An alternative title to this entry might be, "Are Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh Racists?"
From Twitter to Fox News, conservatives are mocking those who, like Jimmy Carter and Maureen Dowd, have called Rep. Joe Wilson and the rest of the Glenn Beck fringe "racist." To some extent, they have a point. To suggest that racism is the only or even main reason people criticize the President is absurd. Obama has his honest critics just as Bush, Clinton, and every President all the way back to Adams and Washington had theirs. These critics base their opposition on legitimate policy disagreements - after all, they are conservatives and he is liberal. Republican MSNBC host Joe Scarborough reminded us just how absurd this whole debate can get when he Tweeted, "Great moments in race baiting: Jimmy Carter accused of being racist by Kennedy supporters in 1980 primary."
One of Joe Biden's cardinal rules of politics is to never question another person's motives - eventually you'll make a mistake, tear down a good man, and wind up with egg on your face. Biden's right, so while I will criticize Joe Wilson's actions, I will not second-guess his motives. Maybe he really is just a part of the 55% of America that wrongly believes Obama will cover illegal immigrants, and I'm not about to accuse 55% of Americans of being racist.
But while it is arrogant and dangerous to accuse the entire conservative movement or Republican Party of racism, it is equally dangerous to stick one's head in the sand and claim it isn't a factor. There is racism afoot in the modern conservative movement, we can prove it, and even if it is only relegated to the movement's fringe, it only takes one nut to inspire another to commit what he sees as a necessary murder for the good of his country. It is wrong to accuse 46% of voters or 5 million Fox News viewers of racism, but it is equally wrong to look the other way when even just a few hundred racists speak up. I went to high school in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where the presence of a few bad apples (the Aryan Nations compound) taught a good community a hard lesson: silence is acceptance.
Frank Rich has by far and away the best column I've yet seen on this subject:
Most important, [Palin] stands for a genuine movement: a dwindling white nonurban America that is aflame with grievances and awash in self-pity as the country hurtles into the 21st century and leaves it behind... When Palin referred to Alaska as "a microcosm of America" during the 2008 campaign, it was in defiance of the statistical reality that her state's tiny black and Hispanic populations are unrepresentative of her nation. She stood for the "real America," she insisted, and the identity of the unreal America didn't have to be stated explicitly for audiences to catch her drift.
I won't call Joe Wilson or Glenn Beck's viewers racist, but I will say that we must be vary wary of the Joe McCarthies and the Father Coughlins of this world, and we must name them when we see them. Two of the more obvious names are Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. On his radio program this week, Limbaugh called for a return to segregation and implied that Obama is the real racist, telling his listeners, "Kid shouldn't have been on the bus anyway. We need segregated buses... In Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids now cheering [in an impression of what blacks must sound like] `Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on!'"
Yet while Rush goes on to complain that liberals claim all opposition to health care reform is based in racism, Beck takes a different approach and argues that all support for health care reform is based in racism - because black people are incapable of caring about anything other than their own skin color. That quote, more on Beck, and my conclusions below the jump.