When future historians look back at early 21st century politics, they will note that the political right was engaged in a level of denial not seen since since the band kept playing as the Titanic sank.
“The Southern Strategy is a liberal myth! Liberals are the REAL racists! Liberals keep blacks on the Democratic Plantation! Liberals are afraid of blacks that can think for themselves! You’re just playing the race card! Blablabla! Garble Yarble Snarg!” – Standard right wing response to being called a racist.
When future historians look back at early 21st century politics, they will note that the political right was engaged in a level of denial not seen since since the band kept playing as the Titanic sank. The election of a black man to the White House triggered a response that can be charitably described as “unbelievably racist.”
Whoops! There I go, playing the race card again!
And, with the inauguration of “The Man Who Would Be King” on January 20, 2017, things have just gotten worse. Think June 2016 when Trump sought to tout his support among African-Americans by pointing out a black man in the crowd and stating: “Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him, Are you the greatest?“
Consider his unscripted remarks made during an August 2016 campaign speech he gave in the predominantly white suburb of Lansing, Michigan. “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?” Trump asked African-Americans.
Seriously, who do they think they’re kidding?
What Trump and the right wing are doing right now is using racism to motivate their dying political movement. It’s called the Southern Strategy; and, despite what every single conservative will tell you, it’s quite real.
The Southern Strategy was first employed by Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater as a way for the Republican Party to win elections in the South. Until the 60s, the South was strongly Democratic because, once upon a time, the Democratic Party was the party of slavery and racism. The Democratic Party actually founded the KKK a century ago! It’s true!
Conservatives LOVE to recite these facts. To them, it’s “proof” that Democrats and liberals are the “real” racists. But, just as the right wing likes to “forget” about the disastrous eight years of George W. Bush, they also “forget” about what happened after the 60s.
You see, a funny thing happened after Democratic president Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law:
Southern white people went completely insane with rage.
How DARE black people be allowed to vote! How DARE black people be allowed to eat and shop wherever they want! How DARE white people be told they can’t treat blacks like slaves! This is the SOUTH, and we like our Negroes to know their place!
Come to the White Side, we have cookies!
Nixon and Goldwater played to this completely unconcealed rage by pretending they cared about “states’ rights.” States’ rights, of course, is the fictional cause of the Civil War that racists use to literally whitewash the South’s failed attempt to perpetuate slavery and, later, apartheid. By pretending to care about the plight of the poor, oppressed white man in the South, the Republican Party was able to win the White House and more or less take over the region.
Recognizing a winning strategy, conservatives and Republicans threw themselves into dog whistle politics with a vengeance. Republican strategist Lee Atwater’s infamous quote perfectly sums up the right wing’s move to coded racism:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
Atwater, however, would be appalled by the modern day GOP and frothing at the mouth of the Tea Party. In a classic case of the chickens coming home to roost, conservative politicians have completely forgotten that the point of dog whistle politics is to appeal to bigots but still retain a fig leaf of respectability to allow moderates to ignore the underlying racism.
50 years of whipping up the racial resentment of right wingers has resulted in a crop of politicians who actually believe the nonsense they spew. Ronald Reagan was many things: a liar, a criminal and a bigot – but he wasn’t stupid. He and the rest of the GOP did not actually believe that that an army of “welfare queens” were stealing millions of tax payer dollars. They didn’t actually believe that a race war was coming. They were quite aware that was just red meat for the rubes. Keep ’em angry and they won’t notice while you give all of their money to the rich.
These days, Republicans are moving away from coded language and being far more open about how much they hate black people (and women and gays and immigrants, etc.).
But, you know, they’re not appealing to white racists for votes or anything. That whole Southern Strategy thing is just a liberal myth…
Racist is as racist does.
Your average conservative lies through their teeth when they say they don’t care about race. When they talk about “welfare queens,” they ain’t talking about white women. When they talk about “thugs,” as Trump is fond of doing, they ain’t talking about Justin Bieber. When the GOP goes on a rampage to cut food stamps, they ain’t talking about fiscal responsibility.
No, they are talking about black people. Whoops! There’s that darn race card!
But what else can you say to someone that declares that over 90% of black people are too stupid to vote the “right” way? What can you say to someone that smugly announces that most blacks are killed by other blacks (and then refuses to acknowledge that most whites are killed by other whites)? What can you say to someone that says they “know a
black guy” that uses his food stamps to buy crab legs, so the whole program must be riddled with fraud?
If you’re me, you state the obvious, “You’re a racist piece of dirt.” And then sit back and listen to the howls of transparent denial and phony indignation.
Oh, and don’t forget “Trump’s Pants on Fire tweet that blacks killed 81% of white homicide victims,” where he retweeted the following image:
The image cites the “Crime Statistics Bureau – San Francisco,” but as PolitiFact reported at the time: “None of the numbers are supported by official sources. The figures on black-on-white homicides and white-on-white homicides are wildly inaccurate. And, as several news organizations quickly noted, the “Crime Statistics Bureau” doesn’t exist. We looked for that agency as well, and the closest we found in San Francisco were a number of crime scene clean-up services.”
Does it ever end?
Actually, yes, it does. The Southern Strategy is in its final stages; and it’s destroying the GOP. Rapidly changing demographics, an aging base and the aforementioned crop of extremist politicians have combined to poison the conservative movement.
Pandering to racists is like a drug addiction: It’s easy to start and feels great for a while, but it’s incredibly hard to stop, and you need more of it just to keep going. The GOP wants to appeal to minority voters but can’t stop the racist rhetoric lest their bigoted base drop them like a hot potato.
And so the GOP is trapped by the very same Southern Strategy that served them so well for so many decades. The kind of intolerant voter they sought will be even more intolerant of the mandatory move to the social left the GOP must make to remain viable on the national stage. Imagine having a party that supported all the same kinds of hate you live and breathe. Now imagine that party opens its doors to the very same people you despise. It will be like the 60s all over again. Angry white bigots will feel betrayed by “their” party. In the areas of the country they control, they will elect ever more extreme and vitriolic lunatics to represent their core values of hate and fear. Michele Bachmann was just the beginning. At least she tended to go along with the GOP leadership. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, represents the next iteration of this death spiral. He takes every opportunity to throw his own party under the bus for not being “ideologically pure,” and it is fitting that Trump be at the helm of the bad-ship GOP as it tumbles off the edge of the world and into oblivion.
To paraphrase The Crow:
A (white) Man has an idea. The idea attracts others, like minded. The idea expands, the idea becomes an institution. What was the idea?
Sooner or later, the southern right wing will start openly speaking of “white pride” as a campaign platform and the Southern Strategy will have fully come around to bite the GOP in its lily white ass.
Nom. Nom. Nom.
Editor’s Note: article updated from one first published on August 29, 2014 for Liberals Unite by Justin Rosario.