One of the very few impressive things about conservatives over the last few years is that their opposition to President Obama, though frequently unhinged, misinformed, hypocritical, or outright dishonest, has generally lacked much in the way of racial animus. Obviously you can find some exceptions -- Rush Limbaugh is a notable one, casting health care as "reparations" and trying to make his listeners fear that "in Obama's America," black kids can beat up white kids with impunity. Limbaugh has largely been an exception against the general trend of de-racialized nuttiness on the right.
What you're starting to see from Fox News now, though, is the most widespread and mainstream right-wing effort to exploit racial fears against Obama. The putative issue is the claim that the Obama Justice Department is failing to prosecute a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party. If you're interested in the merits of the case, which are extremely flimsy, a good rundown can be found at Fourth Branch. Even if the conservative interpretation of this event were actually true, it's obviously a tiny matter. Nobody has produced a voter who even claims to have been intimidated -- the voters at the polling station were virtually all black anyway -- nor is there any credible claim of anything remotely approaching a systematic attempt to intimidate white voters at the polls.
So it's telling that Fox News has seized upon this story as a subject of obsessive commentary. Here's Dave Weigel:
I don't really get a chance to watch TV in Unalaska, and the one thing I miss is Megyn Kelly of Fox News. The last week or so of her work -- her one woman crusade against the New Black Panther Party -- has been truly riveting television. Kelly widens her eyes in a way that bespeaks both horror and anger at the subject she's reporting on. "Shocking new video," she'll say, introducing a clip of the Panthers acting like idiots and yelling about "crackers" at a Philadelphia street festival. "We have a DOJ whistleblower alleging there is a discriminatory policy at the DOJ voting rights section," she'll say, "and no one seems to give a darn." It's the "darn" that ties this together -- she's not just a journalist, she's a concerned citizen who has to bring you this story before it's. Too. Late.
The people who grab these videos for the web use the same cliches to title them. "Megyn Kelly DESTROYS Kirsten Powers on New Black Panther Case" says one of them; "Megyn Kelly schools lib pundit over New Black Panthers Party." But why is she doing so many stories on the Panthers? It's because Fox News uses the Panthers the way that Phil Donohue used to use the KKK or G.G. Allin. They're good on TV. The difference between the Panthers and other freakish groups that look good on the air, of course, is that that they threaten white people.
At a recent town hall meeting, conservative protesters exploded with rage when Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman denied that Obama's Justice Department has a policy of never prosecuting African-Americans. There has been a great deal of right-wing insanity unleashed over the last year and a half, but this is the first time that the fear has an explicitly racial cast. You now have the largest organ of movement conservatism promoting Limbaugh's idee fixe that the Obama administration represents black America's historical revenge against whites.