Conservatives tend to get up in arms when the Republican party is accused of racism, but given their behavior over the past few decades — and the continuance of that behavior right up until today — can anyone really argue that the GOP isn’t the party of race-hate? Bob Herbert has a great op/ed up today about the current and past racisms on the right. From disenfranchising black voters to refusing to hold debates that cover issues related to people of color, the GOP continues to appeal to it’s white, racist base. Not that this is anything new:
This is the party of the Southern strategy — the party that ran, like panting dogs, after the votes of segregationist whites who were repelled by the very idea of giving equal treatment to blacks. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. (Willie Horton) Bush, George W. (Compassionate Conservative) Bush — they all ran with that lousy pack.
Dr. Carolyn Goodman, a woman I was privileged to call a friend, died last month at the age of 91. She was the mother of Andrew Goodman, one of the three young civil rights activists shot to death by rabid racists near Philadelphia, Miss., in 1964.
Dr. Goodman, one of the most decent people I have ever known, carried the ache of that loss with her every day of her life.
In one of the vilest moves in modern presidential politics, Ronald Reagan, the ultimate hero of this latter-day Republican Party, went out of his way to kick off his general election campaign in 1980 in that very same Philadelphia, Miss. He was not there to send the message that he stood solidly for the values of Andrew Goodman. He was there to assure the bigots that he was with them.
“I believe in states’ rights,” said Mr. Reagan. The crowd roared.
In 1981, during the first year of Mr. Reagan’s presidency, the late Lee Atwater gave an interview to a political science professor at Case Western Reserve University, explaining the evolution of the Southern strategy:
“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ ” said Atwater. “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”
“States’ rights” is one of those dog-whistle phrases that Republicans use to rally their base. For the past few decades it’s been about segregation and racism; now it’s been expanded to include things like a state’s right to deny people equal marriage rights, and a state’s right to outlaw abortion access. “Welfare” is another one — Reagan’s Welfare Queen is still the first image that comes to mind when Republicans talk about social welfare policies. The implication, obviously, is that selfish, lazy and over-sexed black women are stealing the hard-earned money of good white folks everywhere, and using it to buy Cadillacs and jewelry while they refuse to work and “breed” like animals. “Dred Scott” is another — Bush has mentioned that case in several speeches, and it goes right over the heads of most moderates. In fact, it’s a message to his anti-choice base about fetal personhood — the Dred Scott case held that Americans of African descent could not claim citizenship. It’s one of the worst cases in U.S. history, and anti-choicers exploit it to argue that fetuses are unjustly denied citizenship the way that black Americans once were.
There are dozens of other dog-whistle phrases, and you can bet the current Republican candidates are well-versed in them. It doesn’t look like these guys are even pretending to care about voters of color. But they do care about rallying their base — even if that means relying on the same old racist methods they’ve always used.