For Democrats, there are tons of issues on the ballot. Climate change, free college, expanding Medicare, family leave after giving birth, Pre-K education, middle-class tax cut, child tax credit, the minimum wage, the right to unionize, and literally dozens of other less high-profile ways to expand democracy and rebuild our middle class after 40 years of assault by neoliberal Reaganomics.
For Republicans there is really only one issue: race. Or, more specifically, maintaining the dominance of white people over every other racial group in America, and the survival of political and economic white supremacy.
Forty years ago, Republicans pretended they stood for something other than white supremacy, although they knew they needed white supremacists to win electoral victories just as Democrats had before they “gave away the South” by passing and signing the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in 1964/1965.
Republicans used to talk about slow-and-steady improvement of society, of reasonable-but-not-excessive benefits for American citizens, of the need to hold the country and our democratic institutions together for future generations.
Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, for example, wrote a letter on December 8, 1954 to his rightwing brother Edgar, who had recently complained that “liberal” programs like Social Security were just “socialism” and would destroy America. Eisenhower laid it out for him:
“Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this – in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one.
“But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything – even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution.
“This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon ‘moderation’ in government.
“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.
“There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
H. L. Hunt was then the richest man in the world, a nationally famous Texas oilman, and supporter of the white supremacist John Birch Society, whose literature and the signs they provided to rallies frequently noted that “Race mixing is communism.” Hunt was such a segregationist that he financially supported the Nation of Islam’s Elijah Muhammed and white supremacist Democrat George Wallace.
And Eisenhower was right in 1954 about the ideal of “moderation“ in the GOP: “out” racists within the Republican Party were then a minority; most were Southern Democrats like Wallace. That all changed a decade later when the parties essentially switched sides on the issue of race post-1964 as Richard Nixon openly welcomed Southern white supremacists into the GOP with his “Southern Strategy.”
Republican strategist Kevin Phillips wrote in 1964 about the coming resurgence of the GOP, as a backlash against the Democratic Party’s embrace of multiracial democracy. Phillips had suggested the GOP was just adopting slaveholder Jefferson’s “small government” worldview that dominated his thinking until 1801 when he became president (and then largely reversed his thinking).
In 1970, during the Nixon presidency, James Boyd wrote a commentary on the process for The New York Times titled “Nixon’s Southern Strategy,” specifically mentioning Phillips’ theory and quoting Richard J. Barnet, then the co-director of The Institute for Policy Studies:
“But the analogy is not with Jefferson; it is with Hitler. The elements are all there — deep‐rooted social cleavage, insoluble problems, rhetoric which attempts to legitimize and encourage hate, a phony genetic and geographical underpinning, a despised minority to blame for everything. It all adds up to scapegoat politics, which is a tactic of fascism.
“The new gains of the Republican party are based upon preserving the status quo by stopping the civil rights advance. But the status quo is racist. The [Nixon] Administration tries to legitimize this…
“To say we are to stop [progress on integration] now, to pervert the moral authority of the Presidency in order to make [white] people feel more comfortable with their prejudices — and that’s what’s happening today — is to say that we accept racism. And to build a political majority based on racism is taking a long step toward fascism.”
Barnet was prescient. Today’s Republican white supremacists, much like H.L. Hunt in the 1950s, live in a totally zero-sum world: when anybody who’s not white “wins” any sort of benefit or power, they believe white people “lose” by the same proportion.
- All people get jobs: Republican white supremacists believe white people must lose jobs
- All people get voting rights: Republican white supremacists believe they will end up with politicians who no longer put white supremacy first
- All people get housing rights: Republican white supremacists believe their housing opportunities are damaged
- All people’s history gets recognition in schools: Republican white supremacists believe their white children will “feel ashamed of their white skin”
- All people immigrate to America: Republican white supremacists believe their power to maintain white supremacy is diluted
- All people get healthcare: Republican white supremacists believe that’ll just produce more non-white babies, which is why 12 GOP-controlled states still refuse to expand Medicaid even for pregnant mothers
It should not require saying, but they are all wrong and anti-American. This is a large and diverse country, and empowering everybody strengthens the entire nation, as opposed to weakening white people. Nonetheless, Republicans are already cranking it up this far ahead of the 2024 election.
Yesterday, I got an email from Donald Trump. It was pure dog-whistle to his white supremacist base, a clear continuation of Nixon’s Southern Strategy:
“Our Country is being poisoned with the millions of people that are illegally flowing through our Borders.”
“Many are criminals from the emptied prisons of other countries, most of these are very dangerous people.”
“Our Country is dying from within and nobody is doing anything to stop it.”
Trump, of course, rose to power in the GOP by taking “birtherism” national, questioning the legitimacy of America’s first Black president, starting in 2008. He opened his campaign in 2015 with a racist rant about Mexicans.
Meanwhile, white supremacist media is all over “Critical Race Theory” (CRT), an obscure course taught in law school that illuminates the legal aspects of institutional racism.
CRT has never, ever been taught in any public school in America, but that’s not stopping Republican Glenn Youngkin from lying about it in his fight against Terry McCauliffe for Virginia governor’s race.
As Judd Legum points out in his Popular Info newsletter:
Youngkin’s closing TV ad claims to contain “newly unearthed documents” which it presents as proof that McAuliffe’s administration “actively pushed” K-12 students to be taught CRT. The ad claims that this is an excerpt from “MCAULIFFE’S ACTUAL 2015 TRAINING FOR TEACHERS.” …
But the document has nothing to do with teaching CRT theory to K-12 students in Virginia schools. Rather, it is a presentation delivered as part of a two-day institute, which took place in September 2015, about disciplinary practices in Virginia schools.
The Editorial Board of The Washington Post summarized it in an editorial published last week titled, “Youngkin is Using the Critical Race Theory Bogeyman to Rile up the Trumpian Base.”
“Trumpian base” is just another way of saying white supremacists.
Texas, meanwhile, just pushed through their redistricting for the next decade. While over 90 percent of the population growth in that state that got them two new seats in the US House of Representatives was among people of color, the gerrymander radically cuts their representation in the US House as well as in the Texas House and Senate, handing those seats to white Republican politicians.
And 19 Republican-controlled states have passed over 30 laws to make it especially harder for people in cities to vote and allow state legislatures to overturn the results of elections. Cities in those states, of course, are where the majority of each states’ people of color live.
What is truly astonishing here is that the media is not routinely referring to all these facets of rightwing media and Republican “policy” as naked white supremacy.
When covering the McCauliffe/Youngkin race, reporters rarely point to Youngkin’s CRT/schools white supremacy strategy, instead asking if Biden’s sagging approval numbers are the reason white Virginians might not vote for McCauliffe.
Being a racist in the United States should be a badge of shame. Instead, its a path to political victory in about half the nation, and will get a politician willing to use it a long way toward that end in most of the rest of the country.
When Richard Barnet pointed out in 1970 that the new GOP strategy of openly appealing to white racists would eventually lead America in a fascist direction, he was both right and a prophet.
The core of Hitlerism was race and it led to over 6 million dead “non-Aryan” people; Viktor Orbán rode attacking the race and religion of Syrian refugees to power in Hungary and is celebrated by Tucker Carlson and Fox “News.”
And, sure enough, last week a person (not a parent) stood up at at Chandler, Arizona school board meeting and said:
“Every one one of these things, the deep state, the cabal, the swamp, the elite, you can’t mention it. But I will. There is one race that owns all the pharmaceutical companies, and these vaccines aren’t safe, they aren’t effective, and they aren’t free. You know that you’re paying for it through the increase in gas prices, the increase in food prices. You’re paying for this. And it’s being taken from your money and given to these pharmaceutical companies. And if you wanna bring race into this, it’s the Jews.”
After two decades of vilifying Muslims post-9/11 the GOP has now gone back to its Southern Strategy roots: blame all the problems of society on Jews, BLM, Black people and refugees more generally, and their anti-fascist “Antifa” allies. In this, they’re celebrating murderers like Rittenhouse while promoting white supremacists like Glenn Youngkin.
There is no country in the world or time in history when racism as a political strategy has ended well for a nation. If the media continues to refuse to call out Trump’s racist election strategies and base, and the Republican Party fails to purge itself of its Trump-humping racist politicians, America’s future is indeed grim.
Library of Congress
© Thom Hartmann, used with permission. Originally published on The Hartmann Report as The GOP’s Obsession with Power-At-All-Costs Will End Badly for Us All (Including Them)
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