Joe Wilson: Dog-Whistling Dixie in the Senate Chamber
As one of Joe Wilson’s constituents, I feel compelled to weigh in on his “You lie” outburst during Obama’s speech. After scanning through the comments posted about the internet, I’ve noticed there’s a prevailing misperception that, by virtue of being citizens of this state, we South Carolinians are all — each and very one of us — responsible for repeatedly re-electing this neanderthal to the House.
Unless you have the misfortune to be a Democrat in South Carolina, you can’t possibly appreciate the futility of trying to elect intelligent, principled leaders of integrity in certain districts of South Carolina. Joe Wilson’s district covers some of the state’s largest concentrations of the poorest of the poor, juxtaposed with the richest of the rich.
Allendale County, in Joe Wilson’ district, holds the highest unemployment rate in the state and, in fact, vies with some of the highest in the country, at 22.5% — up from its 15.9% high of one year ago. The state of South Carolina currently has the 6th highest unemployment rate in the country, at 11.8% (following right on the heels of Nevada, California and Oregon), having nearly doubled in the past year. It has long been the distinction of South Carolina to rate among the worst in the country, concerning the health, education and well-being of its citizens.
We have politicians like Joe Wilson to thank for this — for cultivating and nourishing a climate that places South Carolina among the most backward states in the country. We have been doing this for so long, that it’s become a tradition, of sorts.
One hundred years ago, we were the second most illiterate state in the country (see pg. 56), ranking in 49th place. Things have changed little since. Today, we still rank among the lowest in the country for graduation rates (49th) and SAT scores (47th/48th), while we rank (and you won’t Joe Wilson bellowing these words on the Senate Floor) among the top ten highest states on infant mortality (45th), low birthweight babies (47th), child deaths (40th) teen births (42nd), children living in poverty (42nd), children in single-parent homes (48th), violent crime (50th), and unemployment (we were at 48th in May 2009, with the recent drop to 45th place likely due to folk giving up on the futility of looking for work). In 2008, South Carolina earned the distinction of being the third worst state in the country for human health (up 6 notches from 2007). It comes as no surprise, then, that South Carolina also rates as one of the worst places in the country (46th place, at last count) for raising children.
With such deplorable health statistics for his state, in general, and his district, in particular, you’d think Joe Wilson would have something on his mind besides going to tea bag parties and spreading disinformation to kill the health care reform that would benefit the majority of his constituents. You’d think he’d be obsessed with something other than assuring the lords in his fiefdom that their tax dollars won’t (for the record, anyway) go toward paying medical care for the illegal migrant workers on whose backs their economies covertly depend. You’d think that, perhaps, Joe might have something more helpful to offer the national dialogue than, “You lie!” Joe’s actions only make sense when you consider the health of his corporate campaign contributions (see bottom of post), as opposed to the blood and guts health of his constituents.
In South Carolina, as elsewhere in the country, the poor and the minorities are among the most disenfranchised citizens.
AN ASIDE: To be fair to Joe Wilson, Obama was just as guilty as any Republican last night of negating the existence of the poor. While discussing the number of uninsured in this country, Obama said, “These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans,” thereby dispelling, in one fell swoop, the existence of upwards of 30 to 40% of Americans who are neither on welfare, or in the middle-income bracket. This is the demographic which (scalawag notwithstanding) John Edwards fought for during his brief bid for the presidency — a mantle for the swelling numbers of poor in this country, which was not picked up by either Clinton or Obama.
The careers of Republicans are made or broken, depending on their ability to make clear where their loyalties lie, without appearing blatantly racist. Last night’s outcry by Joe Wilson was a perfect example.
To understand the politics of South Carolina and men like Joe Wilson, one must first understand that the South Carolina Republicans have yet to forgive the Democratic Party for the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the desegration of public schools. To understand South Carolina politics, one must first understand the politics of Lee Atwater, the architect of the modern-day Southern strategy.
Our politicians still fight as dirty as they did during the reigns of the Red Shirts, the Klan and the Jim Crow era. The only difference, today, is that in order to disenfranchise minority voters, undermine education to the poor, and blackwash humanitarian and social programs that could elevate these people from the bondage of servitude and poverty, a politician must be subtle.
Remember, it’s been only 50 years since South Carolina politicans were forced, in the name of political correctness, to hang up their white hoods. In the interim, the burning cross has been replaced with a system of verbal winks and nods that equally convey the same message. This strategy, as described by South Carolina’s own adopted homeboy, Lee Atwater, works something like this:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites….. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
Joe Wilson’s outburst last night was not, as he would have us believe, a spontaneous, impassioned eruption of frustration. No, it was an intentional, calculated hard wink to his largest campaign contributors in the healthcare, insurance and pharmaceutical industries — as well as to his well-heeled constituents: Not to worry, fellas. Joe Wilson’s got your back.
In the realm of South Carolina politics, those two words, “You lie!” were pure genius — capturing, in one fell swoop, the continuing generosity to his campaign coffers from the health, insurance and drug industry, along with the continued support of his “people” — knuckle-dragging racists and elitists alike.
Already, one group has declared Joe Wilson a hero, naming him “Tea Party Patriot of the Day” — deeming his outburst a “major victory” against the radical left and the evil liberal media.
None of this comes as a surprise from a man who cut his political teeth working as an aide to Strom Thurmond, Or from a politician who — in 2002, long before it was in vogue — resurrected the ghost of Joseph McCarthy, declaring one of colleagues in the House, Congressman Bob Filner as being “viscerally anti-American” with a “hatred of America,” after Filner had factually reminded the body, during an Iraq war debate, that the U.S had, in fact, supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical and biological weapons.
Wilson later apologized for this outburst, much as he did last night, saying that he hadn’t ( perish the thought!) intended to insult Filner. Working from the time-honored Republican strategy that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to resist the compulsion to engage in reprehensible political theater, Wilson did what South Carolina Republicans do best: he put on a show. And he wasn’t just dog-whistling dixie.
That’s what keeps the re-election coffers filled: stoke the old hatreds, replenish the ignorance, stroke the priviledged and the kings of industry, and you are assured of a long political career in South Carolina. Joe Wilson has many beaus in industry, the greatest being “health care professionals,” who, along with the insurance and pharmaceutical industry filled his coffers to the tune of $97, 235 in the 2008 election. His 2010 re-election is all but assured.
But if worse comes to worst, and the voices of the poor and the minorities in the state threaten to change the status quo, Joe can always revert to that thing that Southern politicans do when all else fails: redistrict.
by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers
Potent Quotables from the Joe Wilson’s Town Hall Meetings
In the following statement, Joe Wilson is showing “concern” for his constituents in the poorest counties in his district — for whom he predicted dire results, should they be allowed equal access to medical care. His concern for this particular population, which holds the 2nd highest diabetes rate in the country, was that they might “fall through the cracks” of “a big government system.”
We know that diabetes causes many other collateral health conditions, and quality of life is destroyed, families are destroyed because of diabetes. So, by adopting a big government system where people fall through the cracks, there are a lot of people, particularly people in the rural community I represent, who are going to be hurt.
Joe Wilson on “Obamacare” and death panels, aka Bill 3200:
It will be the government determining the care you get and ultimately whether you live or die.