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Limbaugh calls health care reform “reparations” and “civil rights”

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, February 23, 2010 23:35 EDT
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This is really hard to listen to, since Rush Limbaugh is being even angrier and nastier and egotistical than usual, but it’s nonetheless important if you want to understand the opposition to health care reform:

In it, Limbaugh uses high racialized language to denounce health care reform, calling it “civil rights” and “reparations” in these tones that are dripping with anger and disdain. The context for this is a discussion about the evils of social welfare spending that allows the people who build wealth through labor to enjoy some of the fruits of that wealth through taxing people who build wealth through capital and hoard most of the wealth for themselves. From a fairness point of view, people who work to build wealth should get part of the bounty for the country, and the most efficient way to do this is through taxation. Most people, if they think about it, do think that the social contract should include those who labor as well as those who invest money. So the way that Rush and his comrades are able to distract people and have them offer their loyalties not to their fellow citizens who have to work for a living, but to those whose work is mainly in investing, is to draw on race. He’s using language that basically says, “Working white people: Ignore the fact that you have the same concerns and hopes and dreams as working black Americans. Instead, your loyalty and decisions should be made on hoarding wealth in the hands of white people and keeping it from black people. That doing this means you don’t get your share of the pie is too bad, but at least most of the people who get most of the money are white.”

Conservatives like to pretend that liberals “cry racism” about opposition to health care reform because of President Obama, as if we’re saying all criticism of the man is racist in and of itself because of his race. And of course they like to pretend that; it’s easier to argue with than the actual argument. The actual argument is that opposition to social welfare spending is largely rooted in this race-baiting that Limbaugh is engaging in. The argument is that the tea parties are mainly white because some white people are so opposed to sharing with people they think are inferior to them that they will shoot themselves in the foot in the process of hitting those folks with the bullet. We’re saying that they see America in terms of black and white and not in terms of rich and not-rich, and so when they think of “wealth redistribution”, they think of it as going from a mostly white upper class to a more racially diverse working and middle class, and they get upset at that. This would all be true if we had President Clinton instead of President Obama, though I do think the fact that we have President Obama is probably escalating the racism of the teabagger movement. But it’s not the source of it by a long shot.

That’s also why the fact that most teabaggers are tipping the age scale is relevant, as well. While there’s no shortage of racial resentment with younger white Americans, it’s certainly milder on the whole than with the older crowd. The younger you go, the more likely you are to find a willingness to get along and share and see ourselves as a single group—Americans—and less as a bunch of racially separate people at odds with each other. Also, the younger you go, the more racial diversity you find, so again, you’re less likely to see that group as a whole choose preserving the extreme wealth of the few on top because they’re white over self-interest. Conservatives are genuinely in trouble in the long run because of this, which is why some of their attempts to appeal to young people are so laughable.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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