Man, what a short weekend! On Thursday the Tea Party was setting up a bigger tent. By Sunday their center pole was cracked in half. Suddenly we live in a country where the NAACP is on the rise — again.
Naturally the racist framing of the past month was drawn and squared by Rush Limbaugh who charged that the President had only his race to offer as the reason for his political success. Limbaugh forgets how much the Obama factor was empowered by a widespread social yearning to get out of the frame that Limbaugh, Fox News, and Bush had locked us into. Perhaps Obama’s Black heritage lent some credibility to the hope that he could lead us out of that cave instead of right back into its depths.
Limbaugh’s ability to profit commercially from racism as “entertainment value” probably had some mentoring influence upon Mark Williams. When NAACP President, Benjamin Jealous, dared the Tea Party to repudiate its racism, Williams decided to try a little minstrel style mockery which, come to think of it, pretty much connects Williams to the commercial history of American radio as well. The main mistake Williams made according to the culture code of contemporary social reality is that he forgot to go into show biz before he acted out.
Williams is guilty of what up North people call “stupid” racism, because right up until he put on his blackface the Tea Party had been playing its racism “smart”. Of course, nobody should be taken in by the Tea Party’s rehab. Their economic model is practically racist as was the Reaganomics upon which it is built.
Now is the time for the NAACP to step into the opportunity that it created and offer some workable disaster relief plan that even the President can’t evade. It’s been at least a decade since we’ve seen any real vision with half a chance of winning anything but a ballot count on election day. And, of course, odds could be better this time around.
Progressives have pretty much stranded themselves in the shallow waters of the Democratic Party, exactly where the ballast of the NAACP is lodged. Just as we can’t afford to be fooled by the Tea Party’s vapid denials of racism, neither can we afford to believe that the NAACP has this week made a significant dent in the racist structure of the economic crisis or the racist paralysis that prevents all progressive advance.
Whether, or how much, progressives can afford to waste on another round of Congressional balloteering is a dandy question. But it would be too cynical to bet the movement on the iron weight of the system’s internal contradictions crashing. Yes, that crash is upon us. And as it continues to thunder down, the NAACP could stake ground for that other tent city, the one where those of us who have never trusted the Tea Party can gather for some badly needed refreshment.