Since the weeks leading up to the most significant election to take place in the United States, federal law enforcement agencies, the media, and human rights organizations have paid close attention to threats, some of which are stemming from individuals tied to this country’s Neo-Nazi movement, being made against President-Elect Barack Obama,.
According to the Chicago Tribune there have been at least 200 incidents of hate, cross burnings among them, directed at Obama and his supporters. During the Democratic National Convention in August, police in Denver, Colorado, detained three individuals after they discovered a weapon, drugs, and wigs in their possession. The individuals were eventually released but were described as white supremacists.
Two months later, two racist skinheads were arrested in Tennessee after law enforcement uncovered their plans to behead black Americans before eventually assassinating Barack Obama.
Such incidents in mind, these threats from the far right should not be regarded as miscellaneous incidents of graffiti, intimidation, and harassment. With Republican leadership engaged in an internal power struggle, mainstream and extremist factions within and on the periphery of the party’s interests and social foci alike are seeking to strengthen their influence over party members.
Meanwhile, the more extreme organizations among them are hopeful that the current political vacuum will allow them to infuse the sentimental, hyperbolic rhetoric of white nationalism deeper into the tissue of the American body politic.
For instance, while factions like The Eagle’s Forum, The National Rifle Association, and Team America Political Action Committee are already fully moving on the leadership of the Republican Party, other organizations such as The Constitution Party, The John Birch Society, and the overtly anti-Semitic American Free Press are hoping that they can wedge Third Position values into the right wing half of the present two party system.
Ideological variances aside, these political factions share a belief in a thriving political crisis that has brought them to the following recognition: the collective waging of attacks against President Obama and his administration represents a sound short-run strategy for quickly growing the grassroots membership base of their respective organizations.
Such attacks seemingly began immediately after the last vote was counted.
On December 1st and 3rd a group calling themselves the We the People Foundation, which is headed by Robert Shultz, ran full page ads in the Chicago Tribune questioning Obama’s citizenship. What the Chicago Tribune failed to reckon with is that Shultz, a long time far-right tax protester, bases his anti-tax theories on the belief that as a “free white sovereign male” he is not required to pay income tax. Shultz also argues that the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is illegal, so to speak.
This particular angle of attack on Obama is a component of a long standing strategy within the American far right at-large to dismantle the 14th Amendment, which defines legal citizenship for those born in the United States. At the time of its passing, this was a major blow for Reconstruction-era white supremacists as the amendment effaced race, religion, and ethnicity as bases for citizenship rights.
Under the guise of “controlling immigration,” the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the most influential anti-immigrant group in the United States, has stated publicly that one of its central goals for the next federal legislative session is to lobby for restrictions of the 14th Amendment. FAIR was founded by John Tanton, who has long maintained ties to America’s white supremacist and white nationalist movements. The organization received 1.2 million dollars (U.S.) from the foundation for “racial science” research, the Pioneer Fund, and actively maintains many well documented associations with active white nationalists and other political extremists.
FAIR spokesperson Bob Dane once told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that “To deal with this tidal wave of human beings coming across the border, repealing the 14th Amendment would be an effective tool.” In truth, destruction of the 14th Amendment would effectively reverse civil rights gains of blacks and females alike.
While FAIR fuels bigotry and exploits immigration issues to launch blanket attacks on civil rights, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has also sought to sow dingy fears and suspicions of a multi-racial democracy by claiming that Obama plans to pass laws that will allow government agencies to confiscate guns from citizens’ homes.
While these rumors are completely unfounded, their rhetoric has served its purpose, swelling the ranks of the NRA. In the wake of the Presidential election, this is but another example of a mainstream neo-Conservative group, one that holds legitimate sway amongst rank-and-file Republications, unlike FAIR and We the People, preying on the nerves of white working and middle-class demographics.
With such mainstream groups joining in the fear-stoking, none should be surprised by the fact that, according to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, hate violence is on the rise. The common victims – Jews, blacks, homosexuals, immigrants, et. al. – are working people who are finding themselves lodged in an environment created by white nationalists who are motivated and committed to eliminating every possibility of a successful African American president.
For them, Obama’s success represents an embracing by Americans, particularly the young among us, who cherish the possibility of a multiracial civil society where, as Martin Luther King once underscored, “the content of a person’s character means more than the color of their skin.”