Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Ominous Direction of the Republican Party and the Frenzied Attempt of the Far Right to Stop The Course of History in the United States

Newt Gingrich supporters listen to his stump speech at a campaign event in South Carolina.
(Photo: Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos/New York Magazine)


As I and many others have been saying for a long time now this is where the general direction of this country is going and beware anyone--especially us!--who doesn't fully recognize, perceive, or "understand" this fact. This is a brilliant and very insightful piece by Jonathan Chait that confirms what is really at stake in the American political economy and culture in 2012 and beyond (i.e. the next 25-30 years), and why the immediate future of the epic national public battles and conflicts to come over the ever present social dynamics of race, class, gender, and age in this country are about to make the highly tulmutuous, culturally contenious, and politically volatile 1960s/early '70s period of U.S. history--and the fiercely reactionary and violent response to it-- look like merely a polite dress rehearsal for what's coming...Stay tuned...


2012 or Never

Republicans are worried this election could be their last chance to stop history. This is fear talking. But not paranoia.

By Jonathan Chait
Feb 26, 2012

New York

Of the various expressions of right-wing hysteria that have flowered over the past three years—goldbuggery, birtherism, death panels at home and imaginary apology tours by President Obama abroad—perhaps the strain that has taken deepest root within mainstream Republican circles is the terror that the achievements of the Obama administration may be irreversible, and that the time remaining to stop permanent nightfall is dwindling away.

“America is approaching a ‘tipping point’ beyond which the Nation will be unable to change course,” announces the dark, old-timey preamble to Paul Ryan’s “The Roadmap Plan,” a statement of fiscal principles that shaped the budget outline approved last spring by 98 percent of the House Republican caucus. Rick Santorum warns his audiences, “We are reaching a tipping point, folks, when those who pay are the minority and those who receive are the majority.” Even such a sober figure as Mitt Romney regularly says things like “We are only inches away from no longer being a free economy,” and that this election “could be our last chance.”

The Republican Party is in the grips of many fever dreams. But this is not one of them. To be sure, the apocalyptic ideological analysis—that “freedom” is incompatible with Clinton-era tax rates and Massachusetts-style health care—is pure crazy. But the panicked strategic analysis, and the sense of urgency it gives rise to, is actually quite sound. The modern GOP—the party of Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes—is staring down its own demographic extinction. Right-wing warnings of impending tyranny express, in hyperbolic form, well-grounded dread: that conservative America will soon come to be dominated, in a semi-permanent fashion, by an ascendant Democratic coalition hostile to its outlook and interests. And this impending doom has colored the party’s frantic, fearful response to the Obama presidency.

The GOP has reason to be scared. Obama’s election was the vindication of a prediction made several years before by journalist John Judis and political scientist Ruy Teixeira in their 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority. Despite the fact that George W. Bush then occupied the White House, Judis and Teixeira argued that demographic and political trends were converging in such a way as to form a natural-majority coalition for Democrats.

The Republican Party had increasingly found itself confined to white voters, especially those lacking a college degree and rural whites who, as Obama awkwardly put it in 2008, tend to “cling to guns or religion.” Meanwhile, the Democrats had ­increased their standing among whites with graduate degrees, particularly the growing share of secular whites, and remained dominant among racial minorities. As a whole, Judis and Teixeira noted, the electorate was growing both somewhat better educated and dramatically less white, making every successive election less favorable for the GOP. And the trends were even more striking in some key swing states. Judis and Teixeira highlighted Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona, with skyrocketing Latino populations, and Virginia and North Carolina, with their influx of college-educated whites, as the most fertile grounds for the expanding Democratic base.

Obama’s victory carried out the blueprint. Campaign reporters cast the election as a triumph of Obama’s inspirational message and cutting-edge organization, but above all his sweeping win reflected simple demography. Every year, the nonwhite proportion of the electorate grows by about half a percentage point—meaning that in every presidential election, the minority share of the vote increases by 2 percent, a huge amount in a closely divided country. One measure of how thoroughly the electorate had changed by the time of Obama’s election was that, if college- educated whites, working-class whites, and minorities had cast the same proportion of the votes in 1988 as they did in 2008, Michael Dukakis would have, just barely, won. By 2020—just eight years away—nonwhite voters should rise from a quarter of the 2008 electorate to one third. In 30 years, nonwhites will outnumber whites.

Now, there are two points to keep in mind about the emerging Democratic majority. The first is that no coalition is permanent. One party can build a majority, but eventually the minority learns to adapt to an altered landscape, and parity returns. In 1969, Kevin Phillips, then an obscure Nixon- administration staffer, wrote The Emerging Republican Majority, arguing that Republicans could undo FDR’s New Deal coalition by exploiting urban strife, the unpopularity of welfare, and the civil-rights struggle to pull blue-collar whites into a new conservative bloc. The result was the modern GOP. Bill Clinton appropriated some elements of this conservative coalition by rehabilitating his party’s image on welfare and crime (though he had a little help from Ross Perot, too). But it wasn’t until Obama was elected that a Democratic president could claim to be the leader of a true majority party.

(Photo: Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos/New York Magazine)

The second point is that short-term shocks, like war, recession, or scandal, can exert a far more powerful influence than a long-term trend: The Watergate scandal, for instance, interrupted the Republican majority at its zenith, helping elect a huge raft of Democratic congressmen in 1974, followed two years later by Jimmy Carter.

But the dominant fact of the new Democratic majority is that it has begun to overturn the racial dynamics that have governed American politics for five decades. Whatever its abstract intellectual roots, conservatism has since at least the sixties drawn its political strength by appealing to heartland identity politics. In 1985, Stanley Greenberg, then a political scientist, immersed himself in Macomb County, a blue-collar Detroit suburb where whites had abandoned the Democratic Party in droves. He found that the Reagan Democrats there understood politics almost entirely in racial terms, translating any Democratic appeal to economic justice as taking their money to subsidize the black underclass. And it didn’t end with the Reagan era. Piles of recent studies have found that voters often conflate “social” and “economic” issues. What social scientists delicately call “ethnocentrism” and “racial resentment” and “ingroup solidarity” are defining attributes of conservative voting behavior, and help organize a familiar if not necessarily rational coalition of ideological interests. Doctrines like neoconservative foreign policy, supply-side economics, and climate skepticism may bear little connection to each other at the level of abstract thought. But boiled down to political sound bites and served up to the voters, they blend into an indistinguishable stew of racial, religious, cultural, and nationalistic identity.

Obama’s election dramatized the degree to which this long-standing political dynamic had been flipped on its head. In the aftermath of George McGovern’s 1972 defeat, neoconservative intellectual Jeane Kirk­patrick disdainfully identified his voters as “intellectuals enamored with righteousness and possibility, college students, for whom perfectionism is an occupational hazard; portions of the upper classes freed from concern with economic self-interest,” and so on, curiously neglecting to include racial minorities. All of them were, in essence, people who heard a term like “real American” and understood that in some way it did not apply to them. Today, cosmopolitan liberals may still feel like an embattled sect—they certainly describe their political fights in those terms—but time has transformed their rump minority into a collective majority. As conservative strategists will tell you, there are now more of “them” than “us.” What’s more, the disparity will continue to grow indefinitely. Obama actually lost the over-45-year-old vote in 2008, gaining his entire victory margin from younger voters—more racially diverse, better educated, less religious, and more socially and economically liberal
Portents of this future were surely rendered all the more vivid by the startling reality that the man presiding over the new majority just happened to be, himself, young, urban, hip, and black. When jubilant supporters of Obama gathered in Grant Park on Election Night in 2008, Republicans saw a glimpse of their own political mortality. And a galvanizing picture of just what their new rulers would look like.

In the cold calculus of game theory, the expected response to this state of affairs would be to accommodate yourself to the growing strength of the opposing coalition—to persuade pockets of voters on the Democratic margins they might be better served by Republicans. Yet the psychology of decline does not always operate in a straightforward, rational way. A strategy of managing slow decay is unpleasant, and history is replete with instances of leaders who persuaded themselves of the opposite of the obvious conclusion. Rather than adjust themselves to their slowly weakening position, they chose instead to stage a decisive confrontation. If the terms of the fight grow more unfavorable with every passing year, well, all the more reason to have the fight sooner. This was the thought process of the antebellum southern states, sizing up the growing population and industrial might of the North. It was the thinking of the leaders of Austria-Hungary, watching their empire deteriorate and deciding they needed a decisive war with Serbia to save themselves.

At varying levels of conscious and subconscious thought, this is also the reasoning that has driven Republicans in the Obama era. Surveying the landscape, they have concluded that they must strike quickly and decisively at the opposition before all hope is lost.

Arthur Brooks, the president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a high-profile presence on the Republican intellectual scene, wrote a 2010 book titled The Battle, urging conservatives to treat the struggle for economic libertarianism as a “culture war” between capitalism and socialism, in which compromise was impossible. Time was running short, Brooks pleaded in apocalyptic tones. The “real core” of what he called Obama’s socialistic supporters was voters under 30. “It is the future of our country,” he wrote. “And this group has exhibited a frightening openness to statism in the age of Obama.”

The same panic courses through a new tome by James DeMint, who has made himself probably the most influential member of the Senate by relentlessly pushing his colleagues to the right and organizing primary challenges to snuff out any hint of moderation among his co-partisans. DeMint’s book, titled Now or Never, paints a haunting picture: “Republican supporters will continue to decrease every year as more Americans become dependent on the government. Dependent voters will naturally elect even big-government progressives who will continue to smother economic growth and spend America deeper into debt. The 2012 election may be the last opportunity for Republicans.”

That apocalyptic rhetoric is just as common among voters as among conservative eggheads and party elites. Theda Skocpol, a Harvard sociologist, conducted a detailed study of tea-party activists and discovered that they saw themselves beset by parasitic Democrats. “Along with illegal immigrants,” she wrote, “low-income Americans and young people loom large as illegitimate consumers of public benefits and services.”
It’s easy for liberals to dismiss these fears as simple racism—and surely racism, to some degree, sways the tea party. But it is not just conservative white people who react fearfully when they see themselves outnumbered by an influx of people unlike themselves. Minorities do it. White hipsters do it. Recall the embarrassing spectacle of liberal panic, in the aftermath of George W. Bush’s reelection, when Kerry voters believed their country had been taken over by gay-bashing Evangelical Christians.

That the struggles over the economic policies of the last few years have taken on the style of a culture war should come as no surprise, since conservatives believe Obama has pulled together an ascendant coalition of voters intent on expropriating their money. Paul Ryan, the House Republican budget chairman, has, like many Republicans, cast the fight as pitting “makers” against “takers,” with the latter in danger of irrevocably gaining the upper hand. “The tipping point represents two dangers,” he announced in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, “first, long-term economic decline as the number of makers diminishes [and] the number of takers grows … Second, gradual moral-political decline as dependency and passivity weaken the nation’s character.”

Of course, both parties make use of end-times rhetoric, especially in election season. What’s novel about the current spate of Republican millennialism is that it’s not a mere rhetorical device to rally the faithful, nor even simply an expression of free- floating terror, but the premise of an electoral strategy.

In that light, the most surprising response to the election of 2008 is what did not happen. Following Obama’s win, all sorts of loose talk concerning the Republican predicament filled the air. How would the party recast itself? Where would it move left, how would it find common ground with Obama, what new constituencies would it court?

The most widely agreed-upon component of any such undertaking was a concerted effort to win back the Hispanic vote. It seemed like a pure political no-brainer, a vital outreach to an exploding electoral segment that could conceivably be weaned from its Democratic leanings, as had previous generations of Irish and Italian immigrants, without altering the party’s general right-wing thrust on other issues. George W. Bush had tried to cobble together a comprehensive immigration-reform policy only to see it collapse underneath a conservative grassroots revolt, and John McCain, who had initially co-sponsored a bill in the Senate, had to withdraw his support for it in his pursuit of the 2008 nomination.

In the wake of his defeat, strategists like Karl Rove and Mike Murphy urged the GOP to abandon its stubborn opposition to reform. Instead, incredibly, the party adopted a more hawkish position, with Republicans in Congress rejecting even quarter-loaf compromises like the Dream Act and state-level officials like Jan Brewer launching new restrictionist crusades. This was, as Thomas Edsall writes in The Age of Austerity, “a major gamble that the GOP can continue to win as a white party despite the growing strength of the minority vote.”

None of this is to say that Republicans ignored the rising tide of younger and browner voters that swamped them at the polls in 2008. Instead they set about keeping as many of them from the polls as possible. The bulk of the campaign has taken the form of throwing up an endless series of tedious bureaucratic impediments to voting in many states—ending same-day voter registration, imposing onerous requirements upon voter-registration drives, and upon voters themselves. “Voting liberal, that’s what kids do,” overshared William O’Brien, the New Hampshire House speaker, who had supported a bill to prohibit college students from voting from their school addresses. What can these desperate, rearguard tactics accomplish? They can make the electorate a bit older, whiter, and less poor. They can, perhaps, buy the Republicans some time.

And to what end? The Republicans’ most audacious choice is the hyperaggressive position they’ve adopted against Obama to sabotage his chances for a second term. Frustrated liberals, assessing the methods of the Republicans in Congress, see a devious brilliance at work in the GOP strategy of legislative obstruction. And indeed, Republicans very skillfully ground the legislative gears to a halt for months on end, weakening or killing large chunks of Obama’s agenda, and nurturing public discontent with Washington that they rode to a sweeping victory in 2010. At the same time, their inability to waver from desperate, all-or-nothing opposition often meant conservatives willingly suffered policy defeats for perceived political gain, and failed to minimize the scale of those defeats.

Take the fight over health-care reform. Yes, Republicans played the politics about as well as possible. But it was their hard line on compromise allowed the bill to pass: The Democrats only managed to cobble together 60 votes to pass it in the Senate because conservatives drove Arlen Specter out of the GOP, forcing him to switch to the Democratic Party. Without him, Democrats never could have broken a filibuster. When Scott Brown surprisingly won the 2010 race to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, Democrats were utterly despondent, and many proposed abandoning comprehensive health-care reform to cut a deal for some meager expansion of children’s health insurance. But Republicans refused to offer even an olive branch. Presented with a choice between passing the comprehensive bill they had spent a year cobbling together or collapsing in total ignominious defeat, the Democrats passed the bill.

Last summer, Obama was again desperate to reach compromise, this time on legislation to reduce the budget deficit, which had come to dominate the political agenda and symbolize, in the eyes of Establishment opinion, Obama’s failure to fulfill his campaign goal of winning bipartisan cooperation. In extended closed-door negotiations, Obama offered Republicans hundreds of billions of dollars in spending cuts and a permanent extension of Bush-era tax rates in return for just $800 billion in higher revenue over a decade. This was less than half the new revenue proposed by the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission. Republicans spurned this deal, too.

Instead the party has bet everything on 2012, preferring a Hail Mary strategy to the slow march of legislative progress. That is the basis of the House Republicans’ otherwise inexplicable choice to vote last spring for a sweeping budget plan that would lock in low taxes, slash spending, and transform Medicare into private vouchers—none of which was popular with voters. Majority parties are known to hold unpopular votes occasionally, but holding an unpopular vote that Republicans knew full well stood zero chance of enactment (with Obama casting a certain veto) broke new ground in the realm of foolhardiness.

The way to make sense of that foolhardiness is that the party has decided to bet everything on its one “last chance.” Not the last chance for the Republican Party to win power—there will be many of those, and over time it will surely learn to compete for nonwhite voters—but its last chance to exercise power in its current form, as a party of anti-government fundamentalism powered by sublimated white Christian identity politics. (And the last chance to stop the policy steamroller of the new Democratic majority.) And whatever rhetorical concessions to moderates and independents the eventual Republican nominee may be tempted to make in the fall, he’ll find himself fairly boxed in by everything he’s already done this winter to please that base.

Will the gamble work? Grim though the long-term demography may be, it became apparent to Republicans almost immediately after Obama took office that political fate had handed them an impossibly lucky opportunity. Democrats had come to power almost concurrently with the deepest economic crisis in 80 years, and Republicans quickly seized the tactical advantage, in an effort to leverage the crisis to rewrite their own political fortunes. The Lesser Depression could be an economic Watergate, the Republicans understood, an exogenous political shock that would, at least temporarily, overwhelm any deeper trend, and possibly afford the party a chance to permanently associate the Democrats with the painful aftermath of the crisis.

During the last midterm elections, the strategy succeeded brilliantly. Republicans moved further right and won a gigantic victory. In the 2010 electorate, the proportion of voters under 30 fell by roughly a third, while the proportion of voters over 65 years old rose by a similar amount—the white share, too. In the long run, though, the GOP has done nothing at all to rehabilitate its deep unpopularity with the public as a whole, and has only further poisoned its standing with Hispanics. But by forswearing compromise, it opened the door to a single shot. The Republicans have gained the House and stand poised to win control of the Senate. If they can claw out a presidential win and hold on to Congress, they will have a glorious two-year window to restore the America they knew and loved, to lock in transformational change, or at least to wrench the status quo so far rightward that it will take Democrats a generation to wrench it back. The cost of any foregone legislative compromises on health care or the deficit would be trivial compared to the enormous gains available to a party in control of all three federal branches.
On the other hand, if they lose their bid to unseat Obama, they will have mortgaged their future for nothing at all. And over the last several months, it has appeared increasingly likely that the party’s great all-or-nothing bet may land, ultimately, on nothing. In which case, the Republicans will have turned an unfavorable outlook into a truly bleak one in a fit of panic. The deepest effect of Obama’s election upon the Republicans’ psyche has been to make them truly fear, for the first time since before Ronald Reagan, that the future is against them.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Evil and Poisonous Legacy of Andrew Breibart, 1969-2012

Andrew Breitbart, the new media entrepreneur, photographed at his Los Angeles home in 2010. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times),0,4088573.story


This despicable cretin and monumental asshole masquerading as a human being was one of the most savage and unrelenting racists, sexists, homophobes, pathological liars, and far rightwing demagogues in the history of American politics, and like his equally vicious predecessor and slimy mentor Lee Atwater (1951-1991) he and his loathsome agenda will NOT be missed by millions of people in this country. Like Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945)--whose fascist "Big Lie" propaganda techniques Breibart often adopted and emulated--Breibart was nothing but a walking, talking disease in every sense of the word and the most "polite" thing I could possibly say about him--and his ilk--now that he's gone is this:



Conservative writer Andrew Breitbart dies
By Rong-Gong Lin II and Andrew Blankstein
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
March 1, 2012

Conservative writer and website publisher Andrew Breitbart died of natural causes at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center about midnight, sources told The Times.

The exact cause of death was unclear, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.

It's also unclear if he was stricken at the hospital or another location.

"Andrew passed away unexpectedly from natural causes shortly after midnight this morning in Los Angeles," said. "We have lost a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a dear friend, a patriot and a happy warrior. "

Breitbart, 43, a star of the tea party movement, was a Hollywood-hating, mainstream-media-loathing conservative, according to a Times profile. After spending 10 years as editor of the Drudge Report and helping to launch the Huffington Post, in 2005 he launched his news aggregation site, which was designed to counter what Breitbart described as the "bully media cabal" that he says ignores stories at odds with prevailing liberal orthodoxy. His goal, he says often, is to "destroy the institutional left."

His big splash came in 2009, when he posted an undercover video in which a pair of conservative activists posing as a prostitute and her boyfriend asked employees of the community group ACORN for help with a brothel that would house underage Salvadorans. ACORN was embarrassed when some of its workers seemed too helpful; Congress responded by defunding the organization.

In 2010, Breitbart posted a 2 1/2-minute video of Shirley Sherrod, a black employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in which she appeared to make racially charged comments. It left viewers with the inaccurate impression Sherrod had deliberately not helped a white man save his family farm in 1986 when she worked for a Georgia nonprofit organization.

The furor from the video caused Sherrod to be fired; when it was later revealed her comments had been taken out of context, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called Sherrod to apologize and ask whether she would return to the department.

Breitbart's conservative news websites broke the story about the sexually charged tweets by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), a scandal that led to his resignation.

The Times' Robin Abcarian visited his office in West Los Angeles in 2010. "The command center of Andrew Breitbart's growing media empire is a suite of offices on Sawtelle Boulevard in West Los Angeles with the temporary feel of a campaign office. Only the computers seem firmly anchored."

According to that profile, Breitbart lived in Westwood with his wife, Susie, and their four young children. He was adopted by moderately conservative Jewish parents and attended two of L.A.'s most exclusive private schools -- Carlthorp and Brentwood.

His father, Gerald, owned Fox and Hounds, a landmark Tudor-style Santa Monica restaurant that later became the punk rock club Madame Wong's West. His mother, Arlene, was an executive at Bank of America in Beverly Hills and downtown L.A.


Like I said earlier Breibart was nothing but a vicious scumbag and demented sociopath who specialized in promoting criminal levels of slander, libel, hatred, and fear mongering, and whose actual "journalistic" legacy came straight out of the philosophy and techniques of the German fascist Joseph Goebbels and the "Big Lie" school of extreme rightwing demagoguery and propaganda-as-social-terrorism. The media's fawning over him is merely still more overwhelming evidence that racism, sexism, homophobia and other social and cultural forms of institutional oppression and exploitation are alive and well in the United Hates in 2012...


Andrew Breitbart's Dirty Legacy
By Joel Dreyfuss
March 6, 2012
The Root

There's been too much praise in the media for a man who lied and cheated and was loose with the facts.

When Andrew Breitbart died suddenly on March 1 at age 43, it was not surprising that so many commentators said nice things about the man. We still have a strong taboo about speaking ill of the departed, and an early death is a shocking reminder of our own mortality. But there was no excuse for the pass so many news outlets and pundits seemed anxious to grant Breitbart despite his legacy of deceptive and dishonest deeds.

Piers Morgan presided over a Breitbart love fest on his CNN show. Arianna Huffington, the conservative-turned-liberal who had Breitbart's help in creating Huffington Post, gushed: "Andrew was full of passion, exuberance, fearlessness, and often coming up with statements that he couldn't prove, although he was also obsessed with facts and wanting to ferret out facts and the truth -- so there are all these paradoxes."

Black conservative pundit Amy Holmes walked in lockstep: "Part of his passion, too, that really drove him was being a champion and protector of the underdog, and that conservatives don't need to be in a defensive crouch, that they can stand up proudly and declare their values and, in particular, conservatives in the minority community, or the sexual-minority community."

To his credit, Morgan touched on the question of Breitbart's capacity to polarize, but only as if it were an unfortunate side effect of his principles rather than his primary intention. But then Morgan couldn't resist slathering on more butter: "And he was a great character. He was a very intelligent guy, incredible work ethic. And he will be deeply missed, not least by our panel."

A Legacy of Deception and Dishonesty

Too many commentators confused Breitbart the private person with Breitbart the public figure and tried to conflate the two. We can all feel sympathy for the loss to Breitbart's family, and we can even understand why his friends spoke of his generosity and commitment. But as Ta-Nehisi Coates noted in his blog at the Atlantic, this is not the issue. "This kind of praise is so broadly true of most controversial public figures as to be meaningless. And it is irrelevant. Breitbart may well have been an excellent father and a great friend but that is not why we are talking about him."

Avoiding speaking ill of the dead is not a reason to remain mute about an evil legacy. Breitbart was an agent provocateur who lied and cheated and distorted the facts to support his right-wing political agenda. He was largely responsible for destroying ACORN, an organization that worked for decades on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. He nearly ruined the reputation of Shirley Sherrod, who had a distinguished civil rights record. Before he died, Breitbart was promising to expose unsavory information about President Obama's college days.

Breitbart's fame was not the result of journalistic zeal or of some innovative grasp of new media, as some of his supporters have suggested. In fact, his work had nothing at all to do with journalism, and all to do with political propaganda. His strength was a clear grasp of how he could use the unrestrained and unfiltered competitiveness for news in the age of the Internet. He understood that there was a ready, hungry market for doctored videos, faked scenarios and outright lies, especially if they confirmed the darkest suspicions of people on the right who are frightened about change in "our" America.

Take the case of ACORN. In September 2009, Breitbart posted a video of a “sting” operation against the venerable community organization. The covert video purported to show a couple dressed as pimp and prostitute (James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles) who were seeking and getting advice at an ACORN office on how to set up an illegal business. Much later, an investigation showed that the couple had never worn the outlandish clothes to the ACORN office and that, contrary to Breitbart's assertions, an ACORN worker had immediately called the police to report the incident.

In other words, none of what Breitbart presented was true or even remotely related to what actually happened. But ACORN was long gone by then, denied funds by Congress and disbanded when support dried up. The original story, fueled by Fox News, raged on the airwaves for days and triggered congressional, state and local investigations. But the reports that largely absolved ACORN, released months later, never got the level of media play that destroyed the organization.

The case of Sherrod is even more illustrative. In July 2010, Breitbart provided a video to news organizations purportedly showing Sherrod, an employee at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, admitting to a black audience that she exercised racist behavior toward a white farmer who had come to her for help.

Within hours of its airing, Sherrod was fired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and condemned by NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. It took just a day for the undoctored video to be revealed, showing that Sherrod was making the opposite point: how she could have turned her back on the farmer but instead reached into her own humanity and took on his case.

Most likely Breitbart and his cohort knew nothing about Sherrod or the tragic mistreatment of blacks by the USDA. They didn't know or care -- and apparently neither did her bosses -- about the reverence for the Sherrod name in civil rights circles.

As Charles E. Cobb Jr., former Mississippi field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, wrote on The Root, Sherrod and her husband, Charles, were renowned for their great courage during the civil rights movement. And when young militants turned SNCC in a more confrontational black nationalist direction in response to right-wing terrorism, the Sherrods steadfastly embraced their commitment to nonviolence and interracial cooperation, as Coates also noted in his blog.

Red Meat for Racists

Breitbart wouldn't back off even when a reporter got the wife of the farmer Sherrod had been speaking about to confirm how Sherrod had taken up their cause and helped save their farm. As Coates said, "In short, when confronted with his participation in an immoral act, Breitbart doubled down on immorality. Accused of deception, he elected to deceive further. He took many with him down that path, and by the end we were left with writers parsing the term lynching so as to further malign Sherrod."

The image of a black woman admitting racism toward whites in a presentation to a black audience that seems to laugh and clap in approval is red meat for those who are anxious to prove that blacks are secretly racist. In an age where only a few diehards are still strumming the tropes of old-fashioned black inferiority, the next-best strategy for marginalizing African Americans is an assault on their morality.

For those with such an agenda, what Shirley Sherrod espouses publicly cannot be true; whatever ACORN professes, the organization (led by a black woman at the time of the attacks) hides a dastardly secret agenda. What the NAACP says it believes is just propaganda.

The quest to prove the immorality of African Americans -- and presumably absolve white racists of their own guilt -- feeds into the continued effort to unlock the deep, dark secret of President Obama: He can't really be who he appears to be; he's actually a Muslim or a radical or a Kenyan anti-colonialist. He wants to weaken America and destroy our way of life. He has come to power only by cheating us (with the help of ACORN, in some scenarios), because otherwise it couldn't happen.

Breitbart, like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and other conservative provocateurs, learned to tap the fear of white conservatives who cannot accept that liberals, black and white, have come to power legitimately or that a black man sits in the White House. In Breitbart's case, he exploited the people's trust in video: If it was on TV, it had to be true. If the facts didn't support his argument, he and his followers made them up and didn't hesitate to step on people's lives and reputations in pursuit of their goals. No one should be saying anything good about that Andrew Breitbart.

Joel Dreyfuss is senior editor-at-large at The Root.

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