One clue that health care is not being well-received among the public: Liberal media members, instead of celebrating the wonderful era of health-care access to come, can't stop obsessing over unsubstantiated allegations of racism among Tea Party activists, as if trying to change the subject.
Frank Rich's Sunday super-sized column, "Welcome to Confederate History Month" is the latest in the string. The text box is loaded with sarcasm: "The Civil War, like the war against Obama, wasn't about race."
It's an unusually dumb entry, but also typical - beginning with an utterly irrelevant pop culture reference that's neither fitting or clever, followed by 1,400 words all but accusing Republicans of racism (Rich prefers odious comparisons to direct accusations he'd have to back up).
At least he seems to be reading his criticism, and reacting hotly. Rich is evidently discussing this column by David Paul Kuhn of Real Clear Politics, which directly refuted Rich's previous column on this same tired subject, in which Kuhn lambasted Rich: "All he has are anecdotes of angry white activists. So he stereotypes. It's like a white person who watches a black criminal on the local news and draws racist generalizations."
Here's the entry to Rich's latest "argument":
It's kind of like that legendary stunt on the prime-time soap "Dallas," where we learned that nothing bad had really happened because the previous season's episodes were all a dream. We now know that the wave of anger that crashed on the Capitol as the health care bill passed last month - the death threats and epithets hurled at members of Congress - was also a mirage.
Take it from the louder voices on the right. Because no tape has surfaced of anyone yelling racial slurs at the civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, it's now a blogosphere "fact" that Lewis is a liar and the "lamestream media" concocted the entire incident. The same camp maintains as well that the spit landing on the Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver was inadvertent spillover saliva from an over-frothing screamer - spittle, not spit, as it were. True, there is video evidence of the homophobic venom directed at Barney Frank - but, hey, Frank is white, so no racism there!
"It's Not About Race" declared a headline on a typical column defending over-the-top "Obamacare" opponents from critics like me, who had the nerve to suggest a possible racial motive in the rage aimed at the likes of Lewis and Cleaver - neither of whom were major players in the Democrats' health care campaign. It's also mistaken, it seems, for anyone to posit that race might be animating anti-Obama hotheads like those who packed assault weapons at presidential town hall meetings on health care last summer. And surely it is outrageous for anyone to argue that conservative leaders are enabling such extremism by remaining silent or egging it on with cries of "Reload!" to pander to the Tea Party-Glenn Beck base. As Beck has said, it's Obama who is the real racist.
I would be more than happy to stand corrected. But the story of race and the right did not, alas, end with the health care bill. Hardly had we been told that all that ugliness was a fantasy than we learned back in the material world that the new Republican governor of Virginia, Robert McDonnell, had issued a state proclamation celebrating April as Confederate History Month.
Then Rich suggested that most Tea Party members are racist, based on...well, not much:
Most Americans who don't like Obama or the health care bill are not racists. It may be a closer call among Tea Partiers, of whom only 1 percent are black, according to last week's much dissected Times/CBS News poll. That same survey found that 52 percent of Tea Party followers feel "too much" has been made of the problems facing black people - nearly twice the national average. And that's just those who admit to it. Whatever their number, those who are threatened and enraged by the new Obama order are volatile. Conservative politicians are taking a walk on the wild side by coddling and encouraging them, whatever the short-term political gain.
Rich impressively leaped from a "volunteer militia" to Timothy McVeigh in two slimy sentences, before cogently reading the minds of the G.O.P. leadership and puzzling out why Michael Steele is still chairman of the Republican National Committee.
How our current spike in neo-Confederate rebellion will end is unknown. It's unnerving that Tea Party leaders and conservatives in the Oklahoma Legislature now aim to create a new volunteer militia that, as The Associated Press described it, would use as yet mysterious means to "help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty." This is the same ideology that animated Timothy McVeigh, whose strike against the tyrannical federal government will reach its 15th anniversary on Monday in the same city where the Oklahoma Legislature meets.
What is known is that the nearly all-white G.O.P. is so traumatized by race it has now morphed into a bizarre paragon of both liberal and conservative racial political correctness. For irrefutable proof, look no further than the peculiar case of its chairman, Steele, whose reckless spending and incompetence would cost him his job at any other professional organization, let alone a political operation during an election year. Steele has job security only because he is the sole black man in a white party hierarchy. That hierarchy is as fearful of crossing him as it is of calling out the extreme Obama haters in its ranks.
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