Buffer Zones Are Gone

SCOTUS has found Massachusetts “buffer zones” around abortion clinics to be unconstitutional. This doesn’t surprise me. I am, however, stunned to learn this was a unanimous decision. Some guy actually is arguing that liberals won.

True, Roberts’s opinion, joined by the court’s four doubtless relieved liberals, struck down the buffer as a violation of the free-speech rights of pro-life activists who seek to converse with women who might be seeking abortions. But the crucial element in the opinion — the one that got the liberals on board and enraged the conservatives — is that Roberts said the law was neutral with respect to the content of speech as well as the viewpoint of the speakers. That conclusion protected the possibility of other laws protecting women seeking abortions that pay more attention to what Roberts said was missing here, namely proof that the law was narrowly tailored. For the liberals, that was enough to get on board.

I’m reading that Don Scalia is furious with the majority opinion, which apparently stopped short of declaring open season on abortion providers.

I haven’t had time to wrap my head around this. However, I do think that if the anti-abortion “protesters” were handled like the public nuisances, dangerous bullies and sometimes terrorists they actually are, we wouldn’t need “buffer zones.” As I wrote in my book,

Let’s try a thought experiment: Let’s say a number of people decide that banks are evil. This group then targets banks to picket. But they don’t stop with picketing. They chain themselves to doors. They try to stop bank customers from entering. They yell at people to keep their money at home and not let it mingle with the infernal financial system. They set up websites displaying photos and names of bank employees and where they live, hinting that maybe somebody could just eliminate these people. Banks are vandalized and even bombed. Some bank managers are assassinated.

Now, how many nanoseconds would pass before law enforcement and the FBI call this movement domestic terrorism and shut it down? No one outside the anti-bank cult would stand for this. But when the context involves women, sex, and religion instead of money and business, somehow, it’s different.

It’s only because the well-being and concerns of women are not taken seriously that the buffer zones were necessary.

See also “Do what we tell you to do, or we will kill you” and an extended excerpt from my book here.

Why the Tea Party Is Doomed, and Why It Won’t Go Away

The baggers continue to demonstrate why they will always and forever be a movement of bigoted, white bitter-enders.

As the dust settles on the recent Cochran-McDaniel Mississippi Senate primary, those looking at the data say that it appears African-American voters gave Cochran the victory. This does not surprise me; you could see it coming as soon as the baggers announced they were sending “poll watchers” to keep an eye on those sneaky Mississippi (and mostly black) Democrats.

And it didn’t hurt Cochran that McDaniel’s self-promotion sales pitch is well-larded with racist dog whistles.

Take these clips from his radio show, circa 2006, where he mocked complaints of racism, railed against hip-hop as a “morally bankrupt” culture that “values prison more than college,” and promised to stop paying taxes if reparations were ever passed: “How you gonna make me pay for something that I had nothing to do with? How you gonna do that to me? I don’t get it.”

As a state senator, McDaniel has spoken to gatherings of the Sons of Confederate Veterans—a neo-Confederate group that promotes present-day secessionists—and delivered the keynote to a SCV event last fall. Indeed, his rhetoric decries the rise of a “new America” and pines for days of old. “There are millions of us who feel like strangers in this land, an older America passing away, a new America rising to take its place,” he said in a speech after the June 3 election. “We recoil from that culture. It’s foreign to us. It’s alien to us. … It’s time to stand and fight. It’s time to defend our way of life again.”

His voters get the message, lashing out against those people who siphon dollars from hard-working Americans. Here’s the Times with more:

Still apparently insensitive to what the phrase “poll watchers” stirs in the hearts of African Americans, and still apparently not realizing that black voters heard those dog whistles, too, the baggers and their spokesmouths are blaming the loss on the ignorance of African American voters.

I wonder what the campaign slogan was in Mississippi the past few days, ‘Uncle Toms for Thad’? Because I thought it was the worst thing you could do as an African American, vote for a Republican. The worst thing you could do,” Limbaugh said on Wednesday. “But somehow they were made to believe that voting for old Thad would be fine and dandy. And why? Because they were told Thad’s done a lot for black people in Mississippi. Must be the first time they were told that.”

It’s like Rush thinks “they” live in a separate media universe and aren’t seeing exactly the same news and advertising as “us.”

And many on the Right are blaming a flier proclaiming that “The Tea Party intends to stop blacks from voting on Tuesday.” I don’t know who printed and distributed said flier, but I suspect it was superfluous. The announcement from the baggers that they were sending “poll watchers” proclaimed the same message, loudly and clearly.

McDaniel still has not conceded, I don’t think, and plans to “investigate” the votes. He “knows” many of those “crossover” Democrats voted illegally? And how would he know this? Ed Kilgore explains:

How do we know these are “crossover” voters, since there’s no party registration? Because they are African-Americans! Can’t have African-Americans voting in our White Man’s Primary, can we?

That’s right; there is no party registration in Mississippi. People are just registered voters, not registered Republicans or Democrats. So, strictly speaking, there can be no “crossover” voting unless you assume one can tell what party a person “belongs” to some other way. Like, maybe, race.

Demographic projections tell us that a “white people’s party” is not politically sustainable in the U.S. except in the short term. So we can watch these guys and note how utterly insensitive and purely clueless they are about how they come across to anyone who isn’t them. And we can look at their string of mostly failed election campaigns and assume they can’t keep this up.

However, we’ve had these “populist” right-wing reactionary movements in the U.S. pretty much all along. Over the years they’ve given themselves different names and sometimes vary the specific issues they care about. But, like the phoenix, they keep rising from the ashes.

We use the term repressive populist movement to describe a populist movement that combines antielite scapegoating (discussed below) with efforts to maintain or intensify systems of social privilege and power. Repressive populist movements are fueled in large part by people’s grievances against their own oppression but they deflect popular discontent away from positive social change by targeting only small sections of the elite or groups falsely identified with the elite, and especially by channeling most anger against oppressed or marginalized groups that offer more vulnerable targets.

Right-wing populist movements are a subset of repressive populist movements. A right-wing populist movement, as we use the term, is a repressive populist movement motivated or defined centrally by a backlash against liberation movements, social reform, or revolution. This does not mean that right-wing populism’s goals are only defensive or reactive, but rather that its growth is fueled in a central way by fears of the Left and its political gains.

The first U.S. populist movement we would unequivocally describe as right wing was the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan, which was a counterrevolutionary backlash against the overthrow of slavery and Black people’s mass mobilization and empowerment in the post-Civil War South. Earlier repressive populist movements paved the way for right-wing populism, but did not have this same backlash quality as a central feature. [Adapted from Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right–Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press]

The Tea Party brand may fade from view eventually, but the movement is not going away.