In a recent post, I described the glaringly simple formula for rightwing dominance of our national debate:
There is a simple formula for rightwing dominance of our national debate, even when Democrats are in charge: move the conversation as extreme right as possible, then compromise toward the far right. Negotiation 101. And it’s completely lost on Democrats.
It’s no accident that in 21st century America, torture has been mainstreamed, climate denial has taken firm hold, book burning, racial dog whistles and brazen religious intolerance are part of our discourse and par for the course. This is how the right plays the game, using Limbaugh, Hannity, Fox, Drudge, blogs, chain emails, talk radio, etc. to shamelessly and defiantly drag the conversation as far right as possible.
…Democrats run away from the left like it’s the plague while Republican run to the right like it’s nirvana. The net effect is that the media end up reporting far right positions as though they were mainstream and reporting liberal positions as though they were heinous aberrations. And you wonder why America is veering off the rails?
Citing a recent Forbes article by Dinesh D’Souza, former House speaker Newt Gingrich tells National Review Online that President Obama may follow a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview.
Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”
“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
“This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president,” Gingrich tells us.
“I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating — none of which was true,” Gingrich continues. “In the Alinksy tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve . . . He was authentically dishonest.”
Republicans are willing to accept the burst of outrage associated with outrageous comments in order to advance their agenda and control the terms of the public debate. Democrats are not.
Gingrich is a major Republican figure and he is flatly stating that the President of the United States is neither normal nor reasonable, that he may follow a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. Let’s see whether there are consequences beyond this news cycle.
UPDATE: Contrast this with the Shirley Sherrod controversy, where the right’s masterful ability to manufacture outrage had Democrats from the White House to the Agriculture Department racing to appease the likes of Andrew Breitbart.
Pundits huff and puff about Americans believing Obama is Muslim, but misconceptions about Obama aren’t accidental. Gingrich’s “Kenyan” allusion is part of a systematic strategy on the right to continue reinforcing Obama’s “otherness.”
Sherrod was a Georgia State Director of Rural Development; Gingrich a former Speaker and potential presidential candidate. At the hint of rightwing anger, she was fired unceremoniously for making what turned out to be a beautiful speech on tolerance. Gingrich will most likely get away unscathed with his offensive and intemperate comments.
UPDATE II: Robert Gibbs puts his finger on Gingrich’s intention:
I think Newt Gingrich knows that he’s trying to appeal to the fringe of people that don’t believe the president was born in this country. You would normally expect better from somebody who held the position of speaker of the House.
Sounds like he’s calling him a “birther.”
UPDATE III: Adam Serwer’s take is spot on:
At once, [“Kenyan anti-colonialism”] engages all the racialized elements of the conservative critique of Obama–not just that having an African father means he isn’t really an American, but that his inner life consists of a deep anger towards white people, and the office of the presidency is merely the means to secure a collective payback. It also manages to nod in the direction of another conservative racist meme, that having a black president makes the United States somehow analagous to African third-world countries run by bloodthirsty despots. Newt Gingrich took a break from his clownish Islamophobia this weekend to embrace this idiocy…