For three and a half years there have been viable threats, of one form or another, to this President, beginning the night of his inauguration: While we were crying and cheering and gathering joyfully in Grant Park, dark forces on the right – including Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Pete Sessions, Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl, Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz – wrung their hands and gnashed their teeth and vowed to oppose every one of President Obama’s legislative proposals, and ultimately derail President Obama’s presidency. We’ve seen that vow backed by Republican actions – often irrational action – time and again. Republicans vowed, that night, to win back power, by any means, any measure. This President must go.
In Washington, the plot to upend President Obama was largely legislative, but in the “real world,” the threat has taken a more dangerous turn: Race-based hostility driven by the knuckle-draggers of society and resulting in an organization – the teabaggers – which had group hatred of our first black president as its common theme. As the ‘baggers drove home their convoluted and idiotic message of fear, fear, fear (“taxed enough already” and “socialism” and “keep your government hands off our Medicare”), the threat escalated into group sociopathy, as Republicans, in pursuit of their own derailment campaign, gleefully joined forces with the ‘baggers and misled, misinformed, mainlined on fear, predicted dire consequences as a result of any and all of President Obama’s policies (even the ones once heartily embraced by Republicans), threw terms like “socialist” and “treason” around loosely, and accused the President of being the greatest threat to liberty and the American way since liberty and the American way were invented. The birthers were born. The number of white supremacist groups grew. Bunker mentality led by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh went full bore. Right-wing opposition was complete. The fear of President Obama was complete. Hatred: Complete.
The teabaggers ushered in a new era of extremely dogmatic conservative candidates across the land; the House of Representatives was soon overflowing with the likes of Steve King, Allen West and Michele Bachmann, and tea party governors like Scott Walker, Rick Scott, and Rick Snyder made their sloppy debuts. President Obama’s policies began to stimulate the economy, private sector jobs started coming back, people started to feel the effects of Obamacares. And as his successes grew, the desire to see him fail grew to a fever pitch: His jobs plan – along with any other proposed legislation – was kaboshed by Republicans, more and more government jobs were eliminated by Republicans, the evil of unions became the focus of the right, and they always pushed the fear – this President is not one of us, is not American, is plotting against us, wants to redistribute rich peoples’ wealth to poor people. Court battles raged over President Obama’s birth certificate, the legitimacy of his presidency, lawsuits sprang up in response to his policies, and, in particular, the Affordable Care Act.
And through it all, one hope sprang eternal: Hang in there, the right told themselves and each other, we only have to put up with this for four years. He’ll be gone after one term.
But it’s looking like he won’t be. In a single week, Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant law was stripped of its teeth and the Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court, became the law of the land. More rending of right-wing garments and gnashing of teabagging teeth, vows to repeal it, insistence on everyone on the right being in complete and total lockstep against it. When the Affordable Care Act was granted legitimacy by the Supreme Court last week, became the law of the land, survived the challenges, it enraged Republicans beyond reason, imbued in them a mission to defeat this man once and for all. In response to the news that the ACA was upheld by the Supreme Court, the threat to this courageous, committed man with a steely spine and teflon coating has escalated to a level that puts our President at greater and greater risk – and not just legislatively.
Even before the Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act, violent craziness eruped – an Arizona GOP Senate candidate, in a campaign ad, literally blew away (as in with a gun) the President’s signature healthcare reform act. But following the announcement that the Affordable Care Act was upheld, the level of rage escalated to an all-time high. Threats of violence have erupted. A Mississippi Tea Party leader called the Obama Administration “a gang of criminals” who “subvert legitimate government offices and seize all power to themselves without the real consent of the governed,” and declared that “their every act and edict is of itself illegal and is outside the bounds of the Rule of Law.” He urged his followers “. . . To resist by all means that are right in the eyes of God is not rebellion or insurrection, it is patriotic resistance to invasion . . . And, may godly courageous leaders rise up in His wisdom and power to lead us in displacing the criminal invaders from their seats and restore our constitutional republic.” A New Hampshire Tea Party leader said that he hoped the members of the Supreme Court who ruled to uphold Obamacares “get colon cancer.” One wonders what they want to see happen to this President, who stood firmly behind healthcare reform, rose to the challenge, pushed back, and won.
Commentators such as Glenn Beck – who continue to peddle the notion that freedom was invalidated the day the Affordable Care Act became the unchallenged law of the land – made veiled threats: “Look out progressives. This is when America is at her best, and you’ll never see us coming, because you don’t understand us. When there is two minutes left in the game, and we are behind, that’s when we come out and kick some a**.”
There are no sane voices within the right wing of this country to stop these people. There are no strong leaders who will step up and condemn calls to violence. In fact, the code words have worked just exactly as Republicans expected them to: The dog whistle to the right brought out the crazies, and – as they pledged on the night of President Obama’s inauguration – Republicans will shamelessly accept as legitimate anyone who can do damage to this president. Any kind of damage. Legislative damage, literal damage, makes no difference to these people, this pack of howling jackals who have whipped themselves into a rage-filled frenzy.
The rage has a target: President Obama. He’s the freedom thief, a Kenyan-born, illegitimate, arrogant, uppity “messiah” who has proven to be a formidable adversary instead of the weak target many on the right predicted, and hoped, he’d be. Teabaggers are writhing in impotent fury with no outlet. This President has calmly bested them at every turn, has made them look foolish as he scores victories, and is only getting stronger.
These absolutely irrational people on the right, these people blinded by fury and encouraged by the leaders of their party to act out their rage, have become a dangerous physical threat to President Obama. As they’ve watched their dreams of tearing apart his largest accomplishments fall apart, the realization has started to dawn that this man may, in fact, be leading this nation for another term. Their dreams of a one-term president are fading and, with it, what rationality they ever had is circling the drain. President Obama began as a nuisance, stepped up to become a serious opponent, and is now their greatest menace.
As British novelist Jeanette Winterson noted, “I think it would be very foolish not to take the irrational seriously.”
Let’s not be fools.