An exchange from today’s Rush Limbaugh show, which I caught while roaming the roads in Texas:
CALLER: You mentioned that you watched the Miami-Jets game last night as I did.
CALLER: And I wondered if you were as surprised as I was at a company sending a national add on NBC all in Spanish.
RUSH: You know what? I did not know that there was an ad all in Spanish.
CALLER: I believe it was right…I don’t want to name the company that ran the ad but I think it was right before halftime.
RUSH: Right before halftime.
CALLER: We certainly have a problem with illegal immigration and we have a huge problem with assimilation of the Spanish folk into the country, and I see this as just appalling that we would be running on national TV and national sporting events all-Spanish ads.
RUSH: I ought to do a monologue about this. I think this is symptomatic of a whole bunch of things that are happening on our culture, the feminization of our culture. I see it in male, liberal sportswriters. I see how they’ve been feminized. I see how they have been feminist-ized. Our culture is more concerned with not offending our enemies today. We have a culture, if somebody attacks us, a growing percentage of our country wants to ask, “What did we do to cause this? It’s our fault.” Somehow they’ve been told and they’ve bought into the notion that America is hated deservedly. So this Spanish stuff that you see in this ad, this is just an outgrowth of America thinking it’s guilty of being so big and such a superpower that we have to reach out, we have to be nice to the people that we’ve oppressed or made angry. That’s one of the ways Obama got where he is, and I think it’s facilitating the total degradation of what used to be the American culture, because there was a distinct American culture. It’s under assault now from within.
Anyone who insists the Tea Party is not animated by a distinctively white unrest should read that whole thing three times slowly. I’ve had several conversations lately with people who insist, as Glenn Beck and other Tea Party leaders have done, that the movement is not about racism or xenophobia. I believe them. I doubt than anyone outside a small fraction of the activists who have marched in Washington openly despise black people or have personal antipathy toward the Hispanic immigrants in their hometowns. (In mine, they work for virtually every local business, and Mexican flags fly uncontroversially alongside the U.S. and Texas flags at many auto dealerships.) But one cannot listen to the exchange above and miss the clear sentiment behind the expressed concern: distinctive American culture, which happens to be the way white middle-class people who speak English live, is “under assault from within.”
People who dismiss the “white fear” interpretation of the Tea Party will no doubt accuse me of presenting anecdotal evidence, or say that Rush Limbaugh is not a Tea Party leader. That’s fair enough, and focusing on this undercurrent in no way suggests it is the only thing the Tea Party is about. But the ubiquity of the type of conversations like this “Fútbol Americano” exchange among the Tea Partiers I know, the reflexive undercurrent of hostility toward anything—Spanish, mosques, bike lanes—that is not distinctively American, gives something away. They are not just under assault from a Democratic president, but a host of vaguely-defined foreign invaders, just like Richard Hofstadter described in “The Psuedo-Conservative Revolt.” It just so happens that most of the defenders are white Christians and most of the invaders are something else. And the fact that these Americans can make wild connections between 20-second Spanish advertisements during NFL games and the “degradation” of American culture shows us something about what’s going on inside their heads.
(Image via The Rush Limbaugh Show.)