Tuesday, December 17, 2002

The GOP's Moment Of Truth The Republican parties problems go well beyond Trent Lott. The Grand Old Party has been living a lie for decades, talking equality and fairness out one side of the mouth while, out the other side, they purred cooing words of comfort to disaffected segregationists. The Southern Strategy, first formulated in Nixon's time, was a deliberate attempt to win electoral advantage by giving aid and comfort to racists and bigots. It was a policy that didn't reflect so much a deep racist attitude in the Republican leadership (though I'm sure there were elements of that at play as well) so much as it was a crassly pragmatic means of gaining power (much as it was crassly pragmatic for the U.S. to give haven to Nazi rocket and nuclear scientists after WWII). The problem for the Republicans is that, once let into the living room, it has become increasingly difficult to keep these embarassing relatives from lounging on the front-porch making obnoxious comments to others passing by. The party has been stained at its heart by a strategy that was, frankly, evil in its conception. Evil begets evil and the GOP is only just starting to pay the price for their actions. Jack White brings up many of the same points in the latest TIME:
Lott, Reagan and Republican Racism Here's some advice for Republicans eager to attract more African-American supporters: don't stop with Trent Lott. Blacks won't take their commitment to expanding the party seriously until they admit that the GOP's wrongheadedness about race goes way beyond Lott and infects their entire party. The sad truth is that many Republican leaders remain in a massive state of denial about the party's four-decade-long addiction to race-baiting. They won't make any headway with blacks by bashing Lott if they persist in giving Ronald Reagan a pass for his racial policies.
Jack, while writing a good column, makes the common mistake of presenting the GOP's dirty little secret as one that only hurts them with black voters. It also hurts them with whites, the majority of whom do not want to be associated with racists (this is why, I think, so many conservative bloggers jumped so vociferously on Lott). If the Republican party becomes permanently stained with the reputation of providing aid-and-comfort to the white-sheet set then they will lose the middle-class, both black and white. The Southern Strategy works only so long as no one but the bigots and cockroaches know about it. When everyone else finds out they rightly recoil in horror.
Republican leaders and their apologists tend to go into a frenzy of denial when members of the liberal media cabal bring up these inconvenient facts. It's that lack of candor, of course, that presents the biggest obstacle to George W. Bush's commendable and long overdue campaign to persuade more African-Americans to defect from the Democrats to the Republicans. It's doomed to fail until the GOP fesses up its past addiction to race-baiting, and makes a sincere attempt to kick the habit.
The problem for the Republicans, of course, is that many of them know that doing a serious house-cleaning on this issue would seriously jeopardize their electoral advantage. They are caught between a rock and hard place: either give up Dixie or give up Soccer Mom. Either way could put them in the minority for some time to come. We won't live in a truly egalitarian society until the percentage of black Republicans matches the percentage of black Democrats. The fact that one racial group finds a natural home within one party of the other is proof enough for me that we still live in a country with a lot of dark skeletons rattling around. Time to get out the brooms.

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