It's pretty obvious that much of the opposition to Barack Obama's health care reform is due to skin color. Prior to the election I knew that Obama was going to have a rough time carrying any Southern states on account of race. But I wrongly assumed we'd get over it and deal with it once he was elected, and once the opposition realized he wasn't going to turn the White House lawn into a watermelon patch.
Oh, how wrong I was.
The best examples of this can be found in the editorial pages of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, particularly in letters to the editor where vile ignorance prospers like cross-burnings. Health care reform is routinely regarded as turning the US into the Soviet Union circa 1970. No, not France, or Germany, or Canada, or even Sweden; those aren't scary enough. Only communist Russia will do as a comparison for the havoc which will result from reform.
My first hint that a certain element of American society was about to come unhinged was when the votes were tallied after the election. For months prior to the election, the approval ratings of President Bush in Arkansas were so low the state was one of the bluest between the two coasts.
And yet, voters there went to the polls in November, 2008 and overwhelmingly cast their votes for McSame and his Alaskan trophy. I interpreted the message being sent by voters as "we're fed up with the status quo but anything is better than a black man in the White House."
Hardly a day passes without some politician uttering something ridiculously racist. Watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann these days is like having a weird and senseless dream, only I'm not dreaming. This shit is real.
Keep a close eye on the 2010 elections. I believe you are going to see some interesting things going on way down in Dixie. Not that I believe for an instant that it will lead to a Dick victory in 2012, it will be troubling nonetheless.
Republicans in Arkansas are positively salivating on themselves in an attempt to unseat Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln because she's perceived as "too liberal." And the mere fact that she is involved in the health care reform debate makes her suspect, despite her Blue Dog status. She already has six Republican challengers who will be stumbling all over themselves to get as far to the right on the political spectrum as possible.
We can hope that by the time the next election cycle rolls around, all this rhetoric about communism and death panels will have faded. Unfortunately, I dropped my hope somewhere along the way and can't seem to find it. The far-right Republican base may be alienating moderates and even a few right-of-center folks, but they are still capable of influencing elections in states like Arkansas.
One thing that won't fade by 2010 is Obama's skin color. Racism will be a factor in the next election cloaked in some fear-based issue to be determined.