Conservatives — whose week went bad when retailers stopped selling southern treason flags before turning unbearable when the Supreme Court re-shoved affordable health care down America’s throat today — are in a bit of a slump. After being smacked across the snout with a rolled-up copy of Modern Etiquette and told it was considered déclassé to wave a Confederate flag while killing black churchgoers, they are doing a little soul searching and discovering that their soul looks like a raisin that fell under the refrigerator over a year ago.
According to Matt Lewis at The Daily Beast, Republicans need to take a hard look at this whole dogwhistlin’, red-meat tossin’, hunkerin’ down in the dust with southern yahoos and talking about them thar obstreperous and uppity colored folk.
The injection of Southerners into the Republican coalition—a coalition they ultimately came to dominate—couldn’t help but change the image of the GOP. There were racial, cultural, political, and even religious implications. Republicans captured the South, yes, but the South also captured the GOP. There were no doubt many salutary benefits to this arrangement—most obviously, an electoral boon that lasted for decades. But it also guaranteed we would eventually see a day of reckoning.
Lewis then goes on to soft-peddle the “Southern Strategy,” writing “Whether or not you accept that this was an intentional strategy…”
It almost as if he is blissfully unaware of the late campaign wizard Lee Atwater bluntly describing it no uncertain terms as the way to the promised land.
Here is Atwater to explain it for the dim at heart:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*gger, n*gger, n*gger.” By 1968 you can’t say “n*gger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N*gger, n*gger.”
I can see how someone might find that unclear when their thesis is dependent upon pretending it doesn’t exist — but let’s move on.
Lewis is concerned that, having allowed their Confederate flag-waving crazy cousins into a Republican big tent that is whiter than a Wes Anderson movie, the Republicans can’t get their message heard over all of the yee-hawing, drunken political fistfights, and guns a’shootin’ into the air.
So here’s what the GOP has to figure it out: How do they continue to get the Bubba vote while shedding appeals to the cultural symbolism of the past? How do they sell their conservative ideas about free markets, strong national defense, and conservative family values to 21st-century Americans?
Here is the problem with that.
That is what Romney ran on in 2012 and the electorate was all, “Nah, we’ll pass” and Romney at least had the virtue of seeming like a decent –albeit out of touch — guy with sincerely held beliefs that were equally out of touch with anyone not still living in the 50’s.
This election go-around the party bus is top-heavy with smarmy assholes like Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Scott Walker, insincere assholes like Rand Paul and Jeb Bush, dumb assholes like Rick Perry, and executive assholes like Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina. To his credit, Marco Rubio to this point only seems like a sweaty overachiever, but the debates may push him into belching forth something equally assholish.
The problem for the GOP is both the medium and the message. And even if they can somehow tamp down the party’s inherent racism –which is a feature and not a bug — in an election that most likely won’t feature a person of the dusky hue, they’re still going to have to explain that giving more tax cuts to the rich, starting up a few new wars, stripping millions of people of healthcare benefits, while trashing women, minorities, seniors, the poor, unions, gays, and science is what America is yearning for.
Good luck with that, guys. See you on the other side.
In the meantime, they’ll have to deal with the more virulent form of racism that under-girds the party and bubbled up to the surface like raw sewage from a broken pipe after Obama was elected, hoping to return to those halcyon days when the movement expressed their bigoty with more finesse and grace.
If not, well: you go to war with the racists you have, not the racists you wish you had.