Monday, April 25, 2011

I'm Free, White, and Twenty-One: The Real Origins of the Tea Party GOP's Addiction to Birtherism

As John Street smartly offers, popular culture is politics and politics is popular culture.

We have got quite a few new visitors to WARN this last week (join the movement folks, we love and need you all to keep growing) . I offer a "hello" to our new readers, and an "I am glad you still here" for the people that have been following the machinations of Chaucey DeVega and family from the very beginning a few years back.

I must apologize. I have not done a critical reading of a popular culture text in some time. I am going to get back to that beloved habit very shortly as I enjoy it a great deal. But, a brief detour back to my professional bread and butter seemed well timed given all of the recent talk of birtherism, Donald Trump's front runner status, and the Tea Party GOP's allegiance to the nonsense thinking embodied by its cabal of potential 2012 candidates.

If I were impolitic, I would simply say that those Conservatives who subscribe to the belief that Obama is not eligible to be the President of the United States by the status of his birth were rank bigots who suckle at the poisoned teats of the wrong end of history as they masturbate with their own feces in an odd projection of self-loathing and simultaneous dominative racism.

[Did I just write that? Damn and wow! Sometimes I surprise even myself with those turns of phrase.]

But given that more than a plurality of Republicans believe that the President is part of some Manchurian candidate-like conspiracy which was elaborately planned decades ago you/I/we need to take this Birther mess more seriously. On the surface this is the paranoid style run amok and is thus nothing new. Digging a little deeper, the obvious fact that the Birther meme is about race, difference, and Whiteness at the turn of the 21st century becomes more apparent. However, if you get to the heart of the Tootsie Roll pop, Birtherism is all about the pathology of the White Conservative Soul and also the synergy of a few key facts that often go under-discussed.

Primarily, Obama is a black man who happens to be President. This is unsettling to many white folks--as well as to their coloured colonial administrators. Even more telling: the vitriol directed towards President Obama is not just a function of White American anxiety at the time of a declining empire.

Sure, economic insecurity and realistic group conflict are part of the story. But, there is more going on. Here, I would make two interventions. First, the hatred by the New Right towards President Obama is not only about policy (to the degree that Conservatism can even be decoupled from White supremacy) but also speaks to symbolism: the White Racial Frame cannot accept that a person of color, a black man, is the leader of The Free World and resides in the White House. This is an upset that many of The Greatest Generation and their Conservative spawn cannot countenance. Nope. Not ever, as to be White is to be quintessentially "American" in their eyes.

The second point is a bit more pointed. While Shelby Steele and others smartly suggested that then running for office Barack Obama was a compromise candidate and a "mixed man" who could please white Americans because he did not carry the baggage of slavery and racial comeuppance (like Jackson or Sharpton were imagined to by some). Thus, voting for Obama was a get out jail free card for some white folks and a potentially transgressive act. But, there was a deep problem in Obama's success for other White Americans, the very same core group who would later form the core of the John Birch infused Tea Party GOP.

Barack Obama is unapologetic in his life accomplishments. Regardless of what one thinks of Obama's policies, he is no dolt. President Obama may be too generous to his foes, but the President is without regret or doubt about his intelligence. This explains why the mediocrities of Red State America flock to Palin and her many distinguished life failures for these Tea Party GOP brigands seek not a philosopher king, but rather an intellectually bereft political Whore of Babylon who validates all of the short comings inherent in White Populism. Thus, President Obama gets tarred as "uppity" or "elitist" because, and I give my foes no parlay here, he is better, and more accomplished, than the typical proles of the Tea Party GOP ever could be.

The World, the Flesh, and The Devil is spot on in signaling to this reality. Brother Belafonte is unapologetic in his dignity and plain speech. The film itself captures all of the fears of interracial intimacy held by Tea Party GOP. The truth speaking of Inger Stevens' character is almost a direct channeling of the politics of White racial resentment that drive the Republican Party. For what is all of this "real America" talk, if not a signal to the inviolate and inalienable rights that are imagined to come with Whiteness?

In total, the Tea Party GOP may indulge in talk about Birtherism, xenophobia, rewriting history textbooks in Texas, banning ethic studies in Arizona, secession, nullification, and States' Rights, but the New Right is really about a fierce protection of the psychic and material wages of Whiteness.

The World, the Flesh, and The Devil's money shot that to be "free, white, and twenty-one" sums up the driving mantra and reason d'etre of the Tea Party GOP quite perfectly. Does it not?

I have come to a long and difficult conclusion regarding the White Conservative Soul's antipathy towards President Barack Obama. At first, I thought it was "just" policy and ideology colored by white racism. Now their disdain is becoming even more apparent as the Right and many Conservatives have made it plain that they hate the basic fact that President Obama's exists. At first I did not want to write such a thing. Now, the reality demands that we speak truth to power.

Life isn't fair. It simply is. We must not run from--but instead directly towards--this uncomfortable truth.


SL Meyer said...

Great send up, as usual. but m'dear, it's Harry Belafonte, not Sidney Poitier.

Shady_Grady said...

Robert E. Howard wrote in Black Canaan that "Saul Stark is a great big black devil that talks better English than I like to hear a n***** talk".

This is also the feeling that many whites have about Obama. If he doesn't fit the stereotype, something is WRONG.

chaunceydevega said...

Sl. You know they all look alike don't you. Thanks...that is what I get for posting before bed.

Shady. The author of Conan? I didn't know that, but I am not surprised. What else did those pulp authors say on race?

Shady_Grady said...

Yes, the very same guy Chauncey.

One of these days I am gonna do a megapost on racism in art and how important it is or is not to people and whether it makes you dislike the artist or their art.

I love REH's stories but there is some of his work that I can not and will not read. And in his letters to friends he was even worse. One of thse friends was HP Lovecraft, who was probably marginally more racist than REH, but not by much.

Neither REH not HPL were college educated, which probably caused them to seek solace in white supremacist thinking. It's not that different today I don't think.

Many of the white pulp writers of the 20's and 30's were quite racist of course but REH stands out unfortunately. Read some of his comments/thoughts here:

Ruslan said...

First of all I love your blog and your work. But I beg you to please reconsider using terms like "proles" in a pejorative sense. One of the reasons why the right has been so successful in the last 20 years is because Democrats totally abandoned the working class to go after highly-paid professionals, many of whom never really reciprocated such fawning attention, even after their fall from grace(and employment) starting in the early 21st century.

Besides, many Tea Partiers aren't even employed. They tend to be retirees or soon to be retirees, and then there are a lot of self-employed people such as contractors or consultants and such. These are the type of people who think that the world would collapse if they weren't there to run Denny's or whatever the hell else they do.