Thursday, November 6, 2008

Politics: The Ugly Right

TORONTO, ONTARIO - A friend in Port Orford, Oregon sent me this story yesterday:
On Day One of president-elect Obama's "era," I strolled into the Port Orford post office, past two guys I do not know dressed as lumberjacks (around here, that is probably what they are), walking toward my box. It is a blustery, rainy day, so I had on my Irish walking hat (with two big Obama buttons adorning it) and, showing beneath the front flaps of my rain jacket, an Obama-Biden t-shirt.

I was lost in thought until one of the men said, in a falsetto voice, "I bet you're pretty much walking on air today, huh?"

Huh? I said to myself. "We shall see," I said aloud. "We shall see."

"Communist," said the other man.

"Wonder what the Good Tooth Fairy has in mind for us," said the first man as I, having emptied my mail box, walked back past them to the door, not saying a word and trying to contain my temper.

The looks on their two sneering, mocking faces -- working men in their '30s, in a little Oregon seaside town which went 349-163 for Obama -- were not pretty. They laughed derisively as I left the building.

Likely, these two men were of the same mentality that yelled "kill him" when Barack Obama was discussed by Republican Sarah Palin during the campaign. Likely, they booed at John McCain as he told them not to fear Obama during the campaign. Likely, they cheered as Sarah Plain claimed that Barack Obama did not represent "real America." Likely, they again booed John McCain during his concession speech when he called for the country to come together and referred to Obama as "my president."

An ugly characteristic of right-leaning people that make up the "base" of the Republican Party is that they do not respect people with different viewpoints. Too often, it goes beyond name-calling to direct calls for the eradication of opposition. Take this thread on the radio blog BlatherWatch, a site that often becomes political. Poster Obango included this:
A plurality of Obama supporters dislike, but don't disdain, McCain.

A plurality of McCain supporters disdain Obama.

I consider Barack Obama human slime and, frankly, a threat to national stability - I use the term "stability" vs. "security" with intent. I truly, honestly, have real hope that the brave men and women of the American armed forces will do what is necessary when it becomes necessary, as politically unpopular as it might seem at the time.

On other blogs, far more harsh words have been written, many threatening Obama's life. Had McCain been elected, I doubt a single serious threat would have been made against him. When liberals lose, they tend to pity the opposition for not understanding their viewpoint--often leaving them coming off as elitist and condescending to their opponents, but hardly a real threat.

I have personally been told by people of the mentality of the Republican "base" that I "had no right to live in the United States" and that I "was a greater threat to the future of the nation than a fundamentalist Muslim" because I claimed to be an atheist. Apparently they haven't even read the Constitution that they claim to hold so dearly.

Each of the major parties in the United States attracts votes from fringe groups with opinions that most of the rest of the country finds abhorrent. The difference right now is that the Republicans count people with the ugly attitude described in this post as their "base"--the people that volunteer for them--whereas the Democratic base at worst threatens a portion of the opposition's pocketbook (and even that's debatable). In this election, the Republicans nominated someone in John McCain who was not comfortable with the party's base. It showed in the tension between McCain and the crowds at his rallies, and, in the end, it raised enough questions about McCain for the general populace that he lost the election.

Yet, 46% of US voters, whether they voted for the same reasons as "the base" or not, voted the same way as the Republican base. For the rest of us, that's downright scary. For Barack Obama, as my friend in Port Orford put it:
That is a huge weight to carry, in addition to trying to pick up the pieces of what Bush has wrought.

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