Tag Archives: southern strategy

Why I Rooted For Mitt, Or Rick Santorum Is A Danger…Still

23 Apr

Hallelujah! Rick Santorum is finally out of the Republican primary race! What, you didn’t think I would feel that way?

I’ve been listening to liberal media pundits talk about the unlikely prospect of Rick Santorum winning the Republican presidential nomination as if it would be a “gift” to Democrats all season. Some liberals have even turned out Democrats to vote for Santorum in open primaries. And now, some of them are talking like they’re actually a little sad that he dropped out, boohooing over how good it was for Democrats to have him in the race.

I say they’re nuts. As conservative and elitist as Mitt Romney is, he’s not a right winger. He may be pandering to the right wing, but he doesn’t belong to that movement. He’s neither a theocrat nor a libertarian, and, while it is true that Mormons once believed that Black people are cursed by God, Romney is not an ideological white supremacist.

As much as I disagree with Mitt Romney, I do not by any means consider Santorum a “gift.” Misogyny, and racial fear and loathing are powerful motivators.  In the end, I’m not at all certain Santorum would have lost (which we should keep in mind since he seems to be hoping for another chance in 2016).

But if that’s not enough to get you feeling grateful that all we got was Mr. Etch-A-Sketch, allow me to tell you a little story about Barry Goldwater, aka Mr. Conservative, and the impact he had on all of us by running for president and not just losing, but getting his ass handed to him.

Johnson’s ass-kicking of Barry Goldwater in 1964 appeared to signal the end of racial conservatism in national politics. Sadly, it ended up being a new beginning. With Goldwater’s campaign lists of highly motivated anti-civil rights voters serving as a resource, and his strategy of appealing to racism to win white Southern votes as a template, libertarian economic elites began to build the Republican’s Southern Strategy.

Goldwater exposed the power of racism as a political tool by running against Civil Rights and winning big among white Southern voters, including Democrats who jumped the fence in order to support him. He ran on a platform of turning Social Security into a voluntary program, and eliminating farm subsidies among other schemes that were very unpopular in the South, much as limiting access to birth control is a very unpopular position today. But, because he ran against Civil Rights, he won Southern votes, even from white people for whom the programs he promised to destroy were the most popular.

Goldwater’s strategy turned race into a partisan issue. In 1962, a national poll asked which party would more likely ensure Blacks got fair treatment in housing and employment.  22.7% answered Democrat compared to 21.3% who said Republican. 55.9% said there was no difference. By late 1964, another poll showed that 60% of those questioned said Democrats were more likely to ensure fairness and 7% said Republicans, with only 33% seeing no difference. Such was the suddenness and force of the backlash strategy.

In the 1950s, poor white Southerners were the third most liberal voters on issues of government intervention for full-employment, education, and affordable health care, right behind Blacks and Jews. By the early 70s, they did a values flip. When it came to poverty alleviation programs, they went from being liberals to being statistically indistinguishable from wealthy white Northerners, the traditional base of the GOP. Given the ongoing poverty of the South, this move was akin to poor white Southerners cutting off their toes for want of smaller shoes.

The Republicans, smelling blood, went about breaking the class basis of the New Deal Coalition by appealing to racism. In a pattern that would repeat itself throughout the South, GOP voter rolls shot up from 49% to 76% in Birmingham, Alabama’s poorest white communities between 1960 and 1964. In Macon, Georgia, it went from 36% to 71%. Atlanta went from 36% to 58%, and so on.

The GOP was able to affect this shift by linking federal intervention on economic issues with federal intervention on civil rights. By 1980, Ronald Reagan’s anti-government platform would begin a revolution in our political culture about federal intervention in general.

The current Tea Party protest language against government spending started out as coded language designed to build opposition to Civil Rights. Anymore, most aren’t even conscious of it. They just use the language and achieve the effect of mobilizing race sensitive whites who, themselves, often don’t understand they are responding to calls to racism: it’s just part of the political culture now.

So you think Rick Santorum is a gift to Democrats? Consider the legacy of Barry Goldwater and think again.

BTW: Credit is due to Thomas Byrne Edsall and Mary D. Edsall for some of the stats above. I’m not sure I agree with all of the political conclusions they draw, but they do good research!

Why Firing John Derbyshire Serves Racism

12 Apr

If you’re a frequent traveler in the blogosphere, you’ve probably read about the National Review’s canning of John Derbyshire, a frequent opinion writer in that conservative rag. The firing was over an article describing the racist advice he gives his white children.

I won’t get into all the gory details as you can see Derbyshire’s rant for yourself, but the low-lights include warnings against going into Black neighborhoods, and claiming that the mean (as in medium) intelligence of Black people is much lower than for whites.

This one time I will go against my own advice and say it is good anti-racist practice to be self-righteous and call him an a**hole for that b.s.

The National Review went one better and canned him. Editor Rich Lowry released a statement that described Derbyshire as “a deeply literate, funny, and incisive writer” before distancing the National Review from this so-called “deeply literate, funny” man’s racist ranting.

So, the a**hole had his say and the publication fired him. Should be good and done, right?

Well, no, because the National Review firing Derbyshire for overt racism casts light on one of the big challenges confounding racial justice advocates. That is the strategy of reducing racism to individual racist prejudice in order to make efforts to promote much more potent and damaging institutional racism appear like something other than racism.

Here’s the breakdown. The National Review was founded in 1955 as the main communications organ of the New Right. It was intended to marginalize the old, isolationist right and make way for a new, more effective conservatism – you know, the kind that has taken hold of our Congress right now?

They started out being pretty upfront in their racism, with founder William F. Buckley, Jr., basically coming out in 1957 and saying that even in places where Black people out-numbered white people, white supremacy should trump democracy because the more “advanced” race needs to be in charge.

The Review was also a mouth piece for Barry Goldwater whose presidential campaign became the template for the racist Southern Strategy to rebuild the GOP by rolling back civil rights. In the name of this strategy, the New Right eventually moved away, at least publicly, from overt racism, with the National Review in the lead.

But by the ’70s, they were attacking Affirmative Action with a two-fer strategy of using coded racism (like referring to Affirmative Action as “reverse discrimination,” and suggesting that its beneficiaries were less qualified than whites) to appeal to white resentment, while also fronting a love-sees-no-color politic that made those defending Affirmative Action look like anti-white racists supporting pro-people of color racial preference programs.

When a publication like National Review, one of the architects of this New Right Wing strategy, fires a racist writer for over-sharing, they’re just playing us. They claim outrage at the words, while promoting the sentiment behind them through the public policies they support. Public policies like William Buckley, Jr. was talking about in ’57 when arguing against voting rights for Black people.  Only now, they don’t come out and say they are keeping people of color in their place. They claim they are trying to prevent voter fraud by requiring photo I.D.

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