The conventional wisdom is always the most interesting when its totally counterintuitive. After months of fearing that middle America’s racism would prevent an Obama victory, liberals have quickly pivoted to embrace the anxiety of an assassination attempt. This is juxtaposed against (and encouraged) by an emerging narrative that white supremacists were rooting for Barack all along, hoping to use the moment to reinforce “race pride” and boost recruitment.
But there is more to this phenomenon than racist pamphlets and white supremacist server crashes. Reinvigorated white supremacy works on a more individual level; Althusser argues that racist ideology provides fuel for the unconscious, producing a much more powerful and insideous response:
the unconscious can exploit anything to its ends, but it still has to “find” something suitable to its ends. To say that the unconscious “functions with ideological imaginary” is thus to say that it “selects” in the ideological imaginary the forms, elements, or relations “suitable” to it. I have the impression that it is not by chance that certain ideological “situations” sustain certain defined unconscious structures marvelously well and that “affinities” exist between a specific form of neurosis, and even psychosis, with the result that a particular conjuncture “realizes” par excellence specific unconscious structures….
One would thus have to “read” against the grain of the meaning all too often proposed, the “unleashing” of “instincts” under… racist ideology as a general and official (and thus public and permissive) distribution of that ideological “fuel” needed by certain perversions to “function” in the open air.
The white nationalism Palin unleashed (and implicitly condoned) at her rallies is more than deranged raving. It’s the psychoanalytic “working-through” of the unconsciouses of America’s most regressive, (formerly) pro-American people. The white supremacists are right: the best thing for their cause is a moment when the conservatives’ discourse on race emerges from the alibis of “crime reduction” and “welfare reform.” In this conjuncture, racism has emerged as an avowed part of the dominant ideology, unshielded by the usual mystification. Thus, the election must be (and the campaign certainly was) almost as satisfying a jouissance for the right as it is for the left.
This speaks right to the myth of a post-racial America. It’s not that we’ve collectively transcended racism; instead, the unleashed racist ideology allowed a release of pressure as our nation’s most destructive perversions emerged into the open air: