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Racist Roots of GOP War on Obama

By       Message Robert Parry       (Page 1 of 4 pages)     Permalink

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Source: Consortium News

Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Kentucky, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The United States finds itself at a crossroad, with a choice of moving toward a multicultural future behind a more activist federal government or veering down a well-worn path that has marked various tragic moments of American history when white racists have teamed up with "small government" extremists.

Despite losing Election 2012 -- both in the presidential vote (by five million) and the overall tally for Congress (by one million) -- the Republicans are determined to use their gerrymandered House "majority" and their filibuster-happy Senate minority to slash programs that are viewed as giving "stuff" (in Mitt Romney's word) to poorer Americans and especially minorities.

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Republicans  are gearing up to force  a series of fiscal crises this fall, threatening to shut down the federal government and even default on the national debt, if they don't get their way. Besides sabotaging President Barack Obama's health reform law, the Republicans want to devastate funding for food stamps, environmental advancements, transportation, education assistance and other domestic programs.

"These are tough bills," Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Kentucky, who heads the House Appropriations Committee, told the New York Times. "His priorities are going nowhere."

A key point is to slash help to what the Right sees as "undeserving" Americans, especially people of color. The ugly side of this crypto-racist behavior also surfaced in the gloating by right-wing pundits over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. Fox News pundits, in particular, have mocked the outrage over the verdict from America's black community and Obama's personal expression of sympathy.

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It is now clear that Obama's election in 2008 was not the harbinger of a "post-racial" America, but rather the signal for white right-wingers to rally their forces to "take back America." The fact that the modern Republican Party has become almost exclusively white and the nation's minorities have turned more and more to the Democratic Party has untethered the GOP from any sense of racial tolerance.

There is now a white-supremacist nihilism emerging in the Republican strategy, a visceral contempt for even the idea of a multi-racial democracy that favors a more vigorous federal government. Some of these extremists seem to prefer sinking the world's economy via a U.S. debt default than compromising with President Obama on his economic and social agenda.

Though the mainstream media avoids the white supremacist framing for the political story -- preferring to discuss the upcoming clash as a philosophical dispute over big versus small government -- the reality is that the United States is lurching into a nasty struggle over the preservation of white political dominance. The size-of-government narrative is just a euphemistic way of avoiding the underlying issue of race, a dodge that is as old as the Republic.

The Jeffersonian Myth

Even many liberals have fallen for the myth of the dashing Thomas Jefferson as the great defender of America's Founding Principles -- when he was really a great hypocrite who served mostly as the pleasing political front man for the South's chief industry, human slavery.

The popular history, perpetuated by authors such as Jon Meacham, downplays how Virginia's plantation owners and other investors in slavery served as Jefferson's political "base" helping to fund his propaganda battle -- and then his political war -- against George Washington's Federalists who were the real designers of the Constitution with its dramatic concentration of power in the federal government. [See Consortiumnews.com's "The Right's Made-Up Constitution."]

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Prominent Anti-Federalists, such as Virginia's Patrick Henry and George Mason, were alarmed that the Constitution's overturning of the states' rights-oriented Articles of Confederation would inexorably lead to Northern domination and the eventual eradication of slavery.

After ratification, many of these Southern agrarian interests grew even more alarmed when the Federalists began using the expansive federal powers in the Constitution to begin creating the framework for a modern financial system, such as Alexander Hamilton's national bank, and promoting a potent federal role in the nation's development, such as George Washington's interest in canals and roads.

With every move toward a more assertive national government, the Southern slaveholders saw a growing threat toward their economic interest in human bondage. After all, slavery was not just a cultural institution in the South; it was the region's biggest capital investment.

Though Jefferson was in France when the Constitution was written in 1787 and ratified in 1788, his return in 1789 marked an important political moment in early U.S. history. The Anti-Federalists, stung by their bitter defeat at the hands of Washington's Federalists over the Constitution, finally had a charismatic leader to rally behind.

Jefferson, who was a critic of the Constitution but not an outright opponent, retained an outsized reputation from the American Revolution as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. He was also a star intellect and a crafty political operative who, perhaps more than anyone else, personified the hypocrisy of the slave-owning Founders.

Though he had famously declared as "self-evident" truth, that "all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," he also was one of Virginia's major slaveholders. And he engaged in the pseudo-science of racial supremacy, measuring the skulls of his African-American slaves to "prove" their inferiority.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at

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