meanwhile, South Carolina senator Jim DeMint, Congresspersons Mike Pence, Phil Gingrey and Marsha Blackburn, and organizer mouthpiece scandal-plagued former House majority leader Dick Armey profusely swore that the march had nothing to do with race, politics, or even President Obama. The racist flags, symbols and signs, though, gave big lie to their profuse denials. Racism was on full and ugly display on the Capitol Mall. No attempt was made to mask it. Some protesters seemed quite proud to openly send a message about race and Obama.
DeMint and Armey's public pretense that the Taxpayer March was non-partisan, with absolutely no racial overtone or anti-Obama motive to it is the stock ploy to play the race card while disavowing any play of it. The GOP has honed the ploy to a science in the past four decades.
During the Nixon years, and later during the Reagan years, GOP leaders figured that there were a lot of white guys out there who were mad as hell at the feds for dumping a bloated, overblown big government on them. Lurking underneath their frustration was the finger point at minorities for the government bloat. That turned into the artful twist of hidden race animus into slogans such as "law and order," "crime in the streets," "welfare cheats," and "absentee fathers." These were all carefully crafted to punch the anger and frustration of many whites at blacks without getting the muck of racism on their hands.
The GOP also sensed that racial sloganeering and race baiting could work by playing on the false fear of blue collar white males that they were losing ground to minorities and women in the workplace, schools, and in society. The main culprit was always the big, intrusive federal government that tilted unfairly in spending priorities toward social programs that benefited minorities at the expense of hard working white males. This, of course, translates out to even more fear, rage and distrust of minorities. The venerable blend of race and anti-government politics has been on textbook display in the health care reform battle.
The racial assault by droves of taxpayer marchers was simply the latest in the racial pillorying of Obama. There are dozens of active anti-Obama websites. All are stuffed with demeaning racist cartoons, depictions, characterizations and racially poisonous verbal bashes and attacks.
It was perhaps fitting that many taxpayer marchers turned South Carolina Congressman Joe "You Lie" Wilson into a near mythical folk hero. There were buttons and banners backslapping Wilson for hitting back at Obama. But long before Wilson's blasphemous outburst at Obama during his congressional speech on health care reform, he cut his teeth battling hard to beat back the NAACP challenge to remove the Confederate flag from its long standing perch at the front of the South Carolina state capitol building.
Wilson's proud battle to preserve, as he proudly noted, the flag that typifies "our heritage" is par for the course for GOP racist-tinged politics in South Carolina. And Wilson swims squarely in the mainstream of that brand of race politics with other GOP politicians in the state. On September 12, he had good company from legions of taxpayer marchers.
- Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press) will be released in January, 2010.