The McCain campaign is stirring up something dark and vicious in the national psyche. The economic meltdown that's killing their campaign is also aiding it's rageful death rattle—people are scared, uneasy, and increasingly pissed off. McCain rallies sound this close to turning violent. (Pictured: McCain winces slightly after an audience member calls Obama "a terrorist.") "Responsible" Republicans are weirded out. Irresponsible ones think they can stir the folks up just enough to win this sucker and then we'll all go back to being polite. Fat fucking chance. Ta-Nehisi Coates reminds us of the anger of Jerry Falwell and "legitimate" right-wing attacks on activists like Dr. King:
These men didn't kill Martin Luther King, but they contributed to an atmosphere of nationalism, white supremacy and cheap unreflective patriotism that ultimately got a lot of people killed. Confronted with Aparthied South Africa, men like Helms and Falwell used the same "communist" defense. While Mandela wasted away in prison, they dismissed the whole thing as a communist plot. Let me be clear—This is the ghost that McCain Campaign is summoning. This is the Ring Of Power that they want to wield. The Muslim charge, the "Hussein" thing is nothing more than today's red-baiting, and it is what it was then—a cover for racists. You may say I'm overreacting, and I really hope you're right. 999,000 out 1 million times we'll go on like normal and proceed to Election Day. But if some shit pops off, the thug and thug-mongers will not be able to throw up their hands and say "How could I have known?" Ignorance will not save them. Their stupidity is a scourge on us all.
Watch the tape of the guy screaming, "He's a terrorist!" McCain seems to shudder at that, he rolls his eyes... and I thought for a moment he'd admonish the man. But he didn't. And now he's selling the Ayres non-story full-time. Yes, yes, it's all he has. True enough: he no longer has his honor. But we are on the edge of some real serious craziness here and it would be nice if McCain did the right thing and told his more bloodthirsty supporters to go home and take a cold shower. But McCain hasn't done the right thing all year. His campaign is appalling, as the New York Times editorial board said today—and more, it is a national disgrace.
We forget how much Democratic governments engender violent hatred. The '60s weren't just shitty music and hideous clothes, they were a violent near-revolution. The 1930s were an era of extreme vitriol from the nation's right-wing. The polite front was Congressional rebellion and checks on Roosevelt's power—the less polite part was Father Coughlin preaching fascism and Lindbergh and Ford practicing it. The '90s had Waco and the weird Militia culture and Timothy McVeigh. Honestly a Barack Obama presidency was always going to stir up the extreme members of society, but to play into it? To feed off of it? It's fucking irresponsible. Rallying the base always means satisfying the furthest out-there elements, but they've taken on the tone of George Wallace's racist campaign. Mocking John Kerry as a Frenchified sissy is a bit different than encouraging people to assume the guy who'll probably be our next president is a secret Muslim terrorist black power '60s radical extremist baby-murderer. It's all basically a nasty, nasty preview of what we could be in for in an Obama administration. With particularly rabid conservatives already declaring the election pre-stolen by ACORN and (horror of horrors) the poor, black, and homeless (how ACORN is rigging public opinion polls has not yet been adequately explained), the illegitimacy of Obama's presidency will always be a convenient excuse for seething hatred. And with the economy heading south? With a rise in unemployment probably on the way? With a full-blown recession around the corner? We anticipate a resurgence of Lou Dobbs nativism. The Times is already warning that crime could come roaring back to our rapidly gentrified city:
Whatever fate awaits New Yorkers, many say they are bracing for a crime increase, particularly in petty crimes, if the economy gets worse. But opinions are mixed about whether any signs of disorder have already begun. Mya Bee, 34, a filmmaker from a Brooklyn neighborhood once ravaged by crime, said that while it was still too early to gauge the full impact of the economic downturn, she had begun to notice some troubling trends. People seem less confident, she said. Some were selling personal belongings. One friend told her he had pulled his money out of the bank. “When you can’t use your credit cards, it will get worse,” said Ms. Bee, a resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant. “I know when people are really, really feeling it, it’s going to get bad. When that happens, all hell will break loose. People will resort to their old methods of making money, whether it’s robbing or stealing or hustling.”
If the cities fall apart? Obama can't control the Blacks. If the Rust Belt keeps failing? Obama doesn't care about the Whites. Then, in 2010, if things really suck, we'll get a rerun of the 1994 Republican revolution, with a new, crazier, more nativist breed of lunatics hell-bent on making Obama into the nation's biggest villain. Anti-immigration violence doesn't sound too outside the realm of possibility. This is all, obviously, worst-case scenario fear-mongering, but things look fucking grim right now. A pissed-off newly poor populace is never a great sign for anyone in a position of power. A minority in a position of power faces god knows what challenges. Thanks, then, to American Hero John McCain for stirring shit up as much as possible weeks before the election.