The color of welfare?

One might gather that the racists within the Republican Party believe welfare to be black, and this confluence of a collective identity and a political institution includes health care measures like Medicare and surely a single-payer health care system. This, in any case, is Leslie Savan's point:

With every passing day it gets harder to think of this sudden dialing-up of whiny hate speech as sheer coincidence. Instead, it's beginning to look inevitable — so much so that maybe the real question is, What is it about health care that brings out the latent racism in the GOP?

The answer is simple: For two or three generations, Republicans have defeated progressive reform of the health care system by hinting that it would mean redistributing wealth from whites to blacks. As Beck himself said, practically redefining "welfare queen" as "healthcare queen": "Everything that is getting pushed through Congress, including this health care bill, are transforming America, and they're all driven by President Obama's thinking on one idea: reparations."

To be sure, this race-based backlash has driven the Republican Party since the election of 1968. During its gestation racism clearly damaged Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, Richard Nixon's Family Assistance plan and reached its bi-partisan nadir when Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1966. Yet it is ironic that America's exceptional condition, namely, that as a modern industrial economy the United States also lacks an adequate social safety net, will fall heavily on the white middle class — Nixon's infamous "silent majority" — during the current depression. The irony derives from the reversal effected by this racist politics: The downwardly mobile white middle class needs or will soon need the kind of programs it wanted to destroy when they were seemingly targeted towards a minority.

The optimistic Savan believes the new situation includes a political opportunity:

But watching the Republican Party morph into the National Association for the Advancement of White People should give us all hope, not despair: Anything that brings 'em out of the closet and gets 'em running naked through the streets shouting, "I'm the victim here, dammit!" will only ensure their minority status over the long run.

It is unfortunate, though, that the Democratic Party is not worth a damn…. After all, the Democratic Party spells "pragmatic" as "crude opportunism."

No comments: