'Racial Anxiety' Fuels Town Hall Protesters

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2009 8:30 AM CDT
President Barack Obama speaks during a town hall meeting on health care in a Kroger grocery store produce section in Bristol, Va., Wednesday, July 29, 2009.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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(Newser) – The mob-like scenes at recent town halls are "something new and ugly," writes Paul Krugman, who notes that 2005's protests against Social Security privatization never saw baying crowds and congressmen hanged in effigy. The New York Times columnist is unconvinced that the mobs are in the pay of well-organized conservative groups. Rather, they're genuinely angry—and are nursing "the same cultural and racial anxiety that's behind the birther movement."

One telling recent incident saw an activist take over a town hall to ask if they oppose "socialized or government-run health care"—yet a good half of those who said yes then admitted they were already on (publicly funded) Medicare. These voters have the same indifference to truth that the birthers exhibit, and Barack Obama needs to be careful. His election turns out not to have ended America's "angry white voter era," and if the right can keep channeling racial hatred, "health care reform may well fail."