Perhaps it's because we have. The Nation's Rick Perlstein just released a thought provoking article on the rather long history of "TEA" spilling into the Republican Party. Mother Jones' Kevin Drum then picked it up and added his own history lesson.
I don't doubt for a second that the racial component of the latest right-wing fluorescence is stronger because Obama is black. But it's only modestly stronger, and you hardly need to go back to JFK to see this. It's easy to think of Bill Clinton today as a cuddly, beloved elder statesman, but anyone over the age of 40 knows that Clinton lived through an eruption of right-wing rage that was every bit as bad as what Obama has gone through. Even the specific obsessions of the wingers weren't even very different. Health care socialism? Check. Economy-killing taxes? Check. Gay rights destroying America as we know it? Check. Supposed juvenile drug use? Check. Endless faux scandals and corruption? Check. Government shutdown? Check. Deficit hysteria? Check. Ball-busting wife? Check. The similarities, frankly, are pretty stunning.
Oh yes, they are. And we don't even have to stop there. Remember, there's a reason why we use the term "21st Century Know Nothings" around these parts.
[... D]uring this period, we saw another foreshadow of what was to come. During this era, what we now call the "Know Nothing Party" gained strength. At one point, it even seemed to be on the cusp of becoming a leading national party as the Whigs were quickly heading toward the dustbin of history.
But wait, why would a party otherwise best known for members responding, "I know nothing", when asked about their party become such a hot national political fad? Simply put, they struck while the iron was hot on matters of immigration policy. The Know Nothings opposed allowing Catholic immigrants into the US, as Catholics were seen as a threat to what they considered the longstanding White Anglo-Saxon Protestant tradition of the country. And amidst the turmoil of the run-up to The Civil War and the beginning of the industrialization & urbanization of America, voters who feared change were willing to give the Know Nothings a chance... Until they were ripped apart over slavery and soon joined the Whigs in that very dustbin of history.
So why are we talking about the Know Nothings and 1850's America now? Think about it. America continues to change. We're an even more diverse nation than we were 160 years ago. State policies continue to diverge on matters of civil rights, even though the general trend is moving in favor of equality. And once again, demagogue politicians are fearmongering on matters of immigration.
So in many ways, this is nothing new. Their ideology is anything but new. What is new, however, is the level of obstruction they've climbed to just in order to delegitimize the President.
We've been discussing at length the frustrating political hurdles facing comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). And each time we've examined the reason why CIR is stalled in the House, we've come back to this.
This morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Scared) had to face a girl whose father may be deported soon if CIR isn't finished. He didn't have the nerve to say to her face that he's blocking CIR for petty political reasons. If he had, he would have at least been honest.
Meanwhile closer to home, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-What?) continues to offer tossed word salads as Rep. Joe Heck (R-Why?) is Feeling the heat. It doesn't have to be this way. If they and a few more House Republicans agree to take action on bipartisan CIR legislation ready & waiting for them, this wouldn't be a problem. But of course, that would put them in the position of rebuking the 21st Century Know Nothings.
Ultimately, they will have to make a decision. Either enough Congressional Republicans decide to make DC semi - functional again, or they continue to obstruct for the sake of ideological "purity" (and other reasons). The former may cause them primary woes next year, but the latter is hurting millions of Americans now. Sooner or later, they will have to make that decision.