Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lilly White and Far Right

John Byrne of AlterNet reports on
the opening night speaker at the Tea Party convention. Former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo [R-CO] in his opening remarks suggested that this country needs a return to a "literacy test" to be a precondition to vote. He was in fact suggesting a return to Jim Crow voting laws.
In his speech Thursday to attendees, former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo invoked the loaded pre-civil rights era buzzword, saying that President Barack Obama was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country."

Southern states used literacy tests as part of an effort to deny suffrage to African American voters prior to Johnson-era civil rights laws.

"Prior to passage of the federal Voting Rights Act in 1965, Southern (and some Western) states maintained elaborate voter registration procedures whose primary purpose was to deny the vote to those who were not white," a website for civil rights veterans explains. "In the South, this process was often called the 'literacy test.' In fact, it was much more than a simple test, it was an entire complex system devoted to denying African-Americans (and in some regions, Latinos) the right to vote."

"At the time of the Selma Voting Rights campaign there were actually 100 different tests in use across the state. In theory, each applicant was supposed to be given one at random from a big loose-leaf binder. In real life, some individual tests were easier than others and the registrar made sure that Black applicants got the hardest ones."

White applicants could be approved even if they didn't pass the test.

Tancredo, who is known for his sharp anti-immigrant rhetoric, also attacked what he called the United States' "cult of multiculturalism," and tore into 2008 Republican Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

"Thank God John McCain lost the election," Tancredo told the Tea Party crowd, citing his positions on government spending and immigration.

"This is our country," he added. "Let's take it back."

Tancredo called Obama a "committed socialist ideologue," and referred to him by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama.

In his analysis, Rich Benjamin via AtterNet has an interesting article about the whiteness of the Tea Party movement and racial undertones. Benjamin notes this might be a party of Flour Power, not flower power.

The Tea Party movement, holding its first convention this weekend, is angling to be the most revolutionary force in American politics in name and in deed, since at least the 1960s counterculture. Only this time, the political insurgents command a party of Flour Power, not flower power.

Deciphering the racial codes on the movement's ubiquitous placards does not require a doctorate in semiotics. One popular sign shows the president's face and a caption: "Undocumented worker." Another combines Obama's image with this caption: "The Zoo Has an African Lion and the White House Has a Lyin' African!"

Aside from the festive, ad hominem attacks against President Obama, the Tea Party's leaders and its rank-and-file rarely mention race in debate, instead tucking it just under the surface of "nonracial" issues like health care reform, public spending, immigration, and pointedly, taxes. [...]
The bar-stool version of the Tea Party canard goes like this: Why should we, self-sufficient small-town whites, pay taxes to support all those welfare queens, food stamp cheats and Medicaid layabouts in the big cities and coastal states? The media's version, parroted by Palin and other Fox talking heads, commiserates with Americans in the heartland, christened "the average taxpayer," for unjustly having to subsidize ethnic enclaves that mooch off the national treasury.
What is the reality in this scenario?

A disproportionately high share of our federal government's tax income comes from racially diverse, immigrant-rich, urbanized states, including California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts; not from extremely homogeneous, conservative, anti-tax strongholds like Idaho, Montana, Utah, the Dakotas and Wyoming.
Simmering racism and Deja Vu?

The Tea Party ethos is a direct descendant of the anti-tax segregationist politics that swept the South in the 1950s and '60s.

Before the Tea Party's debut, a whole generation of powerful southern Republicans propelled their careers through a conservative tax-cutting, privatizing, "free-enterprise" politics that remains wildly popular in America's white outer suburbs and exurbs: Lee Atwater (GA), Newt Gingrich (GA), Dick Armey (GA), Tom DeLay (TX), Karl Rove (AL, TX), and George W. Bush. These suburban and exurban Republicans intimately understood their constituents' disdain for court-ordered desegregation. They fueled the rising mania for "individual freedom," "privatization," "states' rights" and social homogeneity that once defined their Southern home turf and now defines the Tea Party.

Race is the subtext of now-potent populist appeals to whites, who feel battered from a tsunami of economic and cultural change. The Tea Party counterculture is waging a proxy war over race during America's rapidly shifting economy and demographic makeup.

Racism is glaringly evident. Is that the platform that the Teabaggers are running on?

1 comment:

Adam said...

"Is that the platform that the Teabaggers are running on?"

In a word; YES.