Friday, August 24, 2007

Immigration Promisses to Become the New Keystone of the Republican "Southern Strategy"

In 2006, speaking to a gathering of N.A.A.C.P. convention goers at the time of his resignation, the now former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Kenneth Mehlman, offered his party's mea culpa for using race as a wedge issue in national elections. In a time when the country was thought to be finally beyond overt racism, the GOP's nefarious use of covert racism helped to secure former George Wallace conservative Democrats and their base to the ranks of a new Republican "Moral Majority" under Ronald Reagan. It was all done through racist innuendo, subterfuge and "dirty tricks" and implemented by so-called stellar voices of morality, such as that of the infamously racist televangelist, Jerry Falwell, who organized the Moral Majority in the South. Hypocrisy and self-righteousness was never lacking in the resurgence of a formerly Nixon-plagued Conservative Movement.

The strategy was so successful, as implemented by Grover Norquest, that Karl Rove, his second generation protege, continued his "dirty tricks" campaign tactics through the next several nation elections cycles and on into the years of George W. Bush who, claiming to be be "born again," according to stretegic formula, allowed all sorts of unethical shenanigans in both his campaigns and subsequent administration, while abusing the concept of "plausible deniability" to even greater depths of opprobrium.

The election strategy, known disingenuously among Republicans as "The Southern Strategy," relied upon not-so-subtle racial overtones in demanding an end to the "Welfare State" by suggesting that unwed and promiscuous "Welfare Queens" were the beneficiaries of government social programs since the days of the New Deal. It played upon racial stereotypes with a Machiavellian ardor that consciously denied the statistical fact that the Welfare system was overwhelming peopled with single white female heads of household. It is still working today.

Promoting further discrimination in its effects, the strategy sacrificed women, counting on the "family tradition" that they would remain disunited as a political force. To insure that the gamble remained the reality, female activists such as Phillis Schlafly were mobilized to join conservative televangelists to carry the message of "traditional family values," which insisted that women remain subservient in what is now openly recognized looking back over the shoulder of history as an oppressive institutional system, made dysfunctional in the wake of the passing of the herding and agriculture-dominated societies of Old Testament times and of the pre-Industrial Age South that demanded sex-roll assignments and a division of labor between the sexes now justifiably assessed as dysfunctional and draconian when forced for the sake of blind tradition upon people of a post-industrial service economy. The obvious hypocrisy of Schlafly's activism against the Equal Rights Amendment when she should have been "home in the kitchen" by self-definition was conveniently overlooked.

Conservative Southern and Midwestern whites, suggested the Republican Southern Strategy, were the true heroes of an American work ethic that celebrated "self-reliance" and independence from a federal system that was imposing "multiculturalism" upon them. Ironical in its historical context, Republicans were accusing a pernicious, anti-American "bleeding heart liberalism" of working to deny "states rights" and "local control." Framed in the 19th Century as arguments against Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, these were the foundation stones Southern conservatism, a agriculturally based conservatism that sought to defend the Confederacy against Lincoln's attacks against the hollowed institutions and traditions of Dixie [read: "against slavery" and against the concept of "separate but equal"].

Mehlman's apology meant nothing. It came just prior to a party attempt to recruit black voters to the party rank and file. Less than two weeks after his resignation and meaningless party mia culpa, a Republican Congress launched a media blitz against "illegal immigrants" and the problems they purportedly posed to the "homeland security."

Indeed, Immigration represents the Republican's return to racist based divisive politics that pander to a new paranoia, this time reframed as the "Southwest Strategy" by its opponents -- all those who can see clearly that the king is wearing no clothes.

August 24, 2007
Seeking Willie Horton
So now Mitt Romney is trying to Willie Hortonize Rudy Giuliani. And thereby hangs a tale — the tale, in fact, of American politics past and future, and the ultimate reason Karl Rove’s vision of a permanent Republican majority was a foolish fantasy.

Willie Horton, for those who don’t remember the 1988 election, was a convict from Massachusetts who committed armed robbery and rape after being released from prison on a weekend furlough program. He was made famous by an attack ad, featuring a menacing mugshot, that played into racial fears. Many believe that the ad played an important role in George H.W. Bush’s victory over Michael Dukakis.

Now some Republicans are trying to make similar use of the recent murder of three college students in Newark, a crime in which two of the suspects are Hispanic illegal immigrants. Tom Tancredo flew into Newark to accuse the city’s leaders of inviting the crime by failing to enforce immigration laws, while Newt Gingrich declared that the “war here at home” against illegal immigrants is “even more deadly than the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

And Mr. Romney, who pretends to be whatever he thinks the G.O.P. base wants him to be, is running a radio ad denouncing New York as a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants, an implicit attack on Mr. Giuliani.

Strangely, nobody seems to be trying to make a national political issue out of other horrifying crimes, like the Connecticut home invasion in which two paroled convicts, both white, are accused of killing a mother and her two daughters. Oh, and by the way: over all, Hispanic immigrants appear to commit relatively few crimes — in fact, their incarceration rate is actually lower than that of native-born non-Hispanic whites.

A Huffington Post article this morning provides more documentation of accusations of racial exploitation against Giuliani's new media team.

Mr. Krugman continues by expounding upon the Republican Souther Strategy, a strategy that was used vis-a-vis the power of symbolic speech by George W. Bush when his campaign strategist, Karl Rove, had him speak to an overflow audience at Bob Jones University in South Carolina. At the same time, Rove was spreading the rumors that Bush's primary opponent, John McCain, had fathered a black baby and kept it secret from the American people. The strategy worked and the campaign swung in the direction of Bush. Bush kept to a tactic of denying knowledge of the dirty tricks played by his campaign staff while standing on the righteousness of his status as a "reborn Christian." Many in-the-know were rightly nauseated. McCain has never recovered. Although, everyone now acknowledges the lie [except George Bush], McCain's time has passed.

To appreciate what’s going on here you need to understand the difference between the goals of the modern Republican Party and the strategy it uses to win elections.

The people who run the G.O.P. are concerned, above all, with making America safe for the rich. Their ultimate goal, as Grover Norquist once put it, is to get America back to the way it was “up until Teddy Roosevelt, when the socialists took over,” getting rid of “the income tax, the death tax, regulation, all that.”

But right-wing economic ideology has never been a vote-winner. Instead, the party’s electoral strategy has depended largely on exploiting racial fear and animosity. Ronald Reagan didn’t become governor of California by preaching the wonders of free enterprise; he did it by attacking the state’s fair housing law, denouncing welfare cheats and associating liberals with urban riots.

Reagan didn’t begin his 1980 campaign with a speech on supply-side economics, he began it — at the urging of a young Trent Lott — with a speech supporting states’ rights delivered just outside Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964.
In the 2008 race, we can expect the nefarious exploitation of the underlying bigotry in West Texas -- the "swiftboating" of migrants. Who can deny that we not only continue to struggle with some level of ethnic hatred; but that also, we are struggling with an ethnocentric backlash by Latinos who remember the days of overt discrimination by whites who, with an iron fist, dominated the social institutions of West Texas during the 20th Century, keeping Latinos "in their place."

But Republicans have a problem: demographic changes are making their race-based electoral strategy decreasingly effective. Quite simply, America is becoming less white, mainly because of immigration. Hispanic and Asian voters were only 4 percent of the electorate in 1980, but they were 11 percent of voters in 2004 — and that number will keep rising for the foreseeable future.

Those numbers are the reason Karl Rove was so eager to reach out to Hispanic voters. But the whites the G.O.P. has counted on to vote their color, not their economic interests, are having none of it. From their point of view, it’s us versus them — and everyone who looks different is one of them.

So now we have the spectacle of Republicans competing over who can be most convincingly anti-Hispanic. I know, officially they’re not hostile to Hispanics in general, only to illegal immigrants, but that’s a distinction neither the G.O.P. base nor Hispanic voters takes seriously.

Today’s G.O.P., in short, is trapped by its history of cynicism. For decades it has exploited racial animosity to win over white voters — and now, when Republican politicians need to reach out to an increasingly diverse country, the base won’t let them. --Paul Krugman, Columnist for The New York Times; 8/24/07

The timely Krugman editorial, one of significant relevance to our social and political lives in West Texas can be read in the original at the New York Times site. Isn't it time we whites in West Texas get a clue and realize that the Republican Party does not serve the economic and social interests of a region filled with working class peoples. Ethnicity is no longer the keystone. It is important; but it no longer represents the social phenomenon that has been exploiting the people of this country making the "rich become richer and poor become poorer," dividing the "halves from the have-nots" -- classism perpetrated by an elitist system of corporatist cronies who use the ethnocentrism of a dominant culture to manipulate the people and hold onto power, all the while having abandoned, ironically, the most noble of "traditional American values" -- that of noblesse oblige.

I invite your comments.


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