Right Wing populism in Arizona
Throughout American history there has been a tendency for anti-elitism and scapegoating of marginalized groups to blend into what is commonly known as right wing populism. Such movements depend on lower class whites and white supremacist groups, yet also draw in other people who feel disenchanted with the way society is moving. These movements are anti-intellectual and cognitively conservative, which makes it difficult if not impossible for them to reason critically about their actions.
We see this in the Tea Party activists, the patriot militia groups, Christian terrorist groups such as the Hutaree, and other terrorist groups, and now prominently in Arizona. Nativist and racist attitudes have run amok in the Arizona legislature to the point that thinking people nationwide are shocked and outraged. First, racial profiling was codified into Arizona law. Constitutional challenges to the law will be forthcoming. Next we hear that ethnic studies classes will be dismantled and teachers with accents will no longer be allowed to teach English. No matter that Arizona recruited masses of teachers who were not native English speakers a few years ago specifically to broaden the diversity in their schools.
Backlashes such as the one we are currently experiencing are not new. The current backlash was accelerated in response to President Barack Obama’s election and is primarily based on racist and nativist tendencies exacerbated by a conservative Christian resurgence that increasingly identifies Obama as the Anti-Christ. Patriot groups and militias have increased exponentially since the election, many based on Apocalyptic ideologies and conspiracy theories that are mere modernizations of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
How do we address such outlandish fantasy with its real likelihood of violence? First of all, we need to accept that racism and nativism are not just fringe elements in the United States. Their base is right smack in the middle of mainstream politics. Perhaps if we can purge such attitudes from the mainstream, we would have a better chance of reducing their escalation into violent extremism.
Right here in Bakersfield we see the results of such ubiquitous bigotry. Ken Mettler boasts of his homophobic attitudes and is commended by the School Board. Local politicians encourage posting of Judeo-Christian religious doctrine in public school classrooms, without consideration of the pluralistic society in which we live. School breaks are named for Christian holidays and agnostics, atheists, and other humanists are not even considered worthy of note. It is time that we as a community begin to build our humanity and support the humanity of our fellows. We need to elect local citizens who honor diversity and equality for all people. Please consider this when going to the polls.