I had managed, thankfully, to be blissfully ignorant until about an hour ago concerning the now virally infamous Obama-phone video.
The vid, which went up on YouTube this week, shows a very enthusiastic black woman protesting at a Mitt Romney rally, who is asked why she is for Obama.
"Everybody in Cleveland you know minority got a Obama phone. Keep Obama in president! You know. He gave us a phone."
Asked how Obama gave her a phone, the woman replied:
"You sign up, if you're on food stamps, if you're on social security, you got low income, you disability."
Asked what is wrong with Romney, she replies in plain terms: "He sucks."
Yep, there is that.
Limbaugh's fake banner suggesting there is a government program called the Obama Phone. Of course, there is no such thing, and further the correct title of the phones provided to needy families would be: Reagan Phones.
First off, the basic complaint we hear from the droves of poor-haters is that all these undeserving people are getting these luxury items—free cellphones!—and Obama is handing them out to the 47% to secure their votes, just like Mitt Romney said. In fact, this is pretty much exactly what Rush Limbaugh claimed about the Obama-phone video, in an segment entitled "The 47% Speaks: She's Voting for Obama Because He Gave Her a Free Phone":
"These are the 47%. Notice this guy...? Is it a guy? It's a woman. (It's my hearing. I'm sorry.) She knows. She knows how to get this free Obama phone. She knows everything about it. She may not know who George Washington is or Abraham Lincoln, but she knows how to get an Obama phone, and she knows that Romney sucks, and she ends up at a Romney rally. We wonder why we're losing the country, maybe, and why we ask that question...And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen."
So, you know, rage is one of the chief substitutes for enthusiasm on the Republican side these days. There is no love amongst Republicans, of course, for Mitt Romney, and what usually gets held up in its place is an extremely stupid, usually extremely racist, fury at anything Barack Obama could possibly be imagined to do that would insult the insipid notion of an independent American, harbored by so many right-wing nuts.
In this "I Built That" Ayn Rand pig-slop-think, the courageous and utterly independent and almost exclusively white-males are valiantly trying to defend true American values (of greed and hatred of the weak and poor) from the 47% of the population who are nothing but shiftless parasites, sucking the life's blood out of the nation. There might as well be a Leni Riefenstahl soundtrack attached to this Republican drivel, so obviously fascist is its appeal to a deranged heroic ideal of the few Übermenschen battling against the hordes of Üntermenschen vermin—with free cell phones!
But, back in the much-dreaded Factland, where hysteria is not first in the queue of proper responses, the reality of the free cellphone program is quite a bit different than the Republican propaganda concerning it.
Maybe most startling, if you're really riding that Obama-phone meme, is the fact that long ago, almost thirty years ago, the federal government, in association with and working through the telecom industry, instituted a free phone service program for low-income citizens. It was recognized way back in 1984 that having phone service in a modern society is not a luxury, but a necessity. And in 2012, that necessity is well understood to include providing a basic cellphone to needy families and individuals.
So, again, this program was started when? Back in 1984. And what should that tell you? Oh—it was started under the Ronald Reagan administration. That's right, under the presidency of the patron saint of conservatism they started handing out free phone service to poor people.
If the lady in the video wants to thank somebody for her free cellphone, she should thank Ronnie Raygun for her Reagan-phone.
Another myth about the phone is that it is free or a handout. In fact, it is an opportunity for the cellphone providers to make more money—of course. Providing a basic plan of monthly minutes, which a busy person with a family could easily exhaust, the cellphone providers for the "free" phone program charge users money to purchase additional minutes. So, yes, the phone is free up to a point, but the idea all users are paying nothing for the service is just dead wrong.
But being dead wrong about the facts, being readily racist about the rage, is the essential Republican political paradigm, or recipe, in 2012. It is a pathological and predatory tactic. Of course, as Lee Atwater well understood, and eventually apologized for, it is also a tactic that works really effectively in politics—especially if it is allowed to metastasize into a cancerous political meme.