I usually love Charles Pierce’s writing, but this recent piece in which he tries to allocate some of the blame for the surge in right-wing paranoia simply fails to make its point, and veers ever so slightly into the victim-blaming arena. It’s tempting to suggest that if Obama made better choices, especially with regard to his appointments, then this whole right-wing freak-out wouldn’t be so bad, but it simply isn’t true.
The assertion that Obama stirred right-wing populism by combining Big Business with Big Government particularly rings false for two major reasons. One, this so-called “populist” movement coming from the right-while envigorated by old-fashioned racism, sexism, and conservative Christianity-loves capitalism and worships Big Business nearly as much as Misogynist Blue-Eyed Jesus. The bailouts aren’t popular, but I suspect that’s in part because the right-wing pundits are more interested in getting Obama out than saving the economy, and so they’ll oppose any move Obama makes, whether it’s wise or not. Certainly the people playing deficit hawk right now were absolutely silent when Bush started the astoundingly expensive Iraq War.
Two, outside of the bank and car-industry bailouts, I don’t really believe that most of the paranoid right-wingers actually have any real understanding of what Obama’s policies even are. Take the health care reform process. Pierce points to the way insurance companies have controlled the whole thing, and to the fact that the teabaggers have made resisting health care reform their main activity, and wrongly concludes that teabaggers object to the insurance companies’ part in this. The problem with this is that the teabaggers have made it clear that they are protesting “socialized” medicine, and they seem to be under the impression that the health care bill would essentially start an American version of the U.K.’s National Health Services, where doctors tend to work under exclusive contract with the NHS. Republicans and even folks like Joe Lieberman have gone out of their way to confuse the issue, implying that the public option is basically a form of NHS-style free health care . (I wish.)
No, I’d say health care reform has become a focal point for the paranoid right because they see it as they see all social spending as an attempt by “them” to take money from “us.” Health care reform is the 21st century version of Reagan’s Cadillac-driving welfare queen. The elderly people worried about losing their Medicare show us exactly what the belief is-that Obama is going to handsomely finance Cadillac health care for young, poor, and nonwhite people, and will take money from elderly white people to do so. We can’t use reality to determine what motivates the right-wing freak-outs, because the right-wing nuts don’t care about the facts.
As for the question of appointments, the track record shows that far from targeting people with unsavory ties to Big Business, the right-wing paranoids are more interested in taking out people who fit into the traditional right-wing enemies list: environmentalists (double points for being black) , supporters of the arts , and gay people .
I’m not sure how Charles Pierce thinks that we can crack down on the paranoid right-wingers to keep this from spiraling out of control. He cites the case in which a Fredricktown, Ohio parade organizer blocked a couple from running a float built around their anti-Obama conspiracy theories, and suggests that the administration take notes. But the FBI is already following right-wing extremists, and the Secret Service has already asked for more funding to keep up with the death threats against Obama. There’s not much else you can do. We should remember how the Clinton administration decided to take a hard line with the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, and the result was not only the loss of 76 lives, but also gave the hard right a group of martyrs to gather around. I’d hope that Obama is wise enough to learn from Clinton’s mistake and take a softer hand.