Monday, September 13, 2010
Gerard Alexander of the University of Virginia cogently argues that liberals are wrong to assume that American conservativism is racist, or politically dependent on racism. He walks through the usual culprits -- Barry Goldwater's opposition to parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Nixon's "southern strategy," the Willie Horton ads, and so forth -- and reasonably well disposes of all of them. I would add that liberals themselves often argue that nobody is free of racism, and racists -- but of the condescending or anti-Semitic variety -- often travel in lefty circles.
In any case, I think Alexander misses at least one thread in the intellectual history of the controversy. In coastal chattering class circles, American liberals often identify with the European left, and therefore tend to analogize American conservatives to the European right. The problem is that the European right has a more obviously racist history, in general, than modern American conservatives, so the analogy, however unfair, sustains the myth that Alexander discredits in his column.
Release the hounds.
UPDATE: Because we are fair and balanced and, besides, you have to know your weak spots, here's a pointed lefty response.
Can't we all just agree that the Moslems are the biggest slavers of all and leave it at that?
It will be a big relief when America finally does transcend racial politics, because we won't have to listen to the "who is the bigger racist" arguments anymore.
Let's see, what do opposition to the Civil Rights act of '64 and Willie Horton have in common? If you answered Al Gore Sr. and Jr. you win! It was Jr's team who dug up Willie in opposition to Dukakis in the '88 primaries.
Two generations of great conservative republican icons right there with the Gores.. oh bother, nevermind :/
During my childhood in liberal NE, I saw that the South had no monopoly on racism. These days the race card is shorthand for “Because you disagree with me, you are a racist/bigot.” IMHO, white libs play the race card more than blacks these days.
Here is an excerpt from The Myth of the Racist Republicans. An excerpt follows. It also discusses Nixon and the Southern Strategy. Because of the quirky way in which the TH filter operates,
The myth that links the GOP with racism leads us to expect that the GOP should have advanced first and most strongly where and when the politics of white solidarity were most intense. The GOP should have entrenched itself first among Deep South whites and only later in the Periphery. The GOP should have appealed at least as much, if not more, therefore, to the less educated, working-class whites who were not its natural voters elsewhere in the country but who were George Wallace's base. The GOP should have received more support from native white Southerners raised on the region's traditional racism than from white immigrants to the region from the Midwest and elsewhere. And as the Southern electorate aged over the ensuing decades, older voters should have identified as Republicans at higher rates than younger ones raised in a less racist era.
Each prediction is wrong. The evidence suggests that the GOP advanced in the South because it attracted much the same upwardly mobile (and non-union) economic and religious conservatives that it did elsewhere in the country……
In other words, states representing over half the South's electoral votes at the time have been consistently in play from 1952 on—since before Brown v. Board of Education, before Goldwater, before busing, and when the Republicans were the mainstay of civil rights bills. It was this which dramatically changed the GOP's presidential prospects. The GOP's breakthrough came in the least racially polarized part of the South. And its strongest supporters most years were "New South" urban and suburban middle- and upper-income voters. In 1964, as we've seen, Goldwater did the opposite: winning in the Deep South but losing the Peripheral South. But the pre-Goldwater pattern re-emerged soon afterward. When given the option in 1968, Deep South whites strongly preferred Wallace, and Nixon became president by winning most of the Peripheral South instead. From 1972 on, GOP presidential candidates won white voters at roughly even rates in the two sub-regions, sometimes slightly more in the Deep South, sometimes not. But by then, the Deep South had only about one-third of the South's total electoral votes; so it has been the Periphery, throughout, that provided the bulk of the GOP's Southern presidential support.
Shortened to try to get through TH’s quicky filter, which on a preview, doesn’t say there are too many words, but after posting, says there are too many words to post.
The Myth of the Racist Republicans is well worth perusing.
I quoted nothing to try to get through TH’s quicky filter, which on a preview, doesn’t say there are too many words, but after posting, says there are too many words to post.
Great article. My father grew up in the deep south and left the Democratic Party in part because of their support for segregation. As Larry Elder mentioned in his book, all of the racist white icons of the civil rights movements glory days were Democrats.
I definitely agree about the distinction between the American and European right. I will modestly (or not so modestly) point out that I referenced that in a recent thread on "conservative books" when some people started claiming that certain books, especially pro-free-market-type books, were not really "conservative".
What's the point? The Left stands to get completely slaughtered in a month or so, and they need to come back to the old prejudices and fantasies that have held them for so long. We have a half-black president, who loaded up an administration with academics, people of color, and incompetents. He squandered his super-majority, ran up the debt by a couple trillion, and has failed. That's the bottom line. No 'racist' on the Right did that. We will move beyond color when a majority of people, including people of color, start judging themselves on the content of their character.
Did not read comments yet.
But even if for arguments sake you claim some Republicans candidates exploited racism to win votes, I think it defies argument that Democrats are far worse culprits collectively and individually for doing exactly that, exploiting racism and specious racial concerns to win votes. And, as always, I would assert that Ronald Reagan and Rudy Guiliani did more to improve the collective quality and quantity lives of African-Americans in the USA and NYC than any Democrat. Murder rates dropped like a rock, avoiding drugs and getting an education became ever more easy for those eager to escape their horrible neighborhoods, and jobs were everywhere.
Oh - what about portraying those opposed to illegal immigration as racists? That's far worse on the part of Democrats.
In any case, that's politics; winning legally - and both sides are slick about it.