Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lincoln Was Hated Too

...Until they killed him.

On the day Obama was inaugurated Republican leaders met in private and swore to oppose everything, EVERYTHING, the new president tried to accomplish. This article in Tikkun summarizes it well. So do these articles: Washington Post, the Guardian, and DailyKos.

In at least one press interview these Republican conspirators compared their opposition to the Taliban. An interesting choice, considering they spent a lot of the first year screaming that Obama wasn’t killing enough Taliban in Afghanistan.

For two years the blockade leaked. Democrats got bills passed. The economy began to recover. The Affordable Care Act passed against a fierce fire from Republicans, never mind that the plan was designed around mandates and a healthcare marketplace first proposed by the Heritage Foundation. When Democrats found Republican points they could agree on Republicans hated them for it. They didn’t want compromise. They wanted dysfunction. They wanted war.

In 2010, corporations (whom the Supreme Court had reclassified as people) poured hundreds of millions of dollars (which the Supreme Court had reclassified as protected speech) to Republican candidates. Most of these candidates didn’t hide their anarchist fervor on the stump, and the wave of Republicans who retook the House of Representatives were the most radical the institution had ever seen. Radicals who scorned the rules and traditions of the House itself. They were anarchists. Their sole wish was to make the Congress cease to function. Their goal being to make Obama’s presidency a failure.

Now the opposition was total because they had the numbers. They refused to compromise on anything and could block everything. They used procedural maneuvers to prevent majority measures from passing. They used procedure to slow up ordinary congressional business. Routine stuff like departmental appointments which the opposition party generally allowed because departments needed people doing the work.

Not this time. No judges. No heads of various departments. Bush appointees were therefore left in place, which pleased the Republicans. Understaffed government agencies began to function less efficiently. Brilliant! This was exactly what the Republicans wanted. They wanted the government that did things to cease doing things like helping the unemployed, like treating veterans, like helping veterans of their wars find jobs. Maximum pain was the goal.

Then there was the debt limit. Bush had started two wars and kept their trillion dollar cost off the books. Obama put them back on the books, in a refreshing act of accounting honesty. But Republicans decided they didn't want to pay this debt. Just as they didn't want to pay unemployment benefits to vets. Or the upkeep of the nation's highways. Or relief to people suffering from the economic collapse. They didn't want to spend any money unless they could cut the taxes owed by their wealthy clients. International markets downgraded U.S. Treasury Bills, our sovereign debt. Republicans cheered. Something they wanted to happen couldn't possibly be their fault. It was the president's fault.

Republicans in the House voted more than 50 times to overturn the Affordable Care Act. They wanted to undo Obama’s signature achievement. Republicans who controlled red states refused to enact the ACA in their states, refusing federal money to assist their citizens who didn’t have healthcare coverage. A Scroogelike opposition.

Nice guys, these Republicans. Millions cheered them on. Why?

What was different? Was it because the president was….(black)? Perish the thought. Apparently it was because he was a foreign born Muslim, a silly falsehood Republicans raised again and again. Why did they raise it again and again? Because their constituents believed it. They believed it because their political masters told them to.

They hated Obama. They have hated him ever since he was elected. They hated him the moment he became black, which they prefer to believe was not in Hawaii.

People hated Lincoln too. People North and South, but mostly in the South. Until they killed him.

Lincoln had one advantage. He tried to solve serious problems that Americans had kicked down the road for generations, but he didn’t have to deal with a Confederacy that controlled the Congress and the Supreme Court. Today the Confederacy, the Lost Cause of sacred memory, lives in the Republican Party.

It didn’t die in 1865. The Confederacy lived on in Jim Crow all across the South where blacks could be lynched for registering to vote or for looking at a white person the wrong way, and there were a lot of wrong ways, whole etiquette books of them (the South was and is famously courteous.)

After LBJ passed civil rights and voting rights Southerners blamed the Democratic Party and became Republicans overnight. Nixon devised a whole program to welcome the racists and the anti-unionists and the male supremacists into the Republican fold. It was called the Southern Strategy. It was carefully written to enable white folks to hate and oppress black folks without calling them n*****s. So the Confederacy lives again. No white hoods required, just stubborn willingness to pour sand in the works of our democracy. Why? Racist spite seems extremely probable. You need to work very hard not to think so.

And it’s working brilliantly. Oppose everything, block everything Obama tries to do––even those proposals first made by Republicans––show willingness to make the nation default. The Republicans’ plan contained an explicit desire to make Americans suffer. They’ve laughingly admitted this. They know Americans will blame the president for all of their pain and frustration even if its caused by his enemies. Which is the purest, sickest, most unAmerican kind of cynicism. They've willed his exclusion from the public conversation, hogtied his economic recovery and carefully orchestrated hatred and blame from half of the country. They've gagged him and criticize him for not talking. When he does speak they damn him for poisoning the air––because they disagree. It is hard to be a black leader in a country with a history of racism. It's gotten so bad the news media feel compelled to minimize Obama's achievements. He has achieved a great deal, but who remembers? We've come a long way back since the previous president drove us into the ditch. How could a successful president be this unpopular? It is hard to explain.

So the harm is done. And we’ve let it be done. Our news media has hidden what has been done because to describe this kind of behavior honestly would appear partisan. So they soften it, disguise it, create phony balance. If the president’s opposition behaves in a racist fashion, well Obama must be a racist too.

It’s like that other case in Ferguson, Missouri, where the black man was wrongfully arrested, beaten, jailed and when the police discovered they’d arrested an innocent man from out of town they charged him with destruction of police property. While they’d been beating him up he’d bled on their uniforms.

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