The National Catholic Review

The grounds of the U.S. Capitol were the site of a conservative rally on Saturday that drew tens of thousands of protesters to Washington, D.C. The immediate occasion for the protest is the health care reform effort, but it quickly became obvious that some of the protesters’ complaints were of more antique vintage. What united them all was their animus towards the President and, sadly, it is time to ask how much of a factor racism is playing in these Tea Party protests.

The protest was organized by several ostensibly mainstream groups, such as FreedomWorks, a D.C. organization founded by former Congressman Dick Armey and the web-based group ResistNet. This latter organization is especially important because it shows the power of the internet to organize groups of motivated activists quickly, but it also demonstrates the lack of institutional cohesion the net provides. For example, ResistNet has a "zero tolerance" policy for "personal attacks" or "militancy against Barack Obama or others." Yet, the crowd on Saturday was filled many tee-shirts and posters of the President’s face distorted to resemble the Joker from "Batman" with the caption "Socialism." That would seem to be personal, no? And, did these folks see the movie? The Joker, you may recall, created chaos and hoped that such chaos would lead otherwise decent people to do indecent things. His brand of evil had a libertarian flavor, not a socialistic one.

The signs at the protests and the comments to the television cameras invoked patriotic images mostly. Many people carried Gadsden’s flag with its coiled rattlesnake and the motto "Don’t Tread on Me." One poster read simply "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!" and others found ways to echo or praise Congressman Joe Wilson who yelled "You Lie!" at the President during Wednesday night’s joint session.

But, other complaints were disturbing, and disturbing at several levels. One man who must have been designated as a spokesman because I saw him interviewed on different networks both before and after the event, repeated the mantra about returning to the vision of the Founding Fathers. In the course of the interview, he said the root of the problem was Seventeenth Amendment, providing for the direct election of Senators. The man was very concerned that Senators no longer "represent the States" as intended, pointing out that America is a Republic, not a democracy. He did not indicate why this issue had not come up during last year’s election or what it had to do with health care reform. Others, repeating the paranoid economic vision of Congressman Ron Paul, cited the Federal Reserve as the root of the problem. "It’s not just about health care," one protester said, "It’s about so much more than that." Indeed.

The Seventeenth Amendment was ratified in 1913. The Federal Reserve was created the same year. (Conspiracy theorists of the world, go crazy with that coincidence! Alas, the internet can be used to spread kookiness as well as information.) They have been on the books for almost one hundred years, yet apart from meetings of the John Birch Society, such complaints have not usually been part of mainstream political debate. The last time this fetish for states’ rights manifested itself was in the opposition to the Civil Rights laws of the 1960s.

Re-read that last sentence. It is becoming well nigh impossible to deny the racist overtones of these protests. Bill Clinton was hated by Washington’s professional Republicans, but I do not recall tens of thousand descending upon Washington armed with arguments about the Seventeenth Amendment. Jimmy Carter certainly was accused of many things, but hostility to the U.S. Constitution was not one of them. The list goes on. I do not know what percentage of the protesters on Saturday harbor racist sentiments. But, watching and listening, it is difficult not to conclude that the strong sense of grievance, the idea that "Nobody’s standing up for us!" as one man from Tennessee put it, was not only to restore certain constitutional principles, but the social hierarchy that prevailed in earlier times, a hierarchy that kept blacks on the lowest rungs of society. No matter their degree of education, the most talented, educated black was still lower than the least educated white yahoo.

The election of Barack Obama was the final nail in the coffin of institutionalized racism in our nation’s political life, although the attitudes still exist and will manifest themselves to be sure and blacks and Latinos face racism in the private sector all the time. But, if you really thought the Civil Rights movement was a mistake, seeing President Obama address Congress is precisely the thing that will drive you nuts. Republicans who have principled reasons for opposing the President on health care should be careful about how and among whom they stir up opposition. Many of the virtually all-white crowd on Saturday yearned for an earlier time with less government involvement in society. But, that earlier time recalls, for many of us, the memory of states’ rights being enforced through dogs and water cannons. We do not want to go back. We want to go forward.

Michael Sean Winters

 

Comments

Anonymous | 9/23/2009 - 1:08am
I need to add my two bits (many days later than most of these postings). It is wrong to assume that the bulk of or motivation for this outrage/protest is about race. As the President stated when responding to Mr. Carter's suggestion of racism (and I paraphrase) 'there will always be some people that are motivated that way'.
Protest rallies (even being "anti government") are part of the American way. The show that we still have the freedoms we are contending for.  While some will get ugly, most are just passionate about their cause being heard. This keeps everyone on their toes and the debate open.
As far as mocking the President-I have never felt it in good taste. Nevertheless it has been the case with most of them. Prominent features will be exagerated (remember Richard Nixon's almost 'spoonbill' nose, Ronald Reagan resembling a monkey, Bill Clintons bulbous nose and huge 'Dudley-Do-Right' chin as well as our last president's 8 year collection of ridiculous 'elf like' or 'Mad magazine like' sketches!) I don't think our current president is more ridiculed than our past ones. Perhaps the internet makes the mockery more accesible is all.
~Laurie
 
Anonymous | 9/17/2009 - 11:53am
Both Time magazine and Democratic congressman Brad Stupak admit that HR3200 will allow for abortion to be covered and there's the curious little detail that two proposed amendments offered to overtly insure that abortion will not be covered were voted down by a party-line vote. So there.
As for what the GOP was able to do on the abortion front...what do you call "Partial-Birth-Abortion Ban"? What do you call judge appointees to federal benches? What do you call the US Mexico City policy banning foreign aid to NGOs that promote abortion abroad? While pro-lifers' didn't get all we wanted from Bush, to claim that NOTHING was accomplished and "therefore" we might as well capituate to Planned Parenthood and FOCA via Obama is insane. No thanks to "catholic" Democrats, we've fought public funding of Planned Parenthood on local, county, city, state, and federal levels.... and your supposed "pro-life" side has blocked these efforts with snide comments and obstacles.
Here's a thought experiment....you didn't like Bush or the War in Iraq. So....did "your side" "work with Bush" for the successful victory in Iraq as prelude to bringing our boys home?! No. You opposed him at every turn and wanted to withdraw troops prior to the successful "surge". You thought that was appropriate because you didn't trust Bush and didn't think further bloodshed would ultimately save more lives than immediate withdrawl.
Well, consider our not being impressed with Obama's claims to want to reduce abortion (because he's funding Planned Parenthood with billions) similar. How is this hard to understand?
Finally, my wife is a LEGAL IMMIGRANT. LEGAL IMMIGRATION is not opposed by any "on our side" as many of our heroes are themselves LEGAL IMMIGRANTS. It's the willful blind eye to illegality, the Identity theft that makes it possible, the double standards where non-citizens get in-state perks while out-of-state citizens don't. It's the injustice of the black market undercutting legal immigrants' wages, the corruption that cash-only illegal employment promotes... It's the racism of Atzlan types on the Southern border and triumphalism of the Chicano activists that scares those immigrants who have jumped through all the hoops, done everything by the book, waited in line for years and years...only to be told that they're chumps and rule breaking is supposed to be ratified for "justice' sake".
It's not race, it's not socio-economic class... it's the fear that these law breakers want the freebies but don't have the same allegiance to law and order that makes us all Americans! America is not a race, ethnic, or socio-economic based nation....we're a Law based society....so being blase about breaking the law, or being ho-hum about denying the unborn legal protection, strikes at the core of our nation's very premise.
I relish the opportunity to "dialogue" with you on this topic as you attempt to school me on exactly where in Catholic teaching it's taught that ignoring civil laws is perfectly OK. Or where Catholic social teaching thinks it's just fine for extra-legal immigrants to undercut legal immigrants or citizen's wages because they'll work for cash and without all the OSHA rules, etc.
Welcoming refugees and desperate folk is one thing. Being OK with on-going, systemic law breaking....quite another. And lest you claim we haven't helped refugees.... think again.
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 10:35pm
Methinks some of you doth protest too much.
 
On the Health Care bill itself, much of what many of you are saying comes from insurance company talking points.  The bill Obama actually wants does not allow public funding of abortion.  If you were actually paying attention, you would know that. 
 
On abortion, the point has been made that the GOP, when in power, has done little besides use the issue electorally.  Obama Catholics have realized this is a ruse.  If you really care about the unborn, you will pursue a different tack and work with this president on what is possible rather than demonizing him.
 
More importantly, much of the signage and rhetoric at the rally was anti-migrant.  As Catholics, we are obliged to welcome migrants, regardless of legal status.  If you don't like that, I suggest you find a Church in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Anonymous | 9/15/2009 - 10:49pm
I agree with Tara. Eileen should read the article in the Times by David Kirkpatrick published on September 17, 2008. Here is an excerpt:
 
A struggle within the church over how Catholic voters should think about abortion is once again flaring up just as political partisans prepare an all-out battle for the votes of Mass-going Catholics in swing-state towns like Scranton... One parishioner ruled out voting for Mr. Obama explicitly because he is black. “Are they going to make it the Black House?” Ray McCormick asked, to embarrassed hushing from a half dozen others gathered around the rectory kitchen. (Five of the six, all lifelong Democrats who supported Mrs. Clinton in the primary, said they now lean toward Mr. McCain.)
Mr. Madonna, the political scientist, said of the Catholic vote in white, working-class Scranton, “This is a tough area for Obama and some of it is race.”
Anonymous | 9/15/2009 - 9:53pm
I find this evidenceless broad brush accusation by Democrats like Mr. Winters that any opposition to Obama is racist to be utterly sickening.  Actually, I think the accusers are the racist ones since they say that the mere color of one's skin exempts one from any legitimate substantive criticisms, particularly when there is much to criticize in the policies of someone as extreme a leftist as Obama (he had the most liberal voting record in the Senate after all).  I would also point out that the Democrats, not Republicans, were the party of slavery and segregation and were against civil rights for African Americans.  Senator Byrd D-WVa was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.  The Democrats have nothing to be proud of in the question of race.  Moreover, Democrats don't want to heal racial tensions, but want to create a class with feeling of perpetual victimhood who will be thus permanently beholden to the left wing extremist racial grievance industry.  And Obama, far from being one who "transcends" race, actually has a background of racism himself - after all he went to a church that preached an explicitly racist ideology of "black liberation theology" and lionized his racist, hatemongering pastor, Rev. Wright, until he became politically inconvenient.  He called his own grandmother a "typical white person" - I don't see how that can be anything other than racial stereotyping.  He brags in his book about how he wanted to hang out with black nationalists and other radicals in his youth since he thought they were the cool ones, etc.  So Mr. Winters, Ms. Down, Ms. Garafalo, just go away. 
Anonymous | 9/15/2009 - 9:44pm
Wow, this rag gets worse every day.  This publication and its writers are so politically transparent that it's nearly vomit-inducing.
Know that folks out here are praying daily for the demise of your publication.  And, for your conversions.
Anonymous | 9/15/2009 - 5:16pm
That fan of the Church, the "New York Times" "said" that?  Who pray tell said it at The Times?  "Catholics" were quoted?  Who exactly?
Obama could just as easily be called the 44th white president of the United States as his mother was 100% caucasian.  It is the real racists in our country who insist on calling him "black."
Anonymous | 9/15/2009 - 3:33pm
As the radical agenda of the President becomes increasingly unpopular the left seems to have given up on attempts to defend or debate the policy proposals and has lost the ability or argue in any manner other than ad hominem. 
Does the left fringe really believe that the folks at the Tea Parties would approve of this wild spending agenda if John Edwards were President? Get real.
For the record, this Tea Partier voted for Alan Keyes for President before Barrack Obama made it out of the Illinois legislature and for Lynn Swann for Governor before Obama announced his presidential run.
Anonymous | 9/15/2009 - 3:09pm
Mr. Winters,
Enough with the race-baiting already.  There is a significant portion of the adult population that has no memory of segregation and other institutional racism in our nation's recent past.  The fact is, we grew up in a very different society.  We grew up with integrated schools.  We grew up with neighbors of various ethnic backgrounds.  We work with people from all over the world.  To us, it makes no difference what a person looks like for them to our friend.  In fact, we appreciate the various different backgrounds our friends and neighbors have; it's enriching.
But to pin the angst of the Administration's critics on racism is folly at best.  To limit or pigeon-hole our angst at just the President is short-sighted.  It is Mr. Obama, his administration, and the Pelosi/Reid congress that has drawn the ire of these people as well as others.
Anonymous | 9/15/2009 - 1:35pm
As I recall, prior to the election Catholics were quoted in the NY Times making racist remarks such as "what are we going to call it if he is elected, the 'Black House'" and "the rose garden is going to be made into a watermelon patch." We should not be naive. Racism is present in both society and in the church. Why no church leader has ever spoken against this kind of thing amazes and distresses me.
Anonymous | 9/15/2009 - 1:03pm
Wow. What a disappointment. Having just discovered America magazine, I was hoping that it could be a place where legitimate issues would be discussed without name-calling. I was wrong.
What's glaringly obvious about all these accusations of "racism" is the complete abscence of tangible evidence. Not one single journalist has been able to back up their accusations with anything other than speculation. One even went so far as to say "I can tell that they're racist by the color of their skin!" Seriously, could you guys possibly shove your collective feet any further into your collective mouths?
The thing is, I'm a protester. I protested several years ago in the hopes of stopping George W. Bush and his irresponsible and poorly-conceived invasion of Iraq. People called us a lot of names, but nobody called us racist. Nobody said "You just can't accept a white president!" Why didn't they say that? Because it was too absurd even for the Limbaugh-lovin' wingnuts.
Sadly, such accusations are not too absurd for the left. I don't agree with the "Tea Baggers", but they are exercising their constitutional rights, just as I did. Just as millions have done before. Take a quick look at the American history and you'll see that Americans have been protesting since long before President Obama. Hopefully they'll be protesting long after. And hopefully America magazine will eventually be a place for civil conversation rather than baseless insults.
Anonymous | 9/15/2009 - 10:37am
Alle,
If you re-read my comments, you'll note that I did not ascribe all of the opposition to Obama to racism.   I actually disagree with him about a lot of things (including Afghanistan, his failure to repudiate much of the national security apparatus built by Bush).  My disagreement is not, I believe rooted in racism.  And I agree that tarring Bush as a nazi is offensive and stupid.  My point is that everyone needs to be more civil and less angry in their discourse (especially at a Catholic site).  Opposition to any particular American government is legitimate, and perhaps in many instances a moral imperative.  But the demonization of others is never healthy.  It is possible that every liberal who called Bush a Nazi helped to teach the right to call Obama a socialist/fascist.  And it's likely that our next Republican president will face representatives shouting "You lie" at him/her.  We all (every party or group) ought to take to heart the idea of loving our enemies and blessing those who persecute us.  Peace.
Anonymous | 9/15/2009 - 9:43am
[url=http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2009/sep/14/tea-party-photo-shows-large-crowd-different-event/]http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2009/sep/14/tea-party-photo-shows-large-crowd-different-event/[/url]
This past weekend's D.C. rally crowd was 60,000-70,000.  The rally organizers multiplied reality by 20+ and came up with 1.5 million plus.  PolitiFact analyzes the evolution of the crowd size "estimate" put out by the organizers and conservative bloggers who also used the photo of an event that happened 10 years ago in order to further their crowd size claims for this past weekend.
Anonymous | 9/15/2009 - 8:50am
Yesterday on MSNBC there was an interview with a woman who attended the march.  Among other things that she said, she insisted that the country was being overtaken by Muslims, that Preseident Obama is not a Christian and "God bless Joe Wilson."  It seems that this country is being overtaken by extremists on all sides and that civil discussion and debate has disappered.  To your point about racism, Maureen Dowd in Sunday's New York Times had this to say: [url=http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/opinion/13dowd.html?_r=1]http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/opinion/13dowd.html?_r=1[/url].
Anonymous | 9/15/2009 - 8:20am
The slant of this article jumps of this page immediately.  "Tens of thousands?"  There were at least 1.8 million, perhaps more than two million people.  All racist I guess.  This is what liberals say when they get tired and cranky.  Hmmmm, they must be racist.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 11:34pm
Britt Hume on Fox said today that he thinks these claims of racism infurriate these protestors and attracts more.  This "movement" seems to draw strength from the mainstream media's ad hominum attacks.
What started out as small "Tea Parties" now was 700,000+ people in DC.  I predict Hume is right and this will grow.  The MSM is adding fuel to this fire.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 7:01pm
Wow, the racism chargehas certainly  fired up the right.. Of course , the left has always had wackos too, Harvey Oswald being the worst.. 9-11 conspiracy buffs are another lefty wacko example..throw in Oliver Stone...But please remember that Nixon, Reagan, Bush made an elected  living yelling about lefty wackos.. But now we are talking about frenzied right wing wackos who feel that Obama has subverted the entire country in 9 months without even passing a law yet. "We want our country back!' That, my friends, is right wing wacko stuff  that in too many cases is  mainly race based paranoia.. .and this 'grass-roots' thrust  is being enabled by too many Republican politicians who think the have found  a lance to pierce Obama... [note my Christ-Like image]  (-:
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 6:58pm
Race is a part of it, no doubt, but it is likely that much the same would have occurred if Obama was all-Caucasian. What they hate are Democrats, not blacks per se. The radio hatemongers and professional dividers like Karl Rove, etc have successfully convinced millions that they are freedom-fighters protecting liberty and not scared fools unwittingly only protecting the tax status of the rich and powerful.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 6:47pm
Correction: According to the D.C. Fire Department estimate given to ABC News, 60,000-70,000 attended the D.C. rally this past weekend.  The lobbyist-front group and sponsor of the rally, Freedom Works, pulled the faux 1.5 to 2 million estimate out of thin air and attributed it to ABC.  After they were called on it, rightwing blogs stopped using a fraudulent aerial photo (of some other unrelated and better attended D,C, rally from a few years ago) that was intended to made this past weekend's event "look" more populated. 
And, we've all seen the live coverage and video of the racist signs at the D.C. rally (and at townhall meetings), unless we've buried our heads in the sand of FOX News: the news you want to watch when what you want to watch is not the news.
The whole birther/deather/tenther/hater/AK47 totin'/You lie!/Right-Wing Authoritarian followers/Glenn Beck lovin' movement is built on bigotry with the goal of damaging, invalidating and sabotaging the first black POTUS.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 6:03pm
"Some of the rhetoric against him is violent..  Of course that does not
taint those who oppose Obama in a civil way, but it does suggest
danger.  One sign at the the Washington protest read.  THIS TIME we're
unarmed"
Did you miss the last 8 years?  The plays, books and movies fantasizing about the assassination of President Bush?  Randi Rhodes playing gunshots on the radio as she talked about Bush?  ONE obnoxious sign about Obama, and it is obnoxious, can't even begin to compare to the pictures of Bush beheaded, Bush as Hitler, Bush with a noose around his neck, etc etc etc.
The nation is polarized, and badly, but to ascribe all of this to "racism" means you are willfully, deliberately, ignoring the reality -that people are unhappy with this historic, out of control government spending and the possibility of HUGE governmental intrusion into our lives, and trying to explain it away with a convenient (and very telling) projection of "raaaaacism."
This is not about racism.  Ask yourself this: Obama has continued just about all of Bush's overseas policies and rendition and he's left the door open for torture.  Bad enough, right?  Butu ask yourself, if BUSH had fired the CEO of GM (but not the head of the UAW), and had essentially taken over General Motors, if BUSH had increased the deficit to 1.3 TRILLION dollars, if BUSH had formulated a "stimulus" bill that enables lots of pork spending, creates no new jobs and then SENDS MONEY TO BRAZIL to drill for oil (nice, job-creating stuff, there) while putting a lid on the same for America, while unemployment is, let's say it, at TEN percent...would you be tish-toshing the protesters and finding a convenient excuse for them, or would you be in DC joining them?
That's a real, legitimate question, and I'm very curious to see the answer.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 5:53pm
It is appalling to read an article such as this from America: The National Catholic Weekly. America, once known for provocatively tackling the issues of the day from a Catholic perspective, has sunk to ignoring the merits of an argument in exchange for silencing opposing voices.
It would probably shock the editors and columnists of America to learn that once your fine paper published articles in defense of private property and encouraged its widespread ownership amongst the proletariat. Your weekly also stood as a bulwark of truth against the tyrannies of the left and right in its distinctively Catholic manner. It is a pity to see it become an organ of the Left, just as Crisis Magazine was of the Right.
We live in an age of dissatisfcation with both political parties. Many Catholics disagree with the policies of President Barack Obama as well as the eight years under President Bush. The 21st century has found conservatives and progressives disavowing political markers and uniting against Agricorp and the FDA, supporting environmental and market regulations, encouraging small business against Big Business, and decentralization over centralization of government. Isn't it clear to America Magazine that this is an opportunity to restore your outlet's brilliance and unite Catholics against both socialism and capitalism, the politically left and right? Shouldn't you follow the lead of our Holy Pontiffs who distance themselves from the politics of error, be it from either side of the spectrum?
It is time for America Magazine to follow the argument. It is time to choose the only side that matters. It is time for America Magazine to be Catholic again. 
America readers and staff may be intrigued by the robust character of its once fine journal (the following was written in 1937 by Fr. LaFarge) by clicking [url=http://www.distributist.blogspot.com/search?q=america+magazine]http://www.distributist.blogspot.com/search?q=america+magazine[/url]
Richard Aleman
President, The Society for Distributism
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 5:49pm
Jeff,
My point was that the whole country has a bad record on race-Democrats and Republicans.  In fairness, some of the Democrats who opposed Civil Rights switched to the Republican Party after 1964, but there is plenty of blame to go around.  I am simply concerned with the angry rhetoric and the hints of violence-in no small part because one's side's abuses are generally answered by the other's abuses.  We do not need a downward spiral but a halt, regardless of who might have started it (probably Cain in any case).
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 5:28pm
It seems as if you've hit a raw nerve, Michael, considering the angst in some of the comments. As with most social sin, perpetuators of racism are generally blind to their biases. It's certainly not the only motivator in this uprising, but does contribute to it's violent nature.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 3:33pm
You have got to be kidding me!  It's just too easy for you to ignore the root of the problem and yell these guys are white.  In your world, it goes something like this.  White man+disagreement=racism.  
Give me a break!
Civil disobedience, such as the tea party gets it's roots from the civil rights movement.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 2:31pm
Thank you for just coming out and saying this, Mr. Winters.
Yes, there is clamor that you are overplaying the race card, but I am very glad that you are writing about the fear that underlies the anger.  Perhaps by shining a light on it, we can see it for what it is.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 1:55pm
Absurd article. You must have been at same Dem talking points briefing as Maureen Dowd. It has to be tough to meet deadlines when you are waiting for them to tell you what to write.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 1:51pm
This is perhaps the most preposterous thing I've read all month. My little brother is barely a junior in highschool and he's already figured out the difference between correlation and causation. It is no shock that the crowd was largely white. Most protests which don't adress a specific ethnic group are going to be mostly white, that's historically been the case (as I'm sure you well know). I don't recall many black people at the anti-war rallies I attended, though I cannot imagine it was because black people perfered we stay in Iraq. Let's not forget the fact that racism and fiscal conservativism have been, for lack of a better term, traditions in southern life since Jefferson.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 12:47pm
Although I disagree, Michael, with your main premise, that we should question whether racism is an undertone in the current "Tea Party" protests, I do agree with you that the Tea Pot is too big. This current "voice" that Republicans are looking for is not a coherent tone, but thousands of people yelling different things. If you have a reason to hate the Administration, whether racist or ideological, the Tea-Parties and the GOP has become your party. It replaces pragmatism with noise, and reasoned anlaysis with chaos. The left, indeed marched on Washington and held protests under the Bush Administration, and indeed there were members who held signs with President Bush in a Hitler mustache or the Vice President as Darth Vader - a sign characterizing the President as Joker or Hitler is commonplace.  What frightens me though is not the protests, but the lack of cohesion in the GOP and the interest in keeping it that way. The only mantra is "taking away our country and the way it used to be" but that is different for everybody. You are right, the Joker did create chaos which he hoped would lead otherwise decent people into making indecent choices. With a group of people who invite anybody and everybody in who has a complaint with the government - racist, bigot, academic, or representative - all you have is a chaotic protest where there is no message. In that climate, I only hope that decency prevails.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 12:35pm
Michael... you can do better than this race-baited article.  I respect Barack Hussein Obama as a man and as a president.  I just don't like his administration's policies. Just because of my rejection of his policies, am I a racist ? No, I am not.  I heard that mantra, ''you-don't-like-this-administration-therefore-you-are-a-racist'', too many times. FYI.. I am a Vietnamese, a person of color in your eyes.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 11:53am
"...it quickly became obvious that some of the protesters’ complaints were
of more antique vintage. What united them all was their animus towards
the President and, sadly, it is time to ask how much of a factor racism
is playing in these Tea Party protests."
Amazing.  1.7 million people, and one must say that MOST of them probably don't think about Obama's race at all (believe it or not, beyond the race-fixated people on the left, there are many on the right who actually are color-blind, just like -dare I say it- GWBush, but those who live,eat and breath identity groups would never know it) but Michael Sean Winters manages to focus on the relative handful of dubiously-motivated.  Yes, it's the people on the right who are raaaaacists, even though it's the people on the left who can't stop talking about race, and the vice president who referred to Candidate Obama as "clean" and "articulate."  It was Democrat Barbara Boxer who told a black man testifying before her (and objecting to her using the proclamations of black organizations to pound him into submission) that other black people "would be proud to be here testifying."  Yeah, it's the people on the RIGHT who are all raaaaaacists.
Perhaps we should all take this seriously - everyone who doesn't like Obama's policies must be a racist, because it couldn't possibly be that his policies are scaring the crap out of us, and his rhetoric is confrontational.  No, no...it's all raaaaacism.  Right.  That's the answer.  And Newsweek's cover this week asks if your baby is racist.  Talk about one note being overplayed...
I'm beginning to lose my respect for Michael Sean Winters, who seems so easily persuaded to believe the very worst about some and the very best about others, by virtue, it seems, of their politics.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 11:29am
Oh... I see.... showing the president as the Joker is only racist when the president is a minority!  Gotcha.  Cause this link really had me wondering...
http://www.buzzfeed.com/ries/bush-joker-posters-6y
But I guess that's ok, because... umm... it's not racist?
Seriously, you're embarrasing yourselves.  Every time a democrat tries to defend B. Hussein Obama, the defense ALWAYS comes around to ''It's because Republicans are racist.'' Race was not used by the Republican party in the election, but it has become the favorite crutch of the Democratic party afterwards.  Leaning on one's race, instead of one's merits, is what racism truly is.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 1:37pm
Well said: Last year, dissent was patriotic.  This year, dissent is racism.
http://blogs.dailymail.com/donsurber/2009/09/14/10003/
You should note, also that the "Obama is Hitler" folks are generally Lyndon LaRuche nuts.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 11:01am
I recently read an article about William Manchester and the challenges he overcame while writing and publishing his masterpiece, “The Death of the President.”   Here’s a bone-chilling excerpt from the article:  
 
(QUOTE)  Manchester also discovered that Dallas “had become the Mecca for medicine-show evangelists…the Minutemen, the John Birch and Patrick Henry Societies, and the headquarters of [ultra-conservative oil billionaire] H.L. Hunt and his activities.”
 
“In the third year of the Kennedy presidency,” Manchester wrote, “a kind of fever lay over Dallas country.  Mad things happened.  Huge billboards screamed, “Impeach Earl Warren,” Jewish stores were smeared with crude swastikas…Radical Right Polemics were distributed in public schools; Kennedy’s name was booed in classrooms; corporate junior executives were required to attend radical seminars.”  A retired major general ran the American flag upside down, deriding it as “the Democrat flag.”  A wanted poster with J.F.K.’s face on it was circulated, announcing “this man is Wanted” for—among other things—“turning the sovereignty of the US over to the Communist controlled United Nations” and appointing “anti-Christians…aliens and known Communists” to federal offices.  And a full-page advertisement had appeared the day of the assassination in The Dallas Morning News accusing Kennedy of making a secret deal with the Communist Party; when it was shown to the president, he was appalled.  He turned to Jacqueline, who was visibly upset, and said, “Oh, you know, we’re heading into nut country today.”
 
Manchester discovered that in a wealthy Dallas suburb, when told that President Kennedy had been murdered in their city, the students in a fourth-grade class burst into applause.  For Manchester, who revered Kennedy, such responses, encountered throughout Dallas, were deeply offensive and would influence the book he was about to write.  (END QUOTE)
 
Because President Obama is black, “nut country” has gotten a whole lot bigger today. 
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 1:25pm
I do not think it unreasonable to question whether some (certainly not all) of the protestors are in part motivated by race.
1.  The United States has a long and brutal history of racism, dating back to centuries of slavery, followed by decades of legally enforced segregation.  In my life time Blacks were viciously murdered for daring to claim the right to vote that a constitutional amendment had granted them a century before.  I am skeptical that our country as a whole deserves a presumption of innocence on this question.
2.  The virulence of the anti-Obama is hard to explain.  Keep in mind that he inherited two wars, a failing economy, and a polarized electorate.  He inherited a set of laws and court decisions that legalized abortion, and that have been observed under five separate Republican presidents.  He's been in office barely nine months.  His major crimes seem to be the Stimulus Act-arguably a deeply flawed plan, but one that might have kept us from a serious depression-and health reform.  His plan for health reform can be opposed on any number of grounds, but it can be called socialism only by ignoring the meaning of the world and the actual models of present and past socialist states.
3.  Some of the rhetoric against him is violent..  Of course that does not taint those who oppose Obama in a civil way, but it does suggest danger.  One sign at the the Washington protest read.  THIS TIME we're unarmed.  Glen Beck has referred to Obama as taking power in a coup-apparently forgetting that election back in 2008.  And I cannot imagine a good reason to show up at a town hall meeting on health reform carrying side arms or assault weapons.
Most opponents no doubt criticize Obama for good reasons, in a fair and civil way.  But there are certainly some whose opposition is rooted in a profund distrust of a Black president.  This is not to deny abuses that have been committed by Democrats or the left, but in a country as well armed as America, with a history of racism and assassination, I'd be a lot happier if protestors dialed down their rhetoric, and remembered that there is another Congressional election in less than 14 months and a presidential election in less than 40 months.  Work to elect candidates you like and stop the talk of armed resistance and insurrection.
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 10:38am
race baiting won't work.  It's you people that make this about race.  When protesters bring up facts the only thing you can back up on is race.  Was it racist when George Bush was portrayed as the Joker or as a monkey?  Did you cry racism when republicans were portrayed as war mongering monsters?  How about when Obama continues Bush's wars, his torturing, his indefinite, preventive detention of supposedly "extremists", votes for Bush's wiretapping, even indoctrinates our children in school?  How about they show us a real birth certificate and not a computer printout?  You're scared and the only thing you can do is call people racist.  It's sad and not based in fact.  Why don't you try for reality next time?
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 10:28am
What is racism?  Assuming that the critics of a black president are racist IS racism at its worst!!
The reports that I heard from DC also said that many, if not most of the protestors had some very sharp words about the GOP who ran up the deficit and contributed to big government during the 8 years of Bush (FYI:  Bush is white).
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 10:14am

Go forward - to where?  First of all Michael, I am a person of color too and my FB friends have more tan than Obama.  If we can go beyond second guessing the motives of the protestors and actually listen to their points then we will go forward.  But if the representatives will ignore their positions and vote acc. to the Obama ideology, then we will have a revolution.

If you want to know my motives, I do it for God & the babies.

Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 10:07am
It is absolutely racism that drew the majority of people out on the streets in DC, However counting the millions who voted against Obama, makes the crowd seem small.  A black president is too much change for some. That many in the crowd, yelling socialism, are on Medicare is almost humorous. M. Dowd at NYT has your racism points even more sharply expressed. Sore losers are never a pretty site.
Anonymous | 9/18/2009 - 11:58am
HR 3200 is not the President's bill.  This matter will be taken care of on the floor.  FOCA has not even been introduced this Congress - and the Obama stand on it was made because he was running against Hillary.  I agree that the President needs education on international family planning, since the Sangeresque focus of this is to get less people who look like him - I think if we educate him in those terms, he may change his mind on the issue.  As for the Mexico City policy - I doubt it prevented a single abortion - it was one of those show pieces that was more image than success (much like the Hyde Amendment - which did nothing about state funded abortion outside DC or the tax benefits for private plans which fund abortion).
Given that the GOP is looking more and more like a Klan rally, I think we will have Obama for a whie.  If we want something out of him on Life issues, it is better to show him the respect that is due is office, which is showing respect for the nation.
The concept of illegality on immigration issues is an invented concept - it is not intrensic.  Not providing human needs because of such factors is sinful.  Legality and morality are not the same thing (although if you get caught breaking the law, it is immoral to lie about it) - at least in Aristotelean and Thomist ethics.  For example, assisting fugitive slaves was illegal, but highly moral.  Going to a speak-easy during prohibition was illegal, but not immoral, unless you started shooting federal agents.
The answer to the problem of illegal immigration is not better enforcement, it is to end the illegality of migrant labor so that employers have no incentive to hire them for illegal wages and subject them to bad working conditions and virtual slavery.  Repealing right to work laws would also be effective in this regard, since if such workers were part of a union shop, there would be no incentive to hire them.  This is what is so tragically funny about the immigration debate - you have conservatives bemoaning a situation caused by policies enacted by conservatives.
Anonymous | 9/16/2009 - 11:19am
Michael, I'm married to someone of color - our children are ''mixed''...and I also happen to not think Obama's policies are ''brilliant'' or good and I am prepared to argue this on the merits. But you, you claim my opposition ''must'' be racism. Just because.
To say that this charge makes me spitting angry is an understatement. HOW.DARE.YOU?! You want to stoke a revolution? You want to provoke ''the other side'' to crawl over broken glass to make sure ''your side'' loses in 2010 and beyond? Keep it up.
You're supposedly a ''Catholic'' and yet you voted for the most pro-abortion candidate in US History. Our Lord commanded us to ''seek first the Kingdom'' not ''seek first the Empire'' Michael. You accomplish nothing ''for the poor'' by turning a blind eye to the unborn for if they have no rights worth your defense, neither do your beloved ''poor''. Neither does anyone else on earth.
But apparently his political positions don't matter to you. I suppose you voted for him for two reasons: He is (half)black and he is a democrat. No other reason because, by their actions, Democrats are racist, sexist, and bigoted and by their actions, they care more about putting people in boxes than engaging in substantive debate.
It wasn't the Democratic party that liberated the South and it wasn't the Democratic party that voted in the majority for Civil Rights. And it's not the Democratic party that has fought for school choice, first and second amendment rights for minorities in inner cities, or for personal responsibility, the preservation of the Black family and the rule of law that alone can lift people from perpetual welfare bondage.
Those are MY assertions. I'm willing to back them with evidence. Not ''just because''.
Who judges THEIR OWN PARTY by focusing on one's race, sex, or socio-economic standing? DEMOCRATS! It's all about ''the black vote, the hispanic vote, the white vote... or the women's vote or blue collar vote..... who judges THEIR OWN PARTY by political platform? The REPUBLICANS! It's the social, fiscal, or foreign policy conservatives or moderates. Not a whiff about whether a person is black, white, male, female, rich or poor....
Which side believes minorities can't be trusted with school choice, legally owned firearms, and can't achieve social mobility without double standards? Your side! If that's not racist what is? How many white democrats represent gerry-mandered all black districts? If color of skin isn't what we ought to care about, then why - in YOUR OWN PRACTICE do Democrats have only black representatives of black populations? Again, YOUR PRACTICE is racist while your rhetoric attempts to paint the rest of us as guilty.
Your side calling my side ''racist'' because we beg to differ on substance over policies and proposals is the last straw. From here on out you are going to have to PROVE IT - and each and every time I am going to ram down your throats the glaring evidence of your own hyprocisy and real racism, sexism, and class envy. Each and every time you self-described ''intellectual elites'' or ''Catholic leaders'' - who gather in your own self-segregated little groups, dying congregations and greying organizations attempt to paint ''my side'' as racist ''just because'' I'm going to make it my ''illegal U-turn'' commitment to come on over and disabuse you of your glib assumption of moral or intellectual superiority. 
How many times have your vaunted ''theologians'' failed to engage with us in ''dialogue'' or even debate? Your side can't handle real debate void of ad hominems and non sequiturs. Your side can't handle arguments over the merits. So you pre-empt any chance of conversation with accusations of bad faith.
You ASSERT that we had no substantive cause to oppose Health Care Reform....even when we quoted chapter and verse from HR 3200 - THE ONLY ''PLAN'' OUT THERE! You assert that we were wrong about abortion being in the bill....until it was proven conclusively that it will be covered! You REALLY think you're dealing with people who don't read, exhaustively, and do our homework?
It's like your side brow beating ''my side'' with us not being ''with the spirit of Vatican II'' even while YOUR side can't show us where, in ANY of the council documents or the Council Fathers or Pope's teachings such and so a conclusion can be found.... you're reduced to quoting the New York Times, anonymous sources, and some podunk ''theologians'' THEORIES about ''how the Church ought to be''. I'm sorry, but ''spirit of Vatican II'' doesn't mean ''anything I or some theologian subjectively feels good about''. And yet we're supposed to be impressed with ''your side'''s credentials!?
You have no idea who you're messing with.... not when it comes to theology, philosophy, the economy or social movements. You have broad brushed an accusation of racism against people who you do not know and apparently have taken little pains to even speak with. This will not stand Michael.
You'd better issue an apology and retraction. Justice demands it. Charity demands accusations be made on substance, not presumption.
 
 
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 4:56pm
The race card is used whenever a liberal is losing an argument as one pundit said.
But I guess your God like power allows you to determine the motives of millions of people from afar - wow!
Your comparisons are inaccurate since Bill Clinton did not spend anywhere as much money as the Obama administration.  The auto industry was not bailed out in the Clinton administration.  The massive increase of the deficit way over the previous deficit is insane.   President Bush was wrong in his bailout plans (which Obama voted for), but the trillions of added debt are over the top.
When Hillary tried to socialized medicine there was also a massive outcry. That is why with a Democrat president, congress and senate this did not happen before.
I find it quite sinful to impute the motives of others as being racist.  Doesn't Christian charity demand that you give the most positive motives to others? If you find racist acts - write about them, but don't impugn those who disagree withy the Presidents administration.
Were Democrats racist when they went after Justice Thomas?  Or is it only racist to oppose a black Democrat?
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 3:54pm
Your comment about the 17th Ammendent is wrong.  You are mis-reading these protests.  This is not the GOP.  These are Americans who are upset with too much governement.  I would not be too excited if I were the GOP because these people are not to eager to support the GOP establishment.
As far as the 17th Amendment.  When Alan Keyes ran against Obama for Illinois Senate, he did bring up this issue.  Of course the media did belittle him for his views.  I would venture to suggest that Keyes was not and is not a racist for these views back in 2004 (when Bush was president).
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 5:25pm
By the way the dogs and water cannons such as those used were used by Bull Connors and other Democrats.  The Civil Rights act was passed with the help of Republicans who outvoted Democrats by percentage in support of the bill.  People like Al Gore's dad voted against it. So if you bring up these horrible episodes of racism remember the connection to Democrats.
Or how about Democrats throwing Oreo Cookies at Michael Steele.  Was that not an act based on race?
Anonymous | 9/14/2009 - 9:50am
Eisegesis. That is what insisting that racism must be the driving force of opposition to the present adminsutration and congress is, pure and simple.
I am not quite as radical in my political opinions as some of those who were protesting this weekend, and I am sure there were a few isolated racist kooks among the throng, but I suspect their overall impetus is current events, not bigotry. The rather extreme nature of President Obama's proposals for the country, the trainwreck the economy suffered, the ineptitude with which both parties dealt with the problem, and other such things have caused a boiling point to develop. indeed, i am pretty sure this was the impetus since I was riding the DC metro on friday and happened to be standing by a group of the organizers, spokesmen, etc. heading to Walter Reed for their first meeting, and such as the above is what I overheard. There were not even any "code words" dropped that the left often mistakes or misconstrues as racist innuendo.
This is not about race. I couldn't care less, nor could most conservatives (though, again, I don't exactly fit in with that crowd entirely), what color someone's skin is or where they came from (how they got here is, of course a different question), discerning the wisest policy for dealing with the challenges America faces is not really much affected either way by those factors. If it just so happens that certain ethnicities are generally poorer, charity and assistance in taking responsibility to raise oneself up should be lavished on them indiscriminatly. If the disadvantaged make the effort and seize the opportunity, great, if not, who is to blame? (the charitable hand should, of course, remain extended nevertheless) A crushed spirit has a difficulty seeking God, and so we must do all we can to uplift the opressed, but if the opressed are like the audience in Plato's cave, what is to be done?
Yes, there are some issues that more or less only affect one category of people, but even them race shouldn't be any more of a factor than is absolutely necessary (eg considering how to responsibly normalize or otherwise deal with the status of illegal aliens has some different practical considerations when the immigrant is from a nearby neighbor like Mexico, the Caribbean, or South America than if he is from far overseas).
But, I think a major conservative contention is that just because somthing needs done, it does not always mean the agent of that solution needs to be the federal government.