Whenever some pundit mentions the obvious racism underlying American politics, you hear reproachful cries about “playing the race card.” It’s as if there’s some gentleman’s agreement not to mention the ugly truth, to pretend the nation has evolved beyond such barbarism. After all, didn’t Americans elect – and re-elect – the country’s first black president?
And then you see a video on TV of a couple of cops in Jasper, Texas beating the bejezus out of a defenseless black woman or that Neighborhood Watch guy appearing in a Florida court to claim he shot an unarmed black teenager to death “in self defense.”
You might argue that these are isolated occurrences, that no society can be perfect all the time, that racist incidents in America are mere aberrations.
But if that were the case, explain the Republican Party’s deliberate – and grotesquely successful – strategy of courting the “white vote.”
Tell me what to make of this matter-of-fact statement in the National Journal by a writer named Alex Roarty:
The GOP’s midterm strategy will rely heavily on whites, especially those without a college education, and particularly in rural states where its presidential candidates win easily.
You think perhaps that this writer is expressing a minority opinion, that Republican leaders would never stoop to such blatant racism?
But what are we to make, then, of the party’s “Southern Strategy”?
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about this long-standing Republican policy:
In American politics, the Southern strategy is the Republican Party’s strategy of gaining political support or winning elections in the Southern section of the country by appealing to racism against African Americans.
The Wikipedia entry goes on to explain that:
The strategy … first adopted under future Republican President Richard Nixon and Republican Senator Barry Goldwater in the late 1960s… was successful in many regards. It contributed to the electoral realignment of Southern states to the Republican Party, but at the expense of losing more than 90 percent of black voters to the Democratic Party.
I know, I know, Republican leaders have been uttering declarations of a drastic new approach that is supposed to re-energize their party. No longer will they appeal just to white folks; now they will seek the support of minority voters – especially Hispanics, who are becoming an ever-more influential segment of the electorate.
And then you read that the Republican House of Representatives voted to cancel President Obama’s order to stay the deportation of children of illegal immigrants brought to America by their parents while they were too young to do anything about it. Of course the vote is just symbolic; it has no chance of passing the Democrat-dominated Senate. But it shows what the Republicans – the “new” Republican Party – stand for, doesn’t it?
As the National Journal analysis observes:
The party has pursued an agenda largely aimed at its base. The GOP’s primary messages to date have been to repeal President Obama’s health care law, assail the president for the scandals that have gripped the White House, and oppose any gun-control expansion—issues that rouse the conservative base but fail to attract most minority voters.
Roarty concludes that this strategy could very well win the Senate for Republicans next year, even though it spells defeat in later elections (as the Hispanic minority grows stronger).
Does this prospect fill you with dread? It sure makes me cower in despair. Can you imagine the havoc the Republicans will weak if they get control of both houses of Congress? Pray that does not happen. Pray hard.