By Lee A. Daniels
Those who’ve found it difficult to connect with the racial history of post-Civil War America–when black Americans were stripped of the citizenship rights they gained right after that conflict–should pay special attention to the national political arena now. Because the conservative movement, in its desperate mania to destroy Barack Obama’s presidency and neutralize the growing political clout of Americans of color, is dramatizing how that betrayal and the construction of a post-slavery racist society was accomplished.
The tricked–up claims of “voter fraud” by state legislatures in order to deny blacks access to the ballot box. Federal court and Supreme Court decisions that justified state and local governments’ violations of black Americans’ rights. Declarations that Whites were being “victimized” and “enslaved” by laws that expanded democracy to those who’d been excluded. White racists’ claims that elected black officials were acting in “lawless” fashion. (In that regard, search the phrase “Obama and lawless” on the Internet and note how often now and during the past six years GOP party officials and pundits have used it to describe Obama’s actions.)
All these were part of the victorious racist reaction to the Civil War’s ending Negro slavery 150 years ago that made the U.S. an apartheid state for the next century. And all are part of the conservative movement’s playbook today.
That current reaction is reaching a new low point with right-wingers’ increasing calls to impeach the president. GOP politicos and their echo chamber of conservative pundits and talk-show jockeys have been dropping heavy hints about this for at least two years. Recently, however, it’s bubbled up to the surface of the cesspool that is Republican politics these days with Sarah Palin’s call for Obama’s impeachment.
Perhaps that is as it should be; for no other single individual offers a more instructive comparison of what the Republican Party has become vis-à-vis Obama. Completely ignorant of and uninterested in learning about American domestic and international policy, Palin was rapidly exposed as the worst vice-presidential candidate in U.S. history. Then, she abandoned her post as Alaska’s governor for the lucrative, no-work money trail of no-substance speeches and reality shows.
Meanwhile, her GOP confederates were trying again and again to wreck the Obama administration – and the country. But their congressional policy of obstruction hasn’t worked. Their government shutdown tactics haven’t worked. Their tolerating a vicious anti-Obama racism among their officeholders and supporters hasn’t worked. Their state legislators enacting sham voter ID laws in an effort to block Democratic-leaning voters from the ballot box in 2012 didn’t work. And their two attempts to find two– just two–Republicans to form a credible presidential ticket hasn’t worked. So, now they’re trying to splash more political filth on themselves and the American political tradition and the American people.
Of course, true to form, Palin’s cry was all about her: She’s desperately seeking attention in order to prop up her “celebrity status” and to maintain her influence among the GOP base, and thus on the party itself. The GOP establishment despises her, not least because of the outsized contribution she made to Obama’s defeating John McCain in 2008.
But don’t be fooled by Speaker of the House John Boehner’s terse “I disagree” when asked about Palin’s remark. He knows that raising the specter of impeachment now–which would make Obama the second consecutive Democratic president the Republicans have sought to impeach–would threaten to alienate both moderate Republicans and independent voters the GOP needs to regain control of the Senate in the November elections. If they do, the right-wing calls to impeach Obama will explode, and Boehner and the rest of the GOP leadership will start whistling a different tune.
But it also should be clear there are two other targets of the GOP’s impeachment gambit.
The first is Hillary Clinton. The impeachment gambit is part of the sniping campaign to undermine her extremely likely candidacy in 2016; for the GOP knows that if they lose the White House that year, their future as a credible national party will be dim and dimmer.
The other purpose of the impeachment gambit continues what has been part of the GOP playbook from, literally, the night of Obama’s 2009 inauguration: to erode the desire of Democratic-leaning voters to participate in politics; to make them so disgusted with the relentless obstructionism and meanness the GOP has made its true party platform that they’ll give up.
But Democratic-leaning voters have to continue –as the national black electorate did in 2012 and as Black Mississippi voters did last month—to follow the words and the spirit of the old civil rights anthem whose signature phrase was: “ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round!”
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is “Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.”