Not to go all Maureen Dowd on you, but today's Republican Party is a lot like the line from that old Brando movie, The Wild One. Somebody asks Brando, "What're you rebelling against, Johnny?" And he says, "Whaddya got?"
With all due respect to former President Carter, he is wrong when he says that "an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man... that he's African American."
Perhaps someone who grew up in the rural South as Carter did is more likely to see race as the basis for the Republicans' outrageous behavior over the last few months. It is undeniable -- undeniable -- that people like Matt Drudge and Glenn Beck are consciously stoking racial fears.
And yet, the color of the President's skin does not matter to the lunatics dictating the direction of the Republican Party. I mean, it matters in that it's icing on the cake -- but they were baking regardless of all that.
Scores of Republican activists would've accused President Hillary Clinton of setting up "death panels." Rallies would've been filled with Hitler mustaches painted on the portrait of President John Edwards. A grandstanding GOP congressman would've shouted "You lie!" at President Bill Richardson.
Why? Think back to the fall of 2007 (even earlier than that, maybe). Hillary Clinton was the Democratic front-runner, staking out a cautious path to the White House. And what did we see on what seemed like every Republican website? Big ads for black t-shirts showing Hillary with a red slash over her neck, sandwiched between the words, "RE-DEFEAT COMMUNISM; 2008."
The point is that there is no method to their madness. The hardcore whatever-they-are's at these rallies would be there no matter what. How did anyone ever get the idea that these protests are actually about something? And I don't just mean policies or race, I mean anything.
It just goes to show that if you say something loud enough and long enough, you will drown out the truth. Remember how these rallies started organizing during President Obama's first month in office? It was so very clear that they were about nothing -- that they were parties for sore losers and extremists. Yay! Bring some crazy signs! Wrap yourself in the flag and call everyone else a traitor! Woo-hoo! The media, politicians, people in general saw all that for what it was: a bunch of loonies who were bummed that the guy they hate won.
That's one thing. People like that have always been around. They will always be around. What's different is that a political party has never adopted them before.
Because as the rallies met again and again, the Republican Party and their echo chamber got even more into it each time. This was, they said, proof of grassroots opposition to the President's policies. Wrong. It got bigger because Republican bigwigs realized they couldn't compete with Democrats on ideas; that Americans will reject the Bush-Cheney portfolio they continue to use today. So, they figured out something not-so-secret: policy discussions make for boring TV; loud anti-everything rallies make for great TV!... Who needs ideas, anyway?
So they're putting everything they've got into feeding this beast of boisterousness. Are there some racists out among the crowd? Absolutely. Is race an overtone? You bet. But -- and it's a big 'but' -- is "the overwhelming portion" of it based on race as President Carter contends? No.