Megan Carpentier speculates at the Guardian about those who yearn for a return to the days when full participation in American society was summed up in the phrase, “free, white, and twenty-one”:
And so you get those who insisted he (Obama) was a Muslim, because Muslims are not Real Americans. You get the Birthers, who insist that Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency can only be the result of a decades-long, international conspiracy. You have the Tea Party folks, who call themselves patriots (and likely called liberals unpatriotic for questioning the Bush adminstration’s policies) calling Obama a fascist, a Communist, a socialist, all inherently un-American ideologies.
And you have folks like Joe Wilson, who decided that a presidency held by an African-American man didn’t deserve the same respect as one held by a white man and used his protected position in the political hierarchy to do what his ideological compatriots at town hall meetings could not: take the usurper, the pretender, the un-real American, as evidenced by the colour of his skin, down just a peg, back to where he supposedly belongs in America’s hierarchy. It could have been any issue: health care, taxes, education reform (and opposition like this has reared up in each case).