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Everyday birtherism

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 16:06 EDT
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From the heartland, a tale that perfectly illustrates the workaday dumbass resentments that Republicans rely on to get votes. Kansas state legislator Connie O’Brien, Republican of course, was in a hearing on the subject of in-state tuition being granted to illegal immigrants who had Kansas state residency requirements. She decided to go off on a rant that is similar to what’s going on around dining room tables and on Facebook every day:

REP. O’BRIEN: My son who’s a Kansas resident, born here, raised here, didn’t qualify for any financial aid. Yet this girl was going to get financial aid. My son was kinda upset about it because he works and pays for his own schooling and his books and everything and he didn’t think that was fair. We didn’t ask the girl what nationality she was, we didn’t think that was proper. But we could tell by looking at her that she was not originally from this country. [...]

REP. GATEWOOD: Can you expand on how you could tell that they were illegal?

REP. O’BRIEN: Well she wasn’t black, she wasn’t Asian, and she had the olive complexion.

A lot of attention is rightly being paid to the “olive complexion” bit. That’s kicking it old school style, going straight for the skin color when being racist, instead of trying to find ways to allude to skin color without actually saying anything about skin color. (My favorite so far is to say you can totally tell by someone’s shoes that they’re an undocumented immigrant.) And rightly so, though the reaction from right wingers to the outrage this sort of thing is to just look for more euphemisms they can use, instead of doing something as quaint as giving up their hobby of scanning the world, looking for non-white people having things and whipping yourself into an outrage.

But I have to point out that this was far from the only stupid thing the woman said. There’s also the fact that this was about in-state tuition, and she was complaining that her son didn’t get federal financial aid. I would bet a lot of money that he did get in-state tuition, though.

I think we should start calling this sort of thing “everyday birtherism”. After all, both birtherism and this particular rant come from the same place, which is to say a belief that certain things—financial aid, college degrees, the Presidency—are only obtained by non-white people through fraud, or that there’s something illegitimate going on. It’s interesting to me that Republicans who rail against federal spending then will turn around and claim they’re entitled to money from all federal programs, even those that were set up to aid people that aren’t as wealthy as they are. Which is basically the heart of the “small government” claim. It’s not that they want small government. They just don’t want to share the public wealth with everyone, but just to keep it all for themselves. Thus, the “get government hands off my Medicare!” That, translated from wingnut to English, means, “I don’t want other people to have the same privileges I have!”

This is the same mentality behind Andrew Breitbart’s Pigford obsession, though he is slightly more sophisticated than this woman at creating plausible deniability.

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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