While much of the political rhetoric on the right these days is laden with violent imagery and gun-based metaphors, outright suggestions of political violence remain relatively rare. But in the wake of President Obama’s executive order last week that sharply limits deportations of non-criminal undocumented immigrants, that is changing.
Yesterday, speaking with far-right radio host Janet Mefferd, William Gheen, the leader of the nativist group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), said that legal political activity may no longer be sufficient to protect America from immigrants — in particular, he made it clear, from non-white immigrants. Gheen, who in the past tried to appear a moderate on the nativist scene, said that in order to save “white America,” it may be necessary to engage in “extra-political activities that I can’t really talk about because they’re all illegal and violent.”
His full quote: “We’re no longer referring to him as President Barack Obama, our national organization has made the decision and made the announcement, we now refer to him as dictator Barack Obama. That’s what he is. And, basically, at this point, if you’re looking for a peaceful, political recourse, there really isn’t one that we can think of, and I’m really not sure what to tell people out there than I guess they need to make decisions soon to just accept whatever comes next or some type of extra-political activities that I can’t really talk about because they’re illegal and violent.”
Such rhetoric marks a sharp rightward lurch for Gheen, who has often been quoted on immigration matters by mainstream news organizations, including The New York Times, which quoted him as a legitimate commentator on the issue just two weeks ago. Last May, Gheen pulled ALIPAC out of rallies backing Arizona’s controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070, after hearing that their organizers were connected to racist skinheads and neo-Nazis. “The neo-Nazi connections and this disaster they have cooked up in Arizona … puts our issue at risk,” he proclaimed, excoriating the organizers for making a “huge” and “terrible” mistake.
After Minuteman American Defense leader Shawna Forde was accused of the slaying of a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter in Pima County, Ariz., Gheen warned his followers to have nothing to do with Minuteman groups. (Forde and two co-conspirators were found guilty this year. Forde was sentenced to death.)
Newfound racial radicalism aside, however, Gheen is no stranger to more garden-variety bigotry and fear-mongering. He has accused Mexican immigrants of carrying infectious diseases and plotting to take over the Southwest. In April 2010, he targeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), claiming that the 56-year-old bachelor is gay and saying he should come out to avoid being blackmailed into working with Democrats on immigration reform. In July 2010, Gheen told revisionist “historian” David Barton that LGBT people secretly want to import undocumented immigrants as a way of “replacing many core Americans and American values,” part of an overall “war” against Americans.
Gheen’s hysteria has seemed to amplify of late. A few months ago, he launched an “impeach Obama” campaign, accusing the president of treason. He urged his followers to “demand” action from their representatives and followed up with a threat: “If Congress does not respond by July 15, ALIPAC will move to call for public protests across the nation calling for the ouster of this authoritarian regime.” He has since sent out numerous dire warnings about the inevitable misery that will follow if Obama remains in office.
Yesterday, Gheen went one further, announcing that ALIPAC will henceforth refer to the president as “Dictator Barack Obama.” He also accused the Department of Homeland Security of spying on ordinary Americans’ everyday activities, and of “putting out videos and propaganda telegraphing what I believe to be a conflict with White America they’re preparing for after they get another 10 or 15 million people in the country to back them up.”
Gheen wasn’t the only one fretting about a looming Obama-led race war. Discussing the prospects of various Republican presidential candidates, Glenn Beck on Aug. 11 predicted that if Obama loses next year’s election, the administration would try to destroy America on its way out the door. “I firmly believe race riots are on the way,” he said.