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In-Your-Face Republicans

Author: Ruth Conniff
Created: 11 September, 2009
Updated: 13 September, 2023
4 min read

The Progressive

 My favorite rightwing nuts are the parents who kept their kids home Tuesday so they wouldn’t have to hear the President of the United States give a speech urging them to stay in school. I’m surprised there wasn’t a Republican speech in response, extolling the virtues of truancy.

 As long as they are teaching kids not to listen to the President, for the remainder of the Obama Administration, the Republicans might as well tell them not to pledge allegiance to the flag, either.

 In Texas, where schools required students to bring a signed permission slip to prove that their parents were OK with them watching the speech, teachers could plan for the next White House event by organizing an alternative class on secession.

 The school speech controversy really shows how far the rightwingers are willing to go in taking it to Obama. At every step he can expect them to be there, throwing themselves at his ankles, as the health-care shout-downs of August demonstrated.

 Rational thought has nothing to do with it.

 After the speech was over, Rush Limbaugh cited its innocuous content as a nefarious plot by the President to soften us up for national health insurance:

 “Why do this speech to the nation’s skulls full of mush?” Limbaugh asked his dittohead audience. The answer: to trick white people into believing Obama shares their values: “There are three reasons. One: He’s got to get those poll numbers up. Let’s go to the poll, the Pew poll that shows him losing vast amounts of support from white voters, particularly independents . . . The second reason . . . Set up the health care speech.”

 Quoting from Saul Alinsky, Limbaugh (who admitted he actually only listened to three minutes of the speech) explained how Obama was passing himself off as a fan of hard work and personal responsibility to trick those white voters.

 “The American people want to hear children motivated to be good, to do the best they can, to work hard,” Limbaugh said. “Okay, so go out and use the language and use the philosophy that makes your audience comfortable with you when your objective is the exact opposite of what you say. Barack Obama wants as many of these kids in school to grow up needing government services as he can. He’s going to put tax increases on these kids to the point that their hard work is going to be pointless!”

 This is the sort of convoluted logic that helps justify the right’s vehement opposition to a modest improvement in health care and a speech on working hard in school. On his August 6 show— —Rush hinted at the real dangers behind the benign Obama facade: “And if you go and take a look at this, you will find that the Obama health care logo is damn close to a Nazi swastika logo.”

 Racism, fear of government, reflexive hatred of “liberals”—it’s all part of the stew pot the Republicans are stirring.

 And it’s not just Rush.

 Here is Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, on the leftwing plot behind health care reform:

 “If the government takes over health care, does anyone seriously believe that will be it? . . . . If the government can seize freedom in health care using obscure tricks in the dead of night, how can Americans have confidence that our other freedoms are safe? What will Washington go nuclear on next? Ultimately, the specific issue singled out for government control — bailouts, energy, education or religious liberty — isn’t the main concern. The real target of this nuclear option is freedom itself.”

 The question is, how many people are buying the conspiracy theories?

 It takes a dedicated ideologue to follow the twists and turns of the Limbaugh/DeMint logic.

 Stirring up controversy has helped organize the Republican base against Obama’s health care plan. But according to the latest Gallup poll Americans on the whole are about evenly divided when asked whether their member of Congress should vote for the President’s reform effort.

 No doubt after Obama’s speech tonight, the rightwingers will try to explain away an argument most of the public agrees with—that we need to do something about the huge holes in health care coverage for millions of Americans—as a cover-up for a secret plot to control our lives.

 But then DeMint also praised the August town-hall shout downs as “elevated and informative debate” on health care.

 It’s a point of view that fits right in with the general rightwing approach at the moment: skip school, dis the President, scream as loud as you can so you can’t hear your public officials, and don’t bother to listen to anyone you disagree with. That way the facts won’t confuse you.