Some of you no doubt missed the little opinion piece by Matthew Vadum which appeared yesterday on the web but is actually dated today. It is a vile attack on efforts to register poor people to vote. You can find it here: http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/09/registering_the_poor_to_vote_is_un-american.html
Here, as they say in the blogosphere, is the money quote: "Why are left-wing activist groups so keen on registering the poor to vote? Because they know the poor can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians. Welfare recipients are particularly open to demagoguery and bribery. Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country -- which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote."
There is no need to comment on the substance of this despicable bit of right-wing rhetoric. I freely confess that it inspires in me an urge to punch this wretched twerp in the face. Views like this have been widely held for at least as long as people have been voting. What I find interesting is that it is now considered acceptable to utter them in public. I do not think this is simply an instance of what quasi-thoughtful people on the right call "epistemic closure" [which is living in an intellectually closeted world in which your most extreme thoughts are echoed back at you so reliably that they come to seem commonplace and not in need of defense.] Rather, this marks a genuine and frightening shift in the character of the public discourse.
Many of my friends blame this change on Obama, or at least charge him with being complicit in it. Others blame the Democratic Party for allowing the right to "set the agenda." I think that is far too simplistic and, in an odd way, comforting. After all, if this change is the fault of Obama or the Democratic Party in general, then all that is needed is for them to wake up and start saying all the things we want them to say, and then the "agenda" will change.
I wish that were so, because not only would it be easy enough to do, it would even be in their own political interest to do so, and therefore presumably one can count on their self-interest to produce the change. But I take a darker and more pessimistic view. If one goes back and looks, one can find countless strong statements by progressive politicians pushing back against this tidal wave of vile assaults on the poor, the non-White, on immigrants, documented or undocumented, on gays and lesbians, and on those who simply want to protect the vulnerable from life's tragedies. The failure of those statements to gain traction must be explained by something deeper.
We are living in ugly times, and those of us old enough to recall the unraveling of the Weimar Republic and the onset of Nazism find it hard to be sanguine that nothing at all like that can happen here.