The very public implosion of the Republican base into a tribe of frothing-at-the-mouth racist, homophobic militants has been so extensively documented that it has inspired former Conservative bloggers like John Cole and Andrew Sullivan to renounce and/or heavily modify their political ideologies.
Through it all, the claim from party leadership and beltway insiders has been that the Republican Party has newly fractured into two extremist sects: the Neo-Conservatives, hellbent on world domination, and the Tea Party militants, who refuse to recognize a Democratic and/or black president, and who truly believe feminists, blacks, gays, Hispanics, the poor, and the unions (the dangerous — yet strangely amorphous — “Them” Glenn Beck always whips out when a specific enemy isn’t readily available) are encircling the suburbs.
The Tea Party base has been described as a new phenomenon — a surprising turn of events that no one could have ever, ever predicted. Most recently, a spokesman for Astroturf Inc. FreedomWorks, quoted his boss, Dick Armey:
Regardless of who yelled what, the reports themselves could be problematic for the tea party movement, said Adam Brandon, a spokesman for FreedomWorks, the small government group that helped organize tea partiers congressional office visits last week.
“Tattoos last forever,” said Brandon, quoting his boss, FreedomWorks chairman and former House Republican Leader Dick Armey. “If the movement gets tattooed as at all sympathetic to those (racist and homophobic) views, I won’t want to be involved in it anymore. It’s very distracting not only to our side but also to the debate and the country.”
Brandon says this as though the GOP isn’t already inextricably linked to racist, homophobic views, and that hasn’t been the party’s official strategy for around three decades. And yet, Cole observes, it appears Dr. Frankenstein regrets creating his Monster.
But the strategy of praying on the ignorance of white people is really nothing new. A Cole commenter, JGabriel put it best when they wrote, “To anyone familiar the Southern Strategy, winger bigotry is not a tattoo – it’s a birthmark.”
This strategy is 30-years-old, and the “enemies” are the same: the left, the anti-war protesters, hippies, feminists, and blacks, with the relatively new additions of Hispanics and teh gayz.
Here is Nixon’s political strategist, Kevin Phillips, explaining the strategy to the New York Times in 1970. But really, with the antiquated term “Negro” swapped out for something less glaringly racist, this is almost identical to the Republican strategy today.
From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.
Right. Make the white ignoramuses fear The Black Man, and they’ll come running to the Republicans. Blame the blacks, or the gays, or the immigrants for their lost jobs (instead of greedy corporations that get cheaper labor overseas,) and they’ll cross party lines that much faster.
The GOP’s strategy is exactly the same, but the bigotry is worse now because the wealth disparity has widened and America has its first black president. Also, there are more cameras available, and citizen journalists are cataloguing Teabagger ignorance and racism whereas some of these comments would have probably never entered the mainstream press a decade ago.
In times of economic crisis, it’s smart politics to run on populist issues like immigration, gay marriage, and abortion. It’s not ethical, or moral, but it definitely riles up the base. And this strategy isn’t uniquely American. A similar thing just happened in the UK, which partially explains why the unapologetically racist BNP picked up a couple Parliament seats.
Tough economic times means white southerners are more afraid than ever. They’re losing their jobs, their homes, and they feel outnumbered by people who don’t look, or act, like them.
Republicans know this, and given that they’ve managed to lose majority control of every other constituent demographic (even Big Business now that Corporate Democrats sold out the unions,) they need those terrified voters.
The only thing that’s changed in the GOP’s world since 1970 is that they’ve learned to disguise the bigotry. Leaders like Sarah Palin talk about “the real America” as a way to let her scared, white, elderly base know that she won’t let those bad ole’ blacks and feminists dictate policy.
Less savvy Republicans, say Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck aren’t politicians and so they don’t have to behave as centrists. As a result, they let their true ignorant, bigot colors show on a daily basis. Their niche is the White Disenfranchised Male, and their product is fear. The problem is, their audience develops a resistance to the same hysterical accusations week after week after week…and so the Fear Peddlers, Limbaugh and Beck, have to constantly increase the dosage of hysteria.
And when something bad happens, ranging from someone shouting “nigger” at John Lewis to shooting some of their fellow citizens, the right-wingers claim they have no idea where this hate and paranoia came from.
It’s pretty pathetic and transparent. They should at least have the courage to stand by the GOP strategy once it blows up in their faces.