A RACIST PARTY WITH A RACIST STRATEGY: THE REPUBLICANS
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
When President Johnson helped pass Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s he commented that: "Well, there goes the South." He meant, of course, that now the South would become Republican as they now saw the Democrats as the party standing up for the blacks.
Following the Civil War, the South defeated what little there was of Reconstruction when in a contested presidential election the Republicans under Hayes agreed to pull out Federal troops from the South in exchange for Hayes being president. After the troops wee gone, the whites took back any remaining outstanding power that blacks had and placed blacks in a new type of slavery: this one an economic slavery through the share-cropping system.
Southerners have traditionally dominated American politics to a greater extent than their proportional representation entitled them, because, although they were largely members of the Democratic party (because the South was poor), they could quickly shift their weight to the Republican party to pass conservative legislation or to block liberal legislation. They voted virtually as a block and this ability gave them legislative power. Southern Democrats were pretty solidly racist and voted to keep the racist system in place.
Following the Civil Rights legislation, the South temporarily lost some of its legislative power as its voters and politicians switched inexorably to the Republican party. This, of course, has made the Republican party even more conservative and racist than it had ever been following the death of Reconstruction.
The South also changed its religion. As the former Democratic South changed it allegiances in politics, so did it also start to change its allegiances in religion. In the days of the anti-slavery movement, when the Anglican ministers in the South would not support racism and pro-slavery sentiment, the South changed its religions to the more personal, evangelical religions whose ministers did support racism and slavery. An insistence on maintaining a racist structure leads also to an insistence on racists values and hence racist religions. Similarly, today's Southerners are abandoning the more staid evangelical religions for the highly personalized religions characterized by the phrase "born-again Christians." Whereas, many a Methodist or Baptist preacher would not now condone racism, the Southerners don't have to worry about this with their new preachers of born-again religion.
With the abandonment by the Southern Democrats of the Democratic party, blacks became somewhat more influential in the Democratic party, because the party was now much smaller than it had been. As a result, the Democratic party is somewhat more liberal than it used to be.
So the division between the two parties grew. The Republican party represented the wealthy industrialists and other rich persons, the South, and a good proportion of the working class and middle-class who were concerned that blacks were getting too much privilege in this country. (I watched a lot of coverage of the 2000 elections and I heard no one discuss the obvious: the entire old Confederacy went for the Republicans, plus the more rural parts of the Midwest -- with the exception of Ohio. So Bush won the election with a combination of the two R's: ruralism and racism. The networks are both too biased and/or too afraid of losing ratings by offending the South and Midwest, apparently.)
The Democratic party, although losing the South, did retain some of its traditional base, working class, some of the middle class, and the blacks. But by and large, the Democratic party was much weakened by the overall abandonment of the party by the South.
The end result was that the two parties now grew very far apart from each other ideologically speaking. The Republicans now had a very strong racist backing which made the party take very conservative stances. The Democrats had a cadre of liberals that kept its ideas in the liberal camp.
Since the two parties were so far apart from each other, many Americans, more in the ideological middle, not solidly racist, but certainly not pro-active for Civil Rights legislation, did not trust either of the parties. So the middle areas decided to practice split government. If the Democrats had the legislature, the voters would give the executive to the Republicans. If the voters gave the legislature to the Republicans, they tended to give the presidency to the Democrats. It was and not a perfect pattern, but the general trend is still true. The voters figure that it is better to have political stalemate than to have either party do something "radical," either to the political right or the left.
The new racism of the Republican party has expressed itself in some very ugly ways. Since the voters were not giving the Republicans a clear hand and they wanted to stop any more pro-Civil Rights legislation, they decided to take a strategy that would ultimately prove very destructive of the United States as a whole.
In a sense, they decided to bribe the American public. They took the stance that the government was a bad thing; that government over-taxed the public in order to waste money on destructive progressive legislation to help the blacks and other minorities. The Republicans basically said, vote for us and we will give the money to you. We will put your money back in your pocket instead of in the pockets of bad government. This way the voters would keep more money, and the Republicans would be able to stymie any further hope for a progressive government.
In a sense, the Republicans made a pact with the devil. They sold their political soul to the hatred of the government devil, in return for dominance in American politics. The Republicans demonized government and the liberals. And no one clearly denounces the Republican Party for being virtual anarchists -- always promising tax cuts and to hell with government functioning. Actually, there is a method to the madness of the Republicans. They claim that government is bad and so taxes have to be cut, then government functioning does indeed become bad in many areas because of the lack of funding, and then the Republican use the damage (that they caused) as evidence that government is no good. It because a destructive cycle with the government getting worse and the public becoming more and more cynical.
The conservative emphasis on hatred of government is very attuned with racism. Racism encourages hatred and hatred of government, especially a pro-Civil Rights government, is very compatible with racism. The forces of Republican, Southern, and born-again Christian racism and moralism reinforces each other in a blend of very nasty, vindictive rhetoric.
Southern racists have always insisted that they were more religious than any other segment of the population. And Southern religion, largely being racist, has an exaggerated sense of moralism. Vernon Johns always used to marvel that the most "religious" part of the country was also the worst violator of Civil Rights.
This attitudinal mixture of racist moralism, so typical of the South and now so typical of the Republicans, was practiced by the Republicans in spades and to excess to paralyze the presidency of the Democratic president, William Jefferson Clinton. The Republicans were able to paralyze the Democrats by their constant misuse of legislative committees and hearings. Somehow the Republicans have been able to substitute their racist moralism for any balanced sense of decency and fair play. Somehow they have decided that anyone in political life that they don't like and who has committed adultery is deserving of being replaced in political office or paralyzed in their exercise of political office.
It has been a long time since the American political culture has experienced such vindictive and hateful rhetoric. The moralists, who are supposed to be more moral than the rest of us, feel that it is justified to describe the president of the United States as a "scumbag," a "stupid, fat bastard," an "adulterer," a "rapist," etc. We became used to "hate" radio, but now with cable we have "hate" TV. Angry white men with a Republican bent now shout their anger and racist moralisms and accusations at the top of their lungs. On cable TV, almost the entire Fox News network is a very conservative, I would even say racist, network.
A great tragedy is that the liberals have not spoken up for themselves. They have not defended Democratic values and beliefs, but rather have either remained silent, or, like Senator Joseph Liebermann, have actually spoken out against President Clinton. (Liebermann wants to compete with the Republicans for moralism -- something which cannot be accomplished.)
The atmosphere these days is somewhat reminiscent of the McCarthy days. McCarthy was going around pretending he was more moral, more loyal, to the United States and that others were "beyond the pale" and had to be stopped, or at least punished. No one spoke up against McCarthyism until McCarthy went too far and took on the United States Army.
One reason for the Democrats silence and weakness against the moral terrorism of the Republicans is that the Democrats have themselves unleashed moralism by their insistence that everyone use "politically correct" speech. Liberals can go so far to the left in some areas that they come to resemble their opponents. The puritanism in the "politically correct" movement is one with the moralism of the racists. It's hard for Democrats to speak out against destructive moralists when they have been acting much the same way -- using moralism to enforce heterodoxy on their followers and others.
Another reason for Democratic weakness is the failure of the liberals to find, maintain, and use some measure of racism and hence a determination of who are the racists. Any charge of racism is easily deflected by conservative racists by them simply saying that they have black friends and have taken pro-black steps such as appointing blacks to political office. When a conservative Republican has virtually never voted for any progress Civil Rights legislation and indeed has actively worked against the passage of any progressive legislation, he ought to be called a "racist." But apparently the liberals, both black and white, are too scared to support some measure of racism so we could get a better handle on the racism of the Republican party.
At the present there is no effective Democratic spokesperson who can defend the party against the destructive moralism of the Republicans. There is no liberal who can effectively come out and expose the Republican party for its pact with the racist-moralist devil. This has left the Democrats pretty defenseless and considerably hopeless.
Americans love to go on witch hunts. The country experienced the Salem witch trials, the McCarthy era, the crazed search for child molesters in our kindergarten systems, and now the witch hunt for moral failings of politicians, and including, people who are even just considered "role models." Witch hunts are only stopped by people standing up to the fanatic hunters and telling them they have gone too far.
Frankly, the Republicans so misused their racism moralism once they got control over the legislature, that it would be better for the Democratic party to, in an era of divided government, to try to capture the legislature and let the Republicans have the presidency. Nothing much will get done, but that is normal in divided government. At least, we would not have to go through the nonsense we had to go through when Clinton was in office. There is only one president and so he is an easy target. There are too many Democratic legislators for them all to fall to charges raised against their personal morals by the moralistic Republicans.
The Republicans have certainly won this game of "moralism." Hopefully, Democrats will learn that it is impossible to out-moralize the racists. Instead, they should abandon extreme moralism as a destructive force in American life.
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