Yesterday, Eric Kleefield took note of the fact that right-wing criticisms have become increasingly racial of late, since President Obama's response to the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., whether it's the full-on embrace of birtherism or Glenn Beck leapfrogging the shark yesterday by claiming the president is someone "who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture."

I think what's going on here is pretty simple. The GOP has elevated a number of figures it believes represent justified white resentment at minorities encroaching on the power that is their birthright as "real Americans" from Sarah Palin to Joe the Plumber, and they're attempting to do the same thing with Sgt. Joseph Crowley. As Michael Crowley notes, the Cambridge policeman has it all over the prior two in spades when it comes to both intelligence and white cultural legitimacy. He is a cop--far more unassailable than a dishonest politician or a proto-fascist plumber without a license -- but I doubt he wants to be the racist right's great white hope.

So for folks like Beck and Rush Limbaugh, who have been wailing about the end of what Bill O'Reilly calls the "white, Christian male power structure" in coded terms for years, the Gates incident represents a tipping point. Furious at the fading power of white entitlement represented by events like the election of Barack Obama and the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, they sense that the audiences they've spent years nursing with the curdled milk of hatred are ready to hear the truth -- that whiteness and white people, and therefore America itself, is under assault.

Unfortunately for them, most of their audience will only accept such appeals as coded. People of all races cling to their resentments, but most people don't like to admit them -- deniability is an important factor in modern racism, because without it, it's too radioactive for people to associate themselves with. People want to be able to hate, but they don't want to feel like they're hating. Beck, Limbaugh, and friends misunderstand the usefulness of the product they've been offering -- without deniability, only the truly depraved will latch on. Which is why I doubt things are going to stay this temperature in the noise machine for very long.

-- A. Serwer

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