‘Don’t blame me; I voted for the white guy’

Several months ago I went by to check out a “tea party” on the State House steps, and I ran into Boyd Summers in the crowd. He said he was there because he had looked out of his office window and said to himself “I wonder what all those white people are doing down there.” And this was what they were doing — milling about with “Don’t Tread On Me” flags and harrumphing. (You know, whenever I saw those in history books, I’d wonder: Who’d choose to identify his political movement as a snake? Our Founders were smart guys, but they could have used a good branding consultant…)

On that same theme… as the rally was breaking up, I was chatting with a friend who is a videographer for a competing medium, and he asked me in all innocence (he’s still kind of new to politics), How did all these people hear about this event? Rather than say Duh, they’ve been promoting it to death via the blogosphere and social media, I let my inner wiseacre out for a romp and said, “They blow a special whistle that only cranky white people can hear.” It just seemed to fit was I was seeing around me.

So there’s a sort of theme here. There’s something about these tea parties that’s lacking, shall we say, soul, or an “urban” component. I’m not saying I was hearing Mantovani in the background, but you get my drift.

Today, I read John O’Connor’s piece in The State that posed the question, Whither the tea party movement?, and read it because I hoped it would answer a question I have, which is, What do the tea partiers think they’re about? What’s the point for them? I get it that they’re against stuff, which reminds me of my favorite Groucho Marx song, but what else are they about? What causes them to interrupt their lives to turn out and demonstrate?

I’m not sure I got an answer from the story, although I did sort of zero in on this passage:

The movement sprang up in 2009 as a response to President Barack Obama…

Exactly. The rest of the sentence ran, “… and his policies,” but I think you’ve pretty much summed it up if you stop at “President Barack Obama.” It rose up essentially as a response to the fact that this guy Barack Obama was president. He hadn’t really done anything yet, but, to go back to the Groucho song, whatever it was he was going to be selling, they were against it. That was the one clear message I picked up on.

Which brings me to the bumper sticker my Dad told me he saw recently in our fair community. It was on a pickup truck driven by middle-aged or older male caucasian, and it said:

“Don’t blame me; I voted for the white guy.”

Sorry to be passing this on second-hand. You know that if I’d seen it myself I’d be posting a picture. (And if you know of where I can find one to photograph, I’d appreciate a heads-up.) But when my Dad says he saw it, I believe him. (Besides, you can find them via Google.)

And just hearing about the existence of such a sticker made a lot of things click for me. For years, I have cited, as a seminal moment in the development of today’s hyperpartisanship, those bumper stickers I saw after the 1992 election but before Bill Clinton had even taken the oath of office, saying, “Don’t blame me; I voted for Bush.”

Well, we’ve all gotten used to the partisans not giving a guy a chance if he’s on the other team. But there has been a little something extra in the air since that fella with the furrin-sounding name got elected. And if I run into the guy who has that bumper sticker on his truck, I might go up to him and thank him for his frankness, and for helping me clarify something that has been unclear…

30 thoughts on “‘Don’t blame me; I voted for the white guy’

  1. bud

    Well, we’ve all gotten used to the partisans not giving a guy a chance if he’s on the other team.

    Or to put it more accurately:

    Well, we’ve all gotten used to the Republicans not giving a guy a chance if he’s a Democrat.

    Come on Brad. Obama is doing his best to try and work with the Republicans. And yet they continue to be the party of NO. Even your own examples are exclusively GOPers.

    When asked why she was addressing the tea party movement recently Sarah Palin said she wanted to be a part of a movement that was in favor of “limited government, greater personal responsibility and common sense”. Ok. Is there anyone opposed to those things? (Except maybe Brad on the “limited government” part). Seriously folks what do these tea party lunatics really want? It’s all just a bunch of vague, weasel words and generalities. Simply running around with a bunch of signs bashing Obama really isn’t much of movement. It’s just the current flavor of the month excuse for a protest. Personally, I’m holding out for the anti-war rally.

  2. Doug Ross

    Yeah, because wanting smaller government is obviously a racial issue. Couldn’t have anything to do with Obama’s policies. Has to be a white-black thing.

    Meanwhile, that stellar program that all the liberals tout as a shining example of good government, Social Security, is going broke significantly faster than all the government hacks estimated. All we ever hear about when privatizing Social Security (i.e. allowing people to keep their OWN money) is all the scare tactics about how the stock market is so risky. Guess what, folks? Social Security can only survive if they continue to raise the taxes, raise the retirement age, and cut benefits. That’s what a government program gets you.

    That’s one of the fundamental issues of the Tea Party. And it’s too bad the black Americans have been hoodwinked into paying for white Americans’ retirement. Black males die younger and end up paying far more into Social Security than they ever get back. Imagine if everyone had a real account with their own money that they could do with what they want – like pass on to spouses and children? Social Security keeps the poor right where the liberals want them. Tethered to the government teat.

  3. Walter

    Kind of reminds you of the marchers on MLK day doesn’t it… a lot of complaining and no action.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    Doug, You do realize that so far everyone who receives Social Security is getting out more than he or she paid in? It’s not a savings account, any more than paying taxes is a fee-for-service….

  5. bud

    I saw the USA Today graphic. Pretty scary. Yet we’ve all seen scary stuff about SS before. Nothing really new. But the stock market is no different. If the economy grows so does your stock portfolio. If not then you lose money. Over the past 10 years the DOW is actually a bit lower. Maybe the long-term prospects for the DOW aren’t really all that good after all.

    Same with SS. If the economy grows people pay more into the system and the system is solvent.

    But there is a need to reign in SS spending. It’s a great program but it’s gotten a bit overly ambitious. I suggest eliminating the earnings maxmimum for those paying in to the system. Seems like the rich are getting away pretty easy right now. Why can’t they pay more?

    On the benefit side I’d look at the age requirements. It would not be popular but with increased life expectancy an adjustment seems reasonable.

  6. Doug Ross


    Of course I realize that Social Security recipients currently receive more than they paid in. That’s how every Ponzi scheme works.

    A black male can work for 50 years and pay into Social Security, die, and get zero back. That’s the best reason for private accounts there is.

    It’s an unsustainable system that can only be fixed by increasing taxes or cutting benefits. Guess which one the politicians will choose?

    Bud – your response is typical. Make “the rich” pay more. Hate to tell you but your idea of “the rich” is me. I already pay more each year into the broken system because the max income rises every year. Did your taxes go up by $600 last year while your income stayed the same? Didn’t think so.

  7. Doug Ross

    And, Bud, who says a person has to invest his own money in the stock market. That’s a phony scare tactic. You could invest in bonds, CD’s, or (heaven forbid) spend the money however you wanted to. The liberal motto is “Please save me from myself”.

  8. Brad Warthen

    Doug, I want you to know that I am EXTREMELY reluctant to come to the conclusion that race is a big factor in this. I don’t like simplistic, pat answers, which is why I don’t like the politics of identity any more than I like it when people choose whom they’ll agree with based on whether they have a D or an R after their names.

    But I keep getting these impressions, time and again, that there is a close relationship between people who just can’t stand having Obama as their president and the issue of skin pigmentation. It’s stupid for that to be the case, because as you know I’ve never really considered Obama to be a black man. But that has little to do with what OTHER people see him as, and the fact is that there are millions of black people out there who adore the guy because they identify with him, and unfortunately I’ve come to the conclusion that there are millions of white people who don’t like him for a related reason.

    Doug, you’ve always been an anti-gummint guy. Seems to me that there are a whole lot of cranky white people who just got worked up about that the moment Obama took office.

    They may have grumbled about the Bush administration’s bailout of Wall Street, and (among the few tea partisans who were actually paying attention at the time) they may have also harrumphed over Bush’s bottomless pit of spending on Medicare prescription drugs.

    But they started with the public demonstrations when Obama took office.

    Yes, the reasons are complicated. And up to now — in spite of my jokes about cranky white people early on — I’ve tended to subscribe to the theory that the stimulus plan was just too much for them. But there just seems to be too much of an overlap between outrage over spending and a deep dislike of Obama — a dislike that seems to have a unique quality to it, since these folks didn’t take to the streets previously.

    And here’s the thing — Obama is a likable guy. He’s personable. He’s inoffensive. So I find myself looking for explanations to why the objection to HIM is so visceral. And my life experience causes me to recognize that I’ve seen this same visceral quality in other contexts.

    There’s a flavor that I’ve noted in Obama resentment that reminds me of a certain way I used to hear some white folks talk about Tiger Woods (BEFORE his scandals). There was a strong desire to see him fail that I would note among some white folks, and I had never seen such resentment aimed at any other top golfer. I tried to explain it in terms of the desire that many baseball fans have to see the Yankees fail — a gut reaction against their being SO dominant. But that wasn’t an entirely satisfactory explanation.

    Speaking of qualities that are hard to define (and therefore easy for folks who don’t sense what I sense to dismiss), I think the reason why I made that crack about “cranky white people” at that rally I attended had to do with something beyond Boyd Summers having put it in my head. I got a sense, a feeling, a vibration, in that crowd that was very familiar to me. And I recognized it right away. In the years that I’ve written about the Confederate flag issue, I’ve attended my share of PRO-flag rallies — reenactors and such. And yep, most of those folks at those pro-flag rallies can honestly say that they’re there about heritage, not hate. And yes, the tea-partiers can be utterly convinced that they are all about small government, not resentment of the black president for being the black president. And yet there’s something in common between those two kinds of rallies. An undefinable something, a FEEL to the crowd. My radar was picking up very similar signals, and that feeds into me drawing the kinds of conclusions I drew in this post…

  9. Doug Ross

    That’s the same argument you and Lindsey Graham used regarding immigration reform. That preceded the Obama movement. It’s all us angry white racists who are against the immigrants. It can’t be about basic rule of law and expecting companies to pay a living wage. Can’t be. Because then we’d have to discuss the specific issues instead of just writing it all off as racism.

    When you can’t win the argument on the issues, play the race card.

  10. Doug Ross

    And just so I have this straight – when the Tea Party members talk about cutting taxes and reducing the size of government, it is really code words that translate to “We are mad that the President is black”.

    That’s the theory you’re sticking with?

  11. Brad Warthen

    Actually, Doug, if I had wanted to put it that simplistically, I would have. I’m big on the short, punchy statement when what I’m trying to say is short and punchy.

    But what I was saying was more complicated, so I took a lot more words to say it.

    Now if you want something to argue about … there IS a huge racial/nativist element in the backlash Graham experienced on immigration. And no, that doesn’t mean you’re a racist or a nativist or in any other way intolerant. I think you’ve established that you are a sufficiently pedantic sort of political thinker that you might actually get all passionate about a “crime” as thin and watery as failing to fill out the proper paperwork before crossing an invisible line in the desert. Some of us get mightily worked up about spelling and grammar (I’m one of those), you get worked up about observing INS rules.

    But I don’t think for a minute that we can explain the widespread ANGER over the presence of Spanish-speaking brown people in such pedantic terms. That can only be plausibly explained in terms of the ancient human horror of the OTHER. I can believe that YOU are that persnickety that it’s the violation of the law that gets you worked up, because you’re Doug.

    But that’s an unusual trait, Doug. I don’t believe that’s the case with most people who are angry at illegal immigrants.

    I think all of us would prefer that our immigration laws be both logical and obeyed (although few of us would fulminate over it as though it were the law against first-degree murder, rather than a very technical, dry sort of law). Unfortunately, they are neither. Basically, we have a huge number of relatively unskilled jobs on one side of the border, and masses of people on the other side who desperately want these jobs and are even willing to risk their lives to get at them. In between is a law that fails to acknowledge this marketplace reality.

    The rational reason to want to have respected, fully observed immigration laws would be so that we can keep track of who is in our country (and NOT because we want to keep Spanish-speaking brown people out). The legislation that Graham championed would have taken care of that, by getting everybody into the system in a way that was fair and rational.

    People who angrily yell about “amnesty” try to persuade us that they are this worked up because they are morally offended that these people didn’t fill out the proper paperwork before entering the country. Well, that’s just ridiculous. While I believe that YOU get that worked up over that abstraction (because I know you, Doug), I find it impossible to believe that those hordes of angry white people do. It just doesn’t follow from human nature.

  12. Burl Burlingame

    I’m just curious — how many teabaggers who want to reduce the size of government and cut back on taxes are also in favor of downsizing the American military?

    Unless, of course, the Iraq war is the neocons’ idea of a jobs program.

  13. martin

    Rea Construction did some road work near me about 5 years ago. I don’t think I saw a single black worker, just hispanic.

    Rea Construction did some road work near me about a month ago. I saw only black workers.

    Made me very happy to know some of our people were getting work they apparently couldn’t get before and a company, more than likely, was not getting away with paying hispanics cut rates.

  14. Kathryn Fenner

    You can easily find an illegal Irish nanny for your kids in Boston, I’m told. Thing is, nobody gets all het up about toothsome Irish lasses, it seems.
    The same thing is the assumption that all Spanish speaking folk one hears in the West Columbia Walmart are illegals. Most likely are not. They are here under the H2 temporary program.

    Now, I am the pinkest liberal around, and yet I get jarred by folks speaking a language I don’t understand in my own country, and frustrated in Lowe’s trying to find the English language side of the box (my German is excellent, my French passable, and my Spanish meh. I am not a foreign language-phobe by any means.)

    So some of the issue may be the language thing–not just race, but I do think Brad is right about the element of racism displayed by a goodly number of the anti-Obama-from-the-start people, as well as the nativist (read “we like real Americans–the ones who have been here for a couple centuries or so, so long as they are white.”) Tea Party people. Are there any Tea Party people of color (maybe Cuban-Americans)?

  15. Walter

    Brad, why is it that I don’t see you bash Democrats like you do Republicans? You state your not a member of either party, but you seem to gush all over Democrats. Look at all your breakfast buddies, their either Democrats or married to Democrats.

  16. Steve Gordy

    My granddaddy used to tell me, “Steve, never argue with a fool.” The tea party gang make some valid points, but adopting Sarah P. as their pinup girl makes me think they’re so angry they’re in danger of turning into a bunch of fools. Now Henry McMaster looks like he’s jumping on the bandwagon.

  17. Doug Ross

    Actually, Brad, it’s your opinion that illegal immigration is a “paperwork” issue that is ridiculous. I would imagine your view represents a small minority of Americans.

    It’s not just a paperwork issue. It’s not just a one-time crime. It’s compounded by identity theft, tax evasion, failure to comply with worker safety laws, failure to pay minimum wage, illegal use of automobiles without insurance.
    The major players in the distribution of hard drugs in this country are illegal immigrants. Do you deny any of those issues exist?

    Those aren’t just silly paperwork problems. And its not a racial issue no matter how much you try to make it one.

  18. Brad Warthen

    Walter, this morning I broke my fast with Kirkman Finlay III. How does that square with your theory?

    Kathryn, I love that you used “toothsome!” But I think there are probably more illegals in W. Cola. than you think. Or at least, have been. Something I’ve been meaning to post about… when a plant belonging to the same company that owns the chicken plant I drive by every day got raided, all of a sudden the crowds of Hispanics I saw coming and going from there disappeared, replaced by black people, with an occasional non-Hispanic (assuming here, since Hispanics who look like Europeans don’t generally work in chicken plants; Latin American culture is far more stratified than ours) caucasian for variety. Maybe those folks who don’t work there any more were legal, but why would they have all disappeared so fast?

    And Doug, the comprehensive immigration reform that you reject would have addressed the problems you cite. Where the racism comes in is when people reject it because they simply want all THOSE PEOPLE gone back where they came from…

  19. Walter

    Does it really matter what party city officials belong to? Does anyone really care if the city dog catcher is a Republican or Democrat? Look at your buddies running on the state or national level. Come clean Brad, you’re a closet Democrat and everyone here knows it regardless of what you say.

  20. Kathryn Fenner

    Walter–those of us who are proud to declare ourselves Democrats would welcome Brad, but alas, he is not one of us. He has perhaps gotten more of a taste of the real world, and thus trended left, since leaving the executive washroom.
    Just because he points out the numerous foibles of the Republican right, and there are so few foiblesome Democrats–John Edwards comes to mind, but Bill Clinton has been keeping a lower profile…doesn’t make him a Democrat–just an honest commentator.

  21. Bart Rogers

    Brad, the bumper sticker reads “Don’t blame me, I voted for the OLD white guy”.

    Doug, we need to give credit where it is due? Every speaker uses notes and Sarah was just being eco-friendly. Not wasting paper or using precious resources for her speaking engagements. We should celebrate the moment. A tree was saved and a few less watts consumed when she wrote crib notes on her hand. Liberals are just upset and jealous because they didn’t think of it first. 🙂

  22. Kathryn Fenner

    We’ve now gone beyond the dreaded “liberal” label. Used to be you called someone a Commie, then a socialist, then a liberal, now it’s just [spit] Democrat. What’s next, moderate? Oh yeah–we already started that with Kerry and the flip flops.

    Colbert nailed Sarah Palin’s idiocy, of course–my favorite being the bumper sticker for her mythical 2012 campaign.

  23. bud

    You’ve got to HAND it to Sarah Palin. Just when you think she can’t look any more idiotic she goes and lowers the bar. Yet somehow Fox News just couldn’t mention her ‘hand’ written notes at a Q and A session slamming Obama’s use of a teleprompter. Fair and Balanced. Indeed.

  24. 803andy

    As an entrepreneur I’m thinking of ways I can make money off of these idiots. Ruper-Murdoch-Hustlin’.

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