Much has already been written about the frivolous (many would say dangerous) claims Michele Bachmann has made about radical Islamic influence in our government. No need to revisit those; and the comparisons with Joe McCarthy have been well documented. Actually, since I lived in the McCarthy era, I can attest to the validity of those contentions. However, if you drill deeper into the Bachmann phenomenon, there are factors in her actions that are mostly unexplored, and worthy of comment.
On the surface, Bachmann shows concern for the security of our government. Also, the idea that she is seeking attention is plausible. But underneath these two issues, is a darker and larger one — and I believe her actions are merely a metaphor for that larger issue. That would be the changing color, demographics, and “character” of America — and Bachmann, knowingly or not, has “tapped” into that fear. It also explains, to some extent, the incredible dislike (some would even say “hate”) that Barack Obama engenders among certain groups — a fear and dislike that goes well beyond similar or even rational criticism of previous presidents. For that reason, explaining the hostility towards Obama, helps explain Bachmann’s rationale.
The dislike of Obama has multiple layers. His detractors, like Bachmann, “claim” it is his policies; “socialist” tendencies; and radical ideas. None of these hold much water, because in fact, he has been largely a moderate president, and most of what he has proposed is well into the mainstream. Then of course Bachmann herself accused him of being unpatriotic (claiming he had “anti-American” tendencies). That, too would be a hard claim to substantiate given the aggressive stand and success he has had in foreign policy issues. Finally, there would be his color — but bigotry is not much in fashion politically at least, so that does not fly either. What then…and what is Bachmann’s real concern?
In my opinion it is the xenophobic fear many (mostly white) Americans have as our country changes from a largely white/European nation to one of color, and non-Christian values. Barack Obama is a symbol, a foreshadowing of that change. And to many white Americans that is unsettling, unpleasant, and frankly…scary! As Republican National Chairman Reince Priebes said so succinctly last fall when he visited Minnesota: “The people of Minnesota know that he [Obama] is not one of them.” Their hope is defeating Obama will stop that trend, and as they say “take back our country”! These are telling words. Take back our country. To whom, from whom? And that is what Michele Bachmann and her followers are aggressively pursuing, as she goes after Muslims in government with her smoke and mirrors.
Taking this assumption further, Obama is not just our first black president, he has that funny name. American presidents, of all historic periods have had “solid European names” like Jefferson, Jackson, and more recently Johnson, Carter, Clinton and Bush. Not “Obama.” That’s the way it should be according to conservative Americans. Moreover, Michelle Obama does not “look” like an American First Lady should. They were staid, “knew their place”…and white! Again, as Bachmann recently said: “everything I needed to know I learned in Iowa” – (note, not Indonesia, Chicago, or Columbia University). Iowa…that’s as American as apple pie. An America Bachmann may still dream of.
While hostility toward becoming a non-white America is not new, this time stifling immigration, and stopping the coming change of “color” in America likely will not work. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, barring Chinese laborers from coming to the United States. The Immigration Act of 1924 established the national origins quota system, which was aimed at restricting southern and eastern Europeans; it also prohibited immigration of East Asians and Asian Indians. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished the national-origin quotas and opened the way for a surge in immigration. The result of this is what scares many of Bachmann’s followers now.
The reality is non-Hispanic whites are projected to no longer make up the majority of the population by 2042, according to the Census Bureau. In 2050 they will compose just 46.3% of the population. Non-Hispanic whites made up 85% of the population in 1960. However, the U.S. population growth between 2000 and 2010 was driven almost exclusively by racial and ethnic minorities. And even worse news for those who fear this change, it is projected that 82% of the increase in population from 2005 to 2050 will be due to that dreaded immigration, including many Muslims Bachmann so “fears.”
No, the animus, the hostility, the enmity the Bachmanns of our country now express go beyond frivolous charges of dangerous “aliens” in our government. It is based on something far deeper — a gut wrenching fear of color/demographic/religious change in our nation. The foreshadowing of an America we have not yet seen…but is relentlessly approaching just over the horizon. Frankly, it is exceedingly frightening to a great many people; and Barack Obama is simply the first one they can see coming over that hill. It really won’t change things, nevertheless they are desperately engaged in a vigorous but futile hope that they can “take back our country”!
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