Monday, January 9, 2012

Is It Time For The GOP To Retire "The Southern Strategy"?!?

Growing up in the (not so deep) South with two politically astute parents, I know The Southern Strategy when I see it. Sure, it's typically associated with Presidential and state-level politics, but it's often best observed at the micro level. Small town mayors, town councilmen, sheriffs, and even some judges in my home state would routinely appeal to white voters' worst fears (some blatant, some subliminal) about black folks, all in an effort to win office. And it usually worked.

The Southern Strategy is still used today, mostly because, well, it still works. There are still people naive enough to be manipulated into voting for you if you:
1) Convince them that inherently violent black boys will gang rape your daughter if you allow their children to attend your neighborhood school. (DANGER!)

2) Convince them that shiftless, lazy black people will use your hardearned taxes to buy crack, Magnums, 45-inch plasma TV's, and T-Bone steaks. (ENTITLEMENTS!)

3) Convince them that black people, because of some mythical force known as reverse racism, have an unfair leg up in the work force and college admissions. (UNEARNED ADVANTAGE!)

4) Convince them that black people want to fundamentally change everything you love about this country. The country your forefathers worked so tirelessly to create. (CULTURE WAR!)
There are a million and one variations of these four basic themes, but if you play them right, you can probably guarantee yourself votes. The 2008 election saw all of them lobbed at the country's first serious African American Presidential contender. He was painted as a guy who "palled around with terrorists" (DANGER!), went to Ivy League schools without really having good grades (UNEARNED ADVANTAGE!), and was raised by a nomadic mother who seldom held down a steady day job (ENTITLEMENTS!), and would use his office to exact revenge on Whitey (CULTURE WAR!).

Of course, Barack Obama went on to win the Presidency, but the GOP has continued to play the Southern Strategy against him, which resulted in some serious gains for them in 2010. Who can forget the ObamaCare debate (ENTITLEMENTS!), the insane assertion that he somehow was gonna indoctrinate children by merely delivering a videotaped address during school hours (CULTURE WAR!), that he seemed to show waaay too much favoritism to Muslims (DANGER!), and that he didn't bother prosecuting the very same Black Panthers that the Bush Administration also decided hadn't really suppressed any votes on election day (UNEARNED ADVANTAGE!). I could add more to this list of course, but you get the basic premise here.

With the 2012 GOP Primaries now in full swing, with the notable exception of Romney, pretty much every GOP contender has run some variation of the Southern Strategy to appeal to impressionable white voters yet again. Michelle Bachmann question Obama's "socialist" agenda (CULTURE WAR!). Rick Perry tells you Obama's out to end Christmas (DANGER!). Ron Paul basically thinks any government benefit is unfair (ENTITLEMENTS!). Even Herman Cain dibbled and dabbled in a bit of Muslim-bashing, before realizing the idiocy of this and apologizing (DANGER!). And now, the only two guys who can allegedly give Romney a run for his money are going all in to appeal to white fears.

Last week, Rick Santorum got caught between words when trying to explain that he didn't want to use the money of hardworking white Iowans to reward lazy inner city Negroes.

Whether he said the word "black" or not is immaterial. There isn't really any other word you can plug in there that changes the basic sentiment. We totally get what he was trying to say, whether he said it or not. Even if you gave him a pass on this, there's still his ignorant remarks about black people and abortion to chew on.

Not to be outdone, a few days later, Newt Gingrich delivers this beauty...

Come on, son, there's no way to spin this one. Not when you've made a habit of referring to Obama as The Food Stamp President©. So just shut up already.

I'm not going to label Gingrich or Santorum as racist. I don't know that they hate black people, and besides, you could never prove it anyway. If they were actually caught on tape saying "Damn, I hate N*ggers!", they'd both just spin it as a soundbyte taken out of context, and they'd have more than enough people (including some misguided black folks) giving them a pass.

In fact, I think we should just retire the word "racist".[1]

Before anyone questions why two guys who are within earshot of the GOP nomination would bother playing such a card, simply look at history. The Southern Strategy will keep being deployed until it no longer works, and I'm thinking 2012 is prolly not the year it dies. Still, it begs the question, even if it does actually work, isn't it eventually going to reach the point of diminishing returns?

Few people (except for Fox Nation commenters) actually revel in having a disdain for black people. Those who still do so nowadays, do it in the cloak of internet anonymity. Seriously, when's the last time you even heard of a KKK rally? So with that said, I think it's fair to say that the further we get from the the 1960's, the less comfortable people are going to be with being labeled a racist. It's really a tag nobody wants to wear, you know, sorta like a Washington Wizards fan.

So while these sorts of racist dog whistles do indeed appeal to a certain segment of the population, the amateur social scientist in me says that number is dwindling, and likely aging. At some point, these people will be such a small percentage of the populace, that there won't be any real gain in appealing to them. Heck, we might just be there right now.

In the meantime the millions of well meaning, decent white folks who don't want to even be associated with such racist tactics for fear of being somewhat guilty by association is probably growing. And while it's clear the GOP has no interest whatsoever in luring black voters (you wouldn't keep insulting us if you did), as the country becomes browner, they're probably going to alienate generations of Hispanics with their similar stances on undocumented workers and immigration.

Sometime in the future (perhaps in my lifetime, perhaps not), the country's voting populace will be majority minority. In addition to alienating well meaning whites, you're pretty much pissing on those votes as well. Does anyone on the GOP side ever sit down and seriously think about the longterm viability of the party, given these dynamics, or do they simply care about the next election? I'm just sayin'.

Of course, that date is far, far in the future. Today, and tomorrow, we can probably expect a whole lot more of The Southern Strategy.[2]

Because hey, it if ain't broke...

Question: Why doesn't GOP party leadership denounce these sorts of tactics? Do they simply not care about the longterm viability of a party that insults huge swaths of the voting populace, or are they only concerned about the next election cycle?

[1] Put a pin in that one. It's a concept I want to re-examine sometime in the future.

[2] I know some of you are saying "well hey, it's not like the Democrats" are innocent bystanders here either. And you'd be correct. But that's a different blog post for a different day.

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