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Modern-Day Know-Nothings Take Control In The South

Memo Pad

Modern-Day Know-Nothings Take Control In The South


For as long as I’ve lived in Arkansas — most of my adult life — people like the now-famous state senator Jason Rapert have made most of the noise and lost most of the elections. Now they’ve come to power, courtesy of Southern Republicans’ cult-like rejection of President Obama and large infusions of corporate campaign cash. And with the state legislature in session, the tragi-comedy is under way.

It’s happening all across the South. Sample news story: “Representatives approved a bill titled ‘The Church Protection Act of 2013’…85-8, to permit concealed handguns in churches and other houses of worship.”

Because Jesus, of course, was all about smiting them dead before thou art smitten.

Anyway, “famous” may be an exaggeration with regard to Sen. Rapert. But a YouTube clip of the man haranguing a 2011 Tea Party gathering about his anger at “minorities” running the country has gotten Arkansas lots of unfavorable national attention. Meanwhile, his indignant, if not particularly honest, denials have succeeded only in generating more ill will and bad feeling.

Full disclosure: this same Jason Rapert is also my neighbor in rural Perry County, AR. He invited us to a Memorial Day Picnic three years ago, where his bluegrass band provided the entertainment. He’s a genial host and a terrific country fiddler and guitarist. A few days later, his wife graciously dropped off a CD the band had recorded. She pretended not to mind when my horse left deep hoofprints in their yard. The couple has two lovely young daughters.

However, the same fellow is also a stone religious crank who’s absolutely certain that God agrees with every one of his opinions; also that everybody who disagrees with God and him is going straight to hell. Jason’s not shy about telling you about it, either. He once advised me to leave the U.S. on account of supporting Obamacare. I reminded him that my side had won the 2008 election. (And good luck finding a country without “socialist” health care and with indoor plumbing.)

But I’d never have suspected him capable of the kind of insidious rhetoric he displayed for the Tea Partiers. The video, first unearthed by Lee Fang in The Nation, captures Rapert in full revivalist mode. No, his speech wasn’t “racist” in the simplistic way liberals often charge. I’m confident he’d vote for Condoleezza Rice, for example.

It’s not President Obama’s color that offends Rapert’s sensibilities—although I’m less sure about his audience’s. It’s everything else about the man that makes him suspect from a paranoid, neo-nativist perspective.

Delivered in a countrified drawl that’s more his preacher’s voice than the one he uses in his daytime job as an investment advisor, Rapert’s speech hits all the conspiratorial high spots: Obama’s supposedly missing birth certificate; his sympathy with gay rights; also, most ominously, his secret belief in the wrong God.

Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons is a political columnist and author. Lyons writes a column for the Arkansas Times that is nationally syndicated by United Media. He was previously a general editor at Newsweek as wells an associate editor at Texas Monthly where he won a National Magazine Award in 1980. He contributes to Salon.com and has written for such magazines as Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Esquire, and Slate.

A graduate of Rutgers University with a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, Lyons taught at the Universities of Massachusetts, Arkansas and Texas before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. A native of New Jersey, Lyons has lived in Arkansas with his wife Diane since 1972. The Lyons live on a cattle farm near Houston, Ark., with a half-dozen dogs, several cats, three horses, and a growing herd of Fleckvieh Simmental cows.

Lyons has written several books including The Higher Illiteracy (University of Arkansas, 1988), Widow's Web (Simon & Schuster, 1993), Fools for Scandal (Franklin Square, 1996) as well as The Hunting Of The President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, which he co-authored with National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason.

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  1. nobsartist February 6, 2013

    The south should be proud to know that they have cornered the market on stupidity.

    All university’s in the south should lose all accreditation. They are turning out nothing but idiots.

    1. sunmusing February 6, 2013

      This is the type of stupidity that is really dangerous to those around them… can they self-deport to somewhere else?? The Sahel is open for that type of fanatic…

    2. july860 February 6, 2013

      That’s because the Koch bros. are buying out all the institutions of “higher learning”.

    3. Hillbilly February 7, 2013

      Not all southerns are stupid there are some very smart southerns that don’t make into the news because they aren’t racists and don’t believe any thing the Republicans say or do. They are working to get the Republicans out of their legistures and governor’s offices but none of this is reported because the mainstream media loves to show southerns as dumb following the Republican ideas like little lambs being more like lil Abner that Bill Clinton who is a Rhodes scholar. The South has not cornered the market on stupidity, that market belongs to anyone that votes for Republican and tea partycandidates so that covers every state in the US because all states have people that will vote Republican and tea party no matter what.

      1. charleo1 February 8, 2013

        I blame Mark Twain, and the 60s T.V. show, “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
        And,”Hee Haw,” didn’t help matters any.

        1. Michael Kollmorgen February 9, 2013

          Have you noticed that in those shows hardly a person of color was ever on those programs, if any at all.

          When I was much younger, I used to love watching those programs. But, as I got older, I started to realize how realistic they were and how bigoted they all were.

          All of them programs, the Beverly Hillbillies, Pettycoat Junction, Green Acres were all highly racist, even the Andy Griffith Show. And, all very realistic.

          And, Oh how a lot of other programming reinforced the typical american family stereotype, Father Knows Best was probably the best of them. Even Leave to Beaver was pure stereotype. And, once again, never a person of color was ever on these programs.

          Holy Smokes, now that I think of it, there were a whole lot more too.

          We were for the most part all brainwashed and “programmed”. Some of it showing reality as it actually was but not knowing it was. Only years later do I realize these things.

          1. charleo1 February 9, 2013

            Sure! Early T.V. was very careful to keep White American audiences well within their
            comfort zone. It wasn’t until ’65 when Bill Cosby was the first African American cast
            in a dramatic series with Robert Culp in “I Spy.” And several stations, as we might
            guess in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia refused to carry the series because of Cosby.
            Chris Rock who has a talent of pointing out the obvious, that goes unnoticed by the
            White viewers. Says watching StarTrec, when Captain Kirk transponded down to the
            planet’s surface with a crew that included a, “Black Dude,” (His term,) He said,
            everybody at his house knew, the Black Dude’s not gonna make it back to the ship.
            That’s right, he goes on. No speaking part, ever! Like the aliens say, Okay let’s
            vaporize the dark skinned one first!

  2. itsfun February 6, 2013

    wanna bet

  3. Frank Libbon February 6, 2013

    Jason Rapert represents exactly all that is WRONG in America. Bullies – economic bullies, political bullies, and religious bullies, cannot be appeased, they must be challenged everywhere, even in their churches. As Abraham Lincoln wrote in a letter to his Secretary of War on 1864,
    “those in the church, or out of the church, who become a treat to the people, must be checked.”
    The Lord, whose name you dare to mention, aptly described who and what you are: “a serpeant and a hypocrite.” We the People should do to you what Berry Goldwater said should be done
    to Jerry Falwell, being: “Give you a good swift kick in the ass.” You, and those like you are not
    worth the effort it takes to pour piss out of a combat boot.
    Go back under the woodwork you cockerroach.

  4. charleo1 February 6, 2013

    It’s the culture. I’m 58, born in Kansas, and long before Barack Obama, before the internet,
    political action committees, or Fox cable news, throughout the so called Bible Belt, in rural
    communities, people I grew up around have been talking, believing, and voting this way for
    probably a hundred years. Heck, probably since they first settled the Country. They are Baptist,
    or, Pentecostal, with a sprinkling of Assembly of God. Believe the Bible is the literal word of
    God. That Jesus is coming any day, and you had better be prepared, or you’re going to Hell.
    Their society is White, and male dominated. So most of the rules on dress, hair, jewelry, are
    directed at the women. As one might guess, so is the cooking, cleaning, and child rearing.
    No women liber-nazis here. In fact, if the Right Wing, Conservative platform, often seems
    contradicted, and out of touch with the mainstream, one can most likely trace it’s roots here.
    They don’t dislike the Negro. They believe God loves the Black people, and expects them to
    be kind to their lesser brothers, and sisters. Many have Black friends at work, and genuinely
    like them. But believe one has to be careful around them. Some know their place, and some
    tend to get very, “uppity,” if they happen to make a lot of money, or are given any authority.
    I’m not making this up, or necessarily putting these people down. I know them. I know how
    they think. They believe the Blacks have certain weaknesses that must be taken into account.
    And the Republicans have used each and every one of these preconceived notions to attack
    Obama. And still are. Some were shocked to find 90% of Evangelical Christians in Mississippi
    truly thought Obama was a Muslim, and was hiding it. Again, I’m not making these things up.
    It is not the facts surrounding his birth, his upbringing, his Mother’s race mixing, although
    they don’t agree with it, or his policies being all that Liberal from former Democratic Presidents. In fact, they haven’t been liberal enough for good number of supporters. It has been the willingness with which this particular group of people have accepted as fact, the most slanderous, and provably
    untrue mischaracterizations of this President, since Lincoln.

    1. FredAppell February 6, 2013

      You have my deepest sympathies. If anyone needs any proof as to the existence of an American Taliban, here it is.

      1. leadvillexp February 6, 2013

        I don’t know what you mean about Taliban. This person has a very open mind. I was born in the north but my hearts in the south. I don’t believe in gun control, do believe in womens rights, and don’t believe in religion. People have their own beliefs and all need understanding. You sound as if you have a closed mind and shouldn’t be throwing stones.

        1. FredAppell February 6, 2013

          You think Jason Rapert has an open mind? Did you even bother to read the entire column? All I need to know about the man, as far as I am concerned, is written in this column. I am not religious either, but not all people of religion are trying to force their religious views on an entire country the way that Mr. Rapert is. Hence, my Taliban analogy. So you call it what you want and I will call it whatever I want.

          1. leadvillexp February 6, 2013

            The comment was sent as a reply to your comment to charleo1. I was refering to charleo1 as having an open mind. Sorry if I got it wrong.

          2. FredAppell February 6, 2013

            No problem, I can respect that!

          3. Michael Kollmorgen February 9, 2013

            It isn’t the ordinary every-day christian which is screwing our country up. I have some very dear christian friends who are sincerely good people, which I believe is at least half the overall believership of the christian faith.

            The problem as I see it is the other half, the evangelicals. They are truly the Christian Taliban. These people are the most dangerous as well as the most vocal.

            These are the people who need the ultimate smack down at every opportunity. They are the ones who are screwing up our political process, our education system, our liberties and freedoms.

            But, what bothers me the most is that the rest of Christianity is totally silent on the public level, not a peep out of them to counter anything these radicals say or believe.

            If Christianity wishes to have any credibility, they need to speak out and boldly against the evangelicals. If they don’t, as a whole, Christianity will be regelated to the dust bin, where they all probably belong in the first place.

            This is not unusual for any large group of like-minded people. The NRA has the very same problem.

        2. DownriverDem February 8, 2013

          Your heart is in the south? Come on. No one is throwing stones either. The south will not accept who we are as a country. That is not throwing stones. That is a fact.

    2. DownriverDem February 8, 2013

      I could never live in the south. I don’t know how any sane person could. I don’t care how warm it is there either. They suck. We should have let them leave in the 1860s. They are just holding us back. The view they show the world is embarrassing, disgusting and insane.

  5. L. Roy February 6, 2013

    no surprise here in Texas

  6. docb February 6, 2013

    Wow, we just need to run this video and others on a loop to remind the electorate of the bats in the belfry that is the repub bagger policies and ignorance! Low cost elections in the offing from the gop!

  7. midway54 February 6, 2013

    The entire region comprising the Old Confederacy has a proud tradition of pure ignorance with a reliable community of pathetic dupes who inevitably rush to vote against their own interests by sending the craziest of right wing politicians to the Congress. It is indeed Dupedom South, where the minority of rational, educated citizens must find it difficult to endure life especially during the election cycles when rightwing bilge is swirling about them.

    1. Hillbilly February 7, 2013

      Have you ever lived in the South or are you sterotyping all Southerns based on the few that make it into the news? The media likes to lump all Southerns in the same group when there are many of us that don’t fit in that group. We don’t vote against our own best interest and are changing the minds of many that have been doing. We are not racist and believe everyone should be given the chance to improve their lot no matter who they are. We don’t find it difficult at election time we find it a time to try and change the minds of people that are voting against their own best interest and to improve our states. What I do find amazing that some many people in other parts of this Country are bigger racists than most are in the South.

      1. Valerie A February 7, 2013

        I was born and raised in the old south, arkansas as a matter of fact and it was racist and poor even then “1943”. The place is just like the old days full of ignorance.

      2. plc97477 February 9, 2013

        I don’t think any one is saying all southerners are stupid, just that enough vote for complete wingnuts to give people the idea that there are more than there need be

      3. Michael Kollmorgen February 11, 2013

        The only places in the south that isn’t racist is mostly in the big cities. Get a little ways out of the bigger cities and racism is just as strong as it always was.

        Oh, and many parts of the North are “almost” just as bad.

  8. I Zheet M'Drawz February 6, 2013

    Arkansas has changed it’s complexion when it comes to racism.

    State motto: We’ll take the niggahs & the chinks but we WON’T take the Irish!

  9. Ed February 6, 2013

    Barack Oboma does not represent the country he grew up in. PRAISE THE LORD! Jesus’s message has finally gotten through.

    1. english_teacher February 6, 2013

      You’re right that Barack Obama does not represent the country Rapert grew up in. Rapert grew up in a racist, fundamentalist, close-minded world where lies about and demonization whoever doesn’t fit your cookie cutter mold is okay, a world that Rapert wants to continue. If Jesus’s message is the one that Rapert is giving, then we’re better off not following it.

    2. Pamela Irwin February 6, 2013

      You mean Jesus’ message about throwing down your arms or His message about turning the other cheek or His message about treating the poor & the immigrants with love, respect & honor? I don’t think those messages have been received at all. In fact, it seems to me some folks like Ed need to actually read the Bible because their brand of “Christianity” bears no resemblance AT ALL to Jesus’ message!

  10. m8lsem February 6, 2013

    And, of course, Elohim=Yahweh=Allah=God=Gott=Dieu=El Senor=Bosha=Tabaldak=whatever a particular culture calls the One, the Only, the Deity.

  11. Michael Ross February 6, 2013

    Missouri and Indiana were once equally embarrassed. That was before Akin and Mourdock were sent packing.

    The G.O.P.’s creative gerrymandering of the districts is in the process of becoming their own undoing. By doing everything they could to ensure they would retain their districts, they instead opened themselves up to far-right challenges. And it’s only a matter of time before the far-right lunacy reaches such a feverish peak that even the reddest of the red districts are unable to stomach it anymore and turn to the Democrats (or, more likely, independents) to save them from it.

    If Mitt Romney and Karl Rove proved anything, it’s that money is no longer the commanding influence it used to be. Guys like Rapert know how to generate campaign funds and know how to rally the crazies, but that’s it.

  12. Rev James Curci February 6, 2013

    Huey Long has returned from the grave.

  13. Randy February 6, 2013

    I’m a tall, blue-eyed white man and I get treated poorly by people in LR because [I] “ain’t from here.” This guy sounds pretty normal from where I sit.

  14. Commentista February 8, 2013

    The hysterical thing is that most of his ‘conservative’ Arkansas constituents are lazy, drunken, methed out social parasites. Hell, half of Arkansas is on ‘disability’, and many of the rest are nail-bangers on unemployment 6 months a year. I used to visit relatives in Arkansas. I t’s a reasonably attractive state grossly overpopulated with bloodsuckers like seed ticks and born again Jesus junkies. One of my AR friends makes a very serious point of never hiring anyone with a Bible on their truck dashboard, because all they do is yak all day – around the job site – with their churchy friends. So this a-hole does indeed represent many of his constituents accurately…like a lot of hick state politicians. Several of these states need to be forcibly ejected from the U.S.

  15. bpai99 February 9, 2013

    “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” – Susan B. Anthony

  16. FredAppell February 9, 2013

    Isn’t it always that way though? Moderate Muslims tell us how beautiful their belief system is but just like the moderate Christians, their religion has been hijacked by extremists. That alone doesn’t surprise me, what bothers me is that the majority of sensible people don’t stand up to the extremism that permeates their faith.

    Are they afraid perhaps, who knows? They aren’t vocal enough in helping the rest of us to understand what their thinking and feeling. Maybe you’re right, maybe it does belong in the dust bin of history.

  17. lessthantolerant February 13, 2013

    Gene you should stay off the tube steak you seem so effeminate!


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