As the sky is my witness, there’s very little I love more than rhetorically batting around those pieces of human catnip known as conservative shills. And lookie here, we’ve got one called Gerard Alexander, smack-dab in the pages of Kaplan Test Prep (aka the Washington Post)!
Mr. Alexander, who is apparently deep in the good graces of fellow archconservative Fred Hiatt (you know, the guy who runs the Post’s editorial page?) as he has made a prior appearance in Kaplan Test Prep, has written a magnum opus of bullshit entitled "Conservatism does not equal racism. So why do many liberals assume it does?"
I won’t be swatting at all the ancillary and distracting branches of bullshit Alexander — who is a member of that famed sheltered workshop for conservative pundits, the American Enterprise Institute — puts out. (Though it is tempting to make a laundry list of deeply bigoted Republicans, such as Jake Knotts, a South Carolina state senator and would-be Republican nominee to replace Mark Sanford in the governor’s mansion there.) Instead, I choose to go for the main trunk from which they all grow: The Big Lie, beloved of conservative pundits nowadays, that the Southern Strategy never really existed — or if it did, was confined solely to the two presidential terms of the conveniently-dead Richard M. Nixon, who cannot now defend himself from the traducing of his memory by his fellow Republicans.
Courtesy of the NYT’s Bob Herbert, here’s Lee Atwater, the chief architect of the Reagan Revolution — and a man who before his death from cancer came to repent a small portion of his role in using racism as an electoral tool (namely, his beating up Michael Dukakis with the Willie Horton club — on how the corporate-bigot alliance known as the Southern Strategy actually works. Note that he’s saying this in 1981, and referring to the strategy in the present tense, indicating that it was still very much alive seven years after Nixon resigned in disgrace:
”You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigg–, nigg–, nigg–.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigg–’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.
”And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigg–, nigg–.”’
In other words, Corporate America, the GOP’s key patron, gets bigots to vote for cutting taxes by using the fact that social spending cuts in programs seen as helping non-whites will result — and the bigots get to hide behind the language of fiscal responsibility while doing so.
But, you protest, that was in 1981! Surely the Republicans and conservatives dropped that strategy years ago.
Guess again, bucko. The reason why so many Republicans are angry at current RNC chair Michael Steele is not because of his funny ways with money – if lack of money sense were a disqualifier for ascending to positions of power in the GOP, then Tony Sutton and Tom Emmer wouldn’t be where they are today — but because he dared to admit that contrary to popular Republican myth, the Southern Strategy’s usage wasn’t confined to Nixon’s presidency, but has been in the GOP’s playbook for the past forty-plus years.. That set Republicans and conservatives to howling like vampires hit with holy water over his ‘gaffe‘.
Moreover, the roots of conservative racism extend back well before the official inauguration of the Southern Strategy. The leading intellectual lights of the conservative and Republican movements, Westbrook Pegler and his faithful disciple William F. Buckley, spent a good chunk of the 1950s and 1960s attacking the civil rights movement — and Buckley did so from the pages of the foremost of the more respectable of the conservative publications, the National Review. This is why it was so easy for Strom Thurmond, who in 1948 tried as a racist Dixiecrat to keep mainstream Democratic president Harry Truman from a second White House term, to leap into the waiting arms of the Republicans in the 1950s — and why, as the Democratic party’s commitment to civil rights issues intensified, the flight of Southern politicians to the Republican party gained momentum, eventually turning the South into the Republican stronghold it has been for the past three decades.
This intense conservative desire to rewrite history and suppress inconvenient truths ties into the decades-long Republican War on Reality. Ever notice the increasing trend of Republicans to criticize not just the press, but colleges and respected scientific institutions and even Snopes.com, as being “liberal” and therefore untruthful? Especially when things these institutions say disprove favorite Republican lies and smears?
Yes, the same people that accuse liberals of being “moral relativists” are themselves evidentiary relativists — they make it up as they go along, changing facts to suit their needs and working to suppress any storylines that are no longer desired, in classic “We have always been at war with Eastasia” fashion. As Ron Suskind was told by a Bush White House aide in 2002, they create their own reality, and we’re supposed to live in it.
UPDATE: And right on schedule, even as Gerard Alexander does his "but we’re not racists, really" schtick in the Post, we hear the sounds of the same racist dogwhistle being blown in two publications whose target audiences are conservatives: Forbes magazine and (surprise, surprise) the National Review.
First, the National Review, from where we find this quote of disgraced former Republican House Speaker and serial adulterer/monogamist Newt Gingrich: “What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?”
This is, of course, a reference to President Obama’s father, who became a Kenyan economist and senior government official in the years after separating from his son’s mother soon after his son’s birth. Never mind that President Obama was born in Hawaii and had not even seen his father more than once after he was out of diapers; Newt wants to try and appeal to the whole bigoted "Obama’s a Kenyan" birther crowd.
But where did Newt get that idea in the first place? Why, from none other than the infamous apologist for bigotry, Dinesh D’Souza — who was given pride of place in the latest issue of Forbes to push this smear.
Remember, folks, these are the respectable Cons, not the low-rent blogger and Bircher whackos. This is what passes for high-flown discourse among them. It’s not pretty.