In the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans may be returning to a game plan that has been effective at garnering the support of white voters while turning off minority voters.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted Tuesday at least ten incidents of Republicans intentionally or unintentionally race baiting during the 2010 campaign.
By way of background, Republican Barry Goldwater lost the 1964 presidential race in a landslide. At the same time, he managed to win the southern states, something that no other Republican had done since Reconstruction. It is widely believed that Goldwater did this by promising to repeal the Civil Rights Act if elected.
Although the “Southern strategy” was in place in 1964, the phrase was not popularized until Richard Nixon’s political strategist, Kevin Phillips, spoke to the New York Times in 1970:
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.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele admitted this year that the Republican Party had been using the Southern strategy for decades.
“For the last 40-plus years we had a ‘Southern Strategy’ that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South,” he told an audience at DePaul university in April.
In 2006, race baiting may have backfired when former Sen. George Allen lost his race after calling an opponent’s staffer “Macaca,” a slur used to describe the native population in Central Africa’s Belgian Congo.
Maddow set out to highlight two or three occurrences of the strategy being used in this year’s elections but instead found many more “1964 moments.”
Republican Senate candidate from West Virginia John Raese has repeatedly mangled ethnic names. He called Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor “Sarah Morgan” and “Sarah Manorgan.” He also referred to Energy Secretary Steven Chu as “Steven chow mein.”
“Either of those could have been John Raese’s macaca moment but apparently that’s not happening this year,” Maddow lamented.
Republican Senate candidate from Nevada Sharron Angle has repeatedly featured ominous images of Latinos in her advertisements this year. When confronted about the ads, Angle shot back that a group of Latino students actually looked Asian to her.
New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino emailed video of an African tribe dancing under the heading “Obama inauguration rehearsal.” He also emailed a photoshopped picture of the Obamas appearing as a pimp and prostitute.
Earlier this year, Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo asserted that President Barack Obama was elected because “we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country.”
Even now, Republican candidate for Senate in Kentucky Rand Paul opposes parts of the Civil Rights Act. Paul maintains that business owners should be able to discriminate. “Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant?” he asked Maddow in May.
“There’s also been a lot of little known Republicans having 1964 moments as well,” said Maddow. She recalled Oregon candidate Art Robinson who kept a book in his collection for home schooling that declared “the intelligence of an average negro is about equal to that of a European child of ten years old.”
Then there’s Jim Russell of New York who is a white supremacist. “The population should be homogeneous,” he wrote. “What is still more important is unity of religious background, and reasons of race and culture combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable.”
Maddow said that when she pitched the idea of doing a story on current examples of the southern strategy she had no idea they would find so many. “We ended up shooting into the double digits of examples and ultimately just stopped taking down new ones in the interest of time,” she said. “There’s a ton of this stuff.”
Republicans have learned “strategically mathematically sometimes it makes sense to turn every minority voter against you and have that be the cost you pay to lock up all the white votes,” explained Maddow.
Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Perry (formerly Melissa Harris-Lacewell) told Maddow that the strategy is no longer confined to the South. “The spread of this kind of racial discourse in this America where the racial discourse is also anti-islamic, anti-woman on reproductive choice, it’s so big that it can’t be contained in one regional story,” said Harris-Perry.
This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Oct. 19, 2010.