Standing jubilantly before his subjects like a schlubby cartoon potentate, Newt Gingrich, the GOP’s resident court jester/sage/adulterer extraordinaire, declared Obama to be the most “radical” president in U.S. history at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. Reveling in the event’s torch passing pageantry, the audience lapped up Gingrich’s tirade against the “secular socialist” Obama machine. Coming on the heels of Virginia governor Bob McDonnell’s racist paean to Confederate pride (in which Southern honor was smote in a zip-a-dee-doo-da world without slavery or slaves), the conference issued another call to arms.
The RNC’s recent “party of family values’” peccadilloes notwithstanding, the past week has been very good for the GOP politically. Both liberal Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens and conservative Congressman Bart Stupak announced their retirements at a moment when white nationalist backlash is rapidly growing into a palace revolt. Stephens is the thin tissue between the far right judicial activist wing of the Supreme Court. His departure will spur another dogfight over the tenor of the bench and an Obama administration scramble for a palatable moderate. Stupak’s swift departure is an ironic end for a heretofore obscure legislator who saw his anti-abortion victory for the Religious Right rewarded with the junkyard intimidation tactics of the Tea Party.
During the health care deliberations, Stupak and his Blue Dog posse gave mainstream America a naked glimpse into the Capitol’s corrupt congressional machine. After all, it was Democrats who kowtowed to the insurance industry and caved on single payer and the public option. And it was Democrats who fought tooth and nail to trample a woman’s right to choose by making abortion a third rail deal breaker. So the charge that the Obama era signals a descent into radicalism would be laughable if it weren’t so insidious. In a rational universe, a review of the Obama administration’s policies thus far would yield universal approbation by conservatives. For example, by increasing troop deployments in Afghanistan Obama has fallen in lock step with the most hawkish Republicans’ imperialist claims on the Middle East. On the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Obama administration’s tepid stance has barely deviated from that of the Bush administration.
Obama’s recent backpedaling on offshore oil drilling should cheer his most reactionary critics and his inaction on climate change should bolster the growing chorus of flat earth troglodytes who believe global warming is a hoax. His campaign outreach to the Religious Right and his unswerving support of Bush’s faith-based initiative mark him as no sop for godless infidels. And his curt dismissal of the Congressional Black Caucus’ advocacy for specific policies to address the recession’s disproportionate impact on African Americans should have dispelled any lingering delusions that Obama would throw black America a bone.
Yet, like the little white boy who assailed Martinican psychiatrist-revolutionary Frantz Fanon with the reflexive “look, a Negro,” white power will concede nothing to Obama’s brokering for the ruling class. ‘Secular’ ‘socialist’ and ‘big government’ are now 21st century “code” words for the marauding black Other. And as the architect of the GOP’s 1994 Contract with America Gingrich is chomping at the bit for a return to Old Glory. With Stupak and other retiring Democrats out of the picture, the prospect of a Republican midterm election sweep looks even more tantalizing. In draconian language much like the simple-minded rhetoric of the Tea Party, the Contract spelled out an agenda mandating limited government, low taxes and so-called personal responsibility, reinforcing race and class inequity in the “liberal” Clinton years.
On April 15th the Tea Party will unveil a new “Contract From America,” a sprawling proposal purportedly generated from thousands of conservative survey participants that would provide newly elected legislators with a platform. Among the proposals is a demand to “Protect the Constitution by requiring each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.” Ostensibly aimed at Congress, this newfound right wing obsession with Constitutional integrity was never evident during the Bush years, when the administration criminally bucked constitutionality with illegal wiretapping, torture and preemptive wars. In its toxic mix of physical and rhetorical violence, the GOP/Tea Party is re-initiating middle America’s masses into the time-honored best policy practices of the Confederacy —- namely, that the best “defense” is a white sheet offense.
Sikivu Hutchinson is the editor of blackfemlens.org and the author of the forthcoming Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics and Secular America.