Here's the problem with the Republican Party, at residents of Bastrop, Texas are still quite freaked out about Jade Helm '15 exercises.
The office of the Bastrop County Republican Party is in an old lumber mill on Main Street, with peeling brown paint and a sign out front that captures the party’s feelings about the Obama administration: “WISE UP AMERICA!”
Inside, county Chairman Albert Ellison pulled out a yellow legal pad on which he had written page after page of reasons why many Texans distrust President Obama, including the fact that, “in the minds of some, he was raised by communists and mentored by terrorists.”
So it should come as no surprise, Ellison said, that as the U.S. military prepares to launch one of the largest training exercises in history later this month, many Bastrop residents might suspect a secret Obama plot to spy on them, confiscate their guns and ultimately establish martial law in one of America’s proudly free conservative states.
They are not “nuts and wackos. They are concerned citizens, and they are patriots,” Ellison said of his suspicious neighbors. “Obama has really painted a portrait in the minds of many conservatives that he is capable of this sort of thing.”
It's Obama's fault anyway. Never mind military exercises under the previous president were no problem whatsoever.
Here in the soft, green farmlands east of Austin, some say the answer is simple: “The truth is, this stems a fair amount from the fact that we have a black president,” said Terry Orr, who was Bastrop’s mayor from 2008 to 2014.
Orr said he strongly disagrees with those views, and he supports Jade Helm. But he said a significant number of people in town distrust Obama because they think he is primarily concerned with the welfare of blacks and “illegal aliens.”
“People think the government is just not on the side of the white guy,” Orr said.
Bastrop’s current mayor, Kenneth Kesselus, who also supports Jade Helm, agrees. Kesselus said the distrust is due in part to a sense that “things aren’t as good as they used to be,” especially economically. “The middle class is getting squeezed and they’ve got to take it out on somebody, and Obama is a great target.”
These ideas didn't just magically appear out of a vacuum. Republican candidates have been saying this publicly about the Obama administration for seven years now, and surprise, people believe it.
Dock Jackson, 62, an African American who has been on the Bastrop City Council for 24 years, grew up when the town was still segregated, literally by railroad tracks. Today, Bastrop is 34 percent Hispanic and 8 percent black, and a wonderful place to live, he said, a place where the races generally get along.
But the Jade Helm backlash has been a “red flag” that our county “still has a lot of things they need to come to terms with,” Jackson said, including the anger and disrespect being directed at the president.
At a recent family reunion at a Bastrop community center, Mark Peterson, who is black, said he has been “shocked” by what he views as racist undertones in much of the objection to Jade Helm.
“What I hate to hear most is, ‘We want to take our country back.’ This is still your country. Where did it go?” said Peterson, 42, a technology manager for a financial firm in Austin. “If it were any other president but Obama, it would not be an issue.”
The politics of racial resentment, that white America is being destroyed by a black President, has been part and parcel of the GOP years now (and several decades in the South). This is all they have left.