The presidential campaign had more than a smattering of it. The economic crisis is breeding lots more. Crazy talk comparing Barack Obama to Hitler went mainstream April 15th. It’s nasty and it could get worse, but there is something Barack Obama could do about it if he wanted to.
This week on GRITtv, the Indypendent’s Arun Gupta talked about the Right’s April 15th "tea parties." They tapped into real resentments, he said, but manipulated them in a racist way. Just as some mortgage-holders have become the scapegoats for all our economic woes and along the way the borrowers themselves have become "subprime" — so too, president Obama’s is talked about as not really American, a closet Muslim, a "sub-prime" president. "There is racial code wording going on," said Arun.
It was all over the signs at the April 15 rallies: "Obamanation." "Hang Em High!" "Show us your real birth certificate." The creepiest declared: "The American Tax Payers are the the Jews for Obama’s ovens."
None of this is new. The Obama=Hitler comparison’s been out there since early in the presidential campaign. Rev James David Manning from Harlem sermonized on the topic back in June 2008 (there’s a clip on YouTube,) but Manning’s spew never received the Jeremiah Wright treatment; it got him invited onto right-wing radio instead. Indeed, some right-wing shock-jocks used their mikes to deliver almost daily diatribes questioning Obama’s religion and his citizenship. Now with Limbaugh in the limelight again, right-wing talkers are enjoying a bump and from fringe to middle is how this stuff moves — with the help of powerful media.
There’s nothing like economic chaos to feed fear and anger. We know that much. And race-panic has always been an easy sell in the USA. Historically, those who want to divide and conquer unrest have always succeeded by dressing up racism and xenophobia as working-class solidarity.
There is an antidote. President Obama could put 5 million Americans on the federal payroll as FDR would have done; stop foreclosures on people’s homes. Stop federal and state job layoffs, and stop — please stop — those screw-us again schemes for unscrupulous bankers.
It’s clearly not his nature, but it better become Obama’s strategy. The best answer to fake working-class solidarity is the real kind.
Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on Free Speech TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415) on cable (8 pm ET on Channel 67 in Manhattan and other cities) and online daily at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com.