The Mob Mentality
I didn’t realize that there was a connection between the birthers and the GOP-orchestrated, ahem, sorry, I mean, “grassroot,” organizing to oppose a national health care solution, but Ta-Nahesi Coates (whose blog is on my daily read list) points out this telling excerpt from today’s Paul Krugman column in the Times, describing a mob that descended on a Congressman’s town hall meeting:
There was a telling incident at a town hall held by Representative Gene Green, D-Tex. An activist turned to his fellow attendees and asked if they “oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care.” Nearly all did. Then Representative Green asked how many of those present were on Medicare. Almost half raised their hands.
Now, people who don’t know that Medicare is a government program probably aren’t reacting to what President Obama is actually proposing. They may believe some of the disinformation opponents of health care reform are spreading, like the claim that the Obama plan will lead to euthanasia for the elderly. (That particular claim is coming straight from House Republican leaders.) But they’re probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they’ve heard about what he’s doing, than to who he is.
That is, the driving force behind the town hall mobs is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that’s behind the “birther” movement, which denies Mr. Obama’s citizenship. Senator Dick Durbin has suggested that the birthers and the health care protesters are one and the same; we don’t know how many of the protesters are birthers, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s a substantial fraction.
And cynical political operators are exploiting that anxiety to further the economic interests of their backers.
In a way the whole rhethoric of the birther movement makes sense. What goes together with being “Unamerican”? Being a “Socialist.” Le sigh.