Thursday, July 21, 2005

Mea Culpa, My Foot!

Last week the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Kenneth Mehlman, told the meeting of the NAACP in Milwaukee that the "southern strategy" of the GOP was "wrong." He said that the Republicans should have but did not "reach out" to southern Blacks for their votes, and instead, he said, "some Republicans" used "racial polarization" as a wedge issue to bring southern Whites into the Republican fold.

There have been a few articles about this, but most of the press energy that would have gone into this remarkable revelation has been expended instead on confusing stories and analyses of the Rove treason. (I say treason because if a Democrat had violated his oath of office and the regulations governing classified information like Rove has admitted to, he or she would have been brought to formal justice months ago. Rove, on the other hand is still out there in his pudgy pinkness, sweat glistening from his jowls, and accusing everyone but himself for divulging the name of Valerie Plame. If he or Bush or the press had a shred of integrity they would understand that just repeating classified information, thus authenticating it, is a crime, and in this case treasonous. But that is another kettle of fish.)

The "southern strategy" of the Republicans began back in the Nixon days, in the aftermath of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, in the days of horror experienced by ten generations of slave-holding, Negro-abusing and lynching, vilifying southern white men and women as their world came tumbling down around their ears. It looked to the Orville Faubuses and George Wallaces of the day that another Reconstruction was headed their way, that the north was not satisfied with having emancipated the slaves, but now was going to stimulate intermarriage and inter-racial love. These frightened, ugly people were against the proverbial wall. Their President, Johnson, had betrayed them. Their world was crumbling around them. They were outnumbered, of course, so they were rightfully afraid for their lives. So, like the Dixiecrats walking away from Truman, these frightened racist southerners went over the the Republicans who promised them guess what? Yes, states' rights and a restoration of the principles of federalism, that is, states determining school issues, states determining hotel and eating place rules, states run by White folks, not those hateful liberals up in the North.

When Reagan opened his presidential campaign in Philadelpia, Mississippi where racism was immeasurably more important than football and NASCAR combined, he was sending a message to the whole south, to all the frightened racists in the south, that his Presidency would do all it could to save their bacon.

When Bush Sr. ran, he did not discontinue the "southern strategy" he profited from it. When he lost to Clinton, it was because Clinton momentarily poked back through that cloud of seething fear and hatred to let the folks know that Bubba weren't gonna do nothin' stupid up in Washington, or at least it would not be a jostling like they had from Johnson. Southerners got Bubba elected but strangled him with a Republican Congress in short order.

When Bush Jr. ran he played this southern strategy to the hilt. He was the cowboy candidate with "southern values." He made first Gore then Kerry look like carpetbaggers. He and Rove twisted the language around onto itself so that poor southern whites voted themselves out of jobs as the corporations that form George's base hightailed it out of the country to anywhere where labor was cheaper.

The point of all this being, of course, that the "southern strategy" worked. Republicans picked up the southern fragments of the old Roosevelt coalition that were no longer joined at the hip by hatred of Republican business interests, and capitalized on them. The modern Republican Party is, in the South, the Dixiecrat party, pure and simple.

So, does it make any sense for the Republicans to REALLY disavow their winning strategy? Well, hell no! If they were going to really disavow it, them would have made the announcement in the south at Daytona Beach or Darlington or any of the NASCAR venues, not Wisconsin which borders on Canada! They would have picked a slow news day to make sure that all the Whites and Blacks in the south got the same word.

No, this is classic southern strategy in the make up and dress of Karl Rove. Truth is not a factor, only the record. From this moment on the Republicans will be able to tell Black church leaders that they have turned over a new leaf. "Come on, y'all, Republicans are for you, brother. (High five, pounded fist, knuckle couplers.)" Whites will never hear another word of it. It is gone ... as the mainstream press have seen to it that it got only moderate play against two other huge stories ... Rovegate and London.

I expect the southern strategy to actually turn further toward the racist wedge. Republicans are organized in a highly granular way, so that precincts are political entities on the maps in Washington, not just in state capitals and party offices. They will punish and reward as befits the situation in any part of Dixie's states. Blacks whose precincts stay Democratic on the voter rolls will get Rove's very best empty hand. Parish ministers who deliver registrations to the Republicans will get Faith-based Washington largess. It's a guarantee.

Meanwhile the three or four racists whites who read the paper will think that the Republican "admission" was something to do with the anti-lynching resolution and that was probably something their senators had to vote on to help northern Republicans fight off those damned, stinking, liberal, communist, America-hating, Jesus-reviling, carpetbagging Democratic pigs.

The good news is that Republicans have now admitted that unless they keep the south, unless they weld the door shut against the Democrats, there will be trouble. They need the Black vote to do this. They can see that if a northerner or midwesterner or far westerner is nominated on the Republican ticket in 2008 there could be big trouble. With handwriting on the wall this large, the Democrats should know what to do!

James Richard Brett