This Time, It's Race Warfare
There are reasons to question the change in policy President Obama announced in his recent press conference on individuals who have immigrated illegally to the U.S.A. as a child. Leave it to Rush Limbaugh, however, to disregard legitimate concerns about the new approach and instead to misrepresent the President's remarks and attempt to divide Americans by ethnicity. On Wednesday, he fielded a call from "Omar" in California, who identified himself as having immigrated legally from Mexico with his parents when he was three years old. Limbaugh, in part, commented
Obama paints a picture of every Hispanic as a lawbreaker. It would offend me. Well, hell, it already does. Because to me they're Americans. The whole thing is irritating, this identity politics, this assumption that people can't take care of themselves, that they don't want to take care of themselves, and that they, because of skin color or the way their names are pronounced or whatever, there's automatic bigotry or discrimination.
You might wonder about Rush's charge that Obama "paints a picture of every Hispanic as a lawbreaker" and assumes "people can't take care of themselves, that they don't want to take care of themselves." It seems diametrically at odds with the President's challenge that his listener
Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life -- studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class -- only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak...
And I believe that it’s the right thing to do because I’ve been with groups of young people who work so hard and speak with so much heart about what’s best in America, even though I knew some of them must have lived under the fear of deportation. I know some have come forward, at great risks to themselves and their futures, in hopes it would spur the rest of us to live up to our own most cherished values. And I’ve seen the stories of Americans in schools and churches and communities across the country who stood up for them and rallied behind them, and pushed us to give them a better path and freedom from fear --because we are a better nation than one that expels innocent young kids.
Limbaugh's purpose, however, is to foment ethnic discord, to do his part to further the GOP's push to divide one class of Americans from another. He complains about "this whole thing is irritating, this identity politics." Perhaps a reasoned case might be made about "identity politics" were it made by someone who is not so fond as he is about invoking it himself. Identity politics is Rush's bread and butter, a cause central to his radio broadcasts. Consider that on the same day he charged Barack Obama with promoting the concept, Limbaugh addressed the decision by several conservative Democrats to stay at home rather than attend the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. He charged
The Democrats are being told stay away from this convention, which means stay away from Obama. This convention's all about Obama. And these Democrats running for reelection are told to stay away from the biggest party the Democrats throw once every four years. Now, it's always left to me to point out the hard-hitting to-the-bone realities. Have you noticed that all nine Democrats who have announced publicly that they are boycotting the Obama convention, they have announced it publicly, they have allowed their pictures to be posted along with their announcement that they are boycotting or not attending? Have you noticed that they are all -- dot-dot-dot -- white? Caucasians...
Now we have Steve Israel, who runs the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee, who's in charge of getting Democrats elected in the House, now we have Steve Israel using code language to suggest that more whites stay away. "If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts," Israel said. Segregated from the Obama convention, segregated from Charlotte, North Carolina, where there are no unions.
If you missed Representative Israel's "code language," you aren't alone, probably just not fixated on race. Limbaugh is fairly crudely suggesting- without actually blurting it out- that a Democratic congressman is targeting a black President by telling white members of the party to boycott the convention which will renominate him. "Have you noticed," he asks, "that all nine Democrats who have announced publicly that they are boycotting the Obama convention.... are white?"
Well, no, it wasn't the first thing that came to the mind of most people, or probably to even most of Rush's listeners, who likely aren't as bigoted as Limbaugh hopes they are. The Democrats avoiding the convention are doing so not for racial reasons, obviously, but because they believe it would undercut their chances of winning races in competitive, or even Republican, districts or states. And they aren't acknowledging that they are downplaying the significance of missing the Charlotte gathering, hardly boasting of "boycotting" the event.
"A boycott," a blogger on thinkprogress.org (in another context) noted, "is only effective if organized on a large scale." Here, the politicians are choosing on an individual basis to stay away and for their own particular reasons. Though those reasons are generally electorally-related, the individuals are relatively unconcerned with what the others are doing.
Chalk this one up to fomenting racial bigotry, a tactic Rush Limbaugh approaches with almost as much relish as he does class warfare.