Frank Rich’s Triumphalism
Frank Rich, writing in the NYTimes, thinks the battle is over and his people won. (Not for the first time. See here.) The basic idea is that it’s a bit too late for all those middle and working class White folks all up in arms (some literally) and saying that they want to take back their country. Rich is happy to report that in 2008 Whites represented only 52% of the births, and by 2012 they will be a minority. And that means that the Republicans can decide to be an all-White minority party — “That’s their right.” (Thanks!) But, according to Rich, what they can’t do is encourage the “mass hysteria” among Whites who see themselves being dispossessed.
Rich presumably sees this as a moral imperative that is so obviously true there is no need to explain why White people have no right to be extremely angry about what is going on and to try to change things as they see fit.
According to Rich, Republicans have every right to be the party of the White folks as they peacefully head off into the political sunset. The main role for Republican elites should be to quell the rage and prevent things from getting out of hand. Republicans should strive to make their members into a new model minority that accepts their minority status and rejects any claim to having a right to hold onto the country as their ethnic possession as it was only a few short decades ago — until people like Rich, who dominate the most prestigious and powerful positions of our media, academic, and political culture, prevailed in their long campaign to displace the traditional people and culture of the US.
Sadly, I have no doubt that the Republican elites will do their best to comply with Rich’s marching orders. After all, they wouldn’t want to be called racists by people like Rich.
If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory [of White rage]. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.
They can’t. Demographics are avatars of a change bigger than any bill contemplated by Obama or Congress. The week before the health care vote, The Times reported that births to Asian, black and Hispanic women accounted for 48 percent of all births in America in the 12 months ending in July 2008. By 2012, the next presidential election year, non-Hispanic white births will be in the minority. The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded.
If Congressional Republicans want to maintain a politburo-like homogeneity in opposition to the Democrats, that’s their right. If they want to replay the petulant Gingrich government shutdown of 1995 by boycotting hearings and, as John McCain has vowed, refusing to cooperate on any legislation, that’s their right too (and a political gift to the Democrats). But they can’t emulate the 1995 G.O.P. by remaining silent as mass hysteria, some of it encompassing armed militias, runs amok in their own precincts. We know the end of that story. And they can’t pretend that we’re talking about “isolated incidents” or a “fringe” utterly divorced from the G.O.P. A Quinnipiac poll last week found that 74 percent of Tea Party members identify themselves as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents, while only 16 percent are aligned with Democrats.
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