Karen Ocamb

Watch: The (Racist) Republican Southern Strategy

Filed By Karen Ocamb | August 30, 2012 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Harvey Gantt, Jesse Helms, Mitt Romney, Pete Wilson, Republican electoral racism

Yup, I'm a racistLiberal opinion writer Harold Meyerson wrote a piece in the Washington Post Monday that addresses what a lot of uncomfortable political pundits have been hinting at - the Republican Party seems to be encouraging racism to get out the white vote:

The Republican ticket may hail from Massachusetts and Wisconsin, but Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan head the most Southernized major U.S. political party since Jefferson Davis's day. In its hostility toward minorities, exploitation of racism, antipathy toward government and suspicion of science, today's Republican Party represents the worst traditions of the South's dankest backwaters.

No other party in U.S. history has done such a 180. Founded as the party of the anti-slavery North and committed to deep governmental involvement in spurring the economy (land-grant colleges, the Homestead Act, the transcontinental railway), today's GOP is the negation of Abraham Lincoln's Republicans. It is almost entirely white - 92 percent, compared with just 58 percent of Democrats. It is disproportionately Southern - 49 percent of Republicans live in the South vs. 39 percent of Democrats.

The beliefs of the white South dominate Republican thinking. As the white share of the U.S. population shrinks and the Latino share rises, Republicans have passed draconian anti-immigrant laws and opposed legislation enabling immigrants brought here as children to gain legal status.

They also exploit racist resentments in a way not seen since the Willie Horton spot of 1988. Consider the Romney campaign's ads falsely attacking President Obama for gutting welfare reform. "Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job," proclaims one such commercial. "They just send you a welfare check." Obama's plan, as several media fact-checking monitors have noted, does nothing of the sort.

The spot clearly seeks to resurrect the kind of resentment of African Americans that the GOP exploited back in the days when welfare was a major program. The Romney campaign has evidently concluded, since virtually its entire pool of potential voters is white, that it must rouse the sometime voters among them with such expedients -- which explains why it is running more of these ads than any others.

And apparently, that arousal had an impact. TheGrio reports:

Current TV host David Shuster tweeted late Tuesday night: "GOP attendee ejected for throwing nuts at African American camera woman + saying 'This is how we feed animals.'"

CNN issued the following statement, after a CNN employee initially declined to comment on the incident at their booth at the RNC, referring theGrio to a public relations representative:

"CNN can confirm there was an incident directed at our employee inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum earlier this afternoon. CNN worked with convention officials to address this matter and will have no further comment."

It was not clear whether the person who was reportedly removed was a delegate, alternate, or other convention attendee.

"Two attendees tonight exhibited deplorable behavior," convention spokesman Kyle Downey told The Hill. "Their conduct was inexcusable and unacceptable. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated."

In the 1968, Richard Nixon and the Republican Party employed what became known as "the Southern Strategy" exploiting fear and racism among Southern white voters to win the presidential election. Nixon political strategist Kevin Phillips described the strategy this way in a 1970 New York Times story "Nixon's Southern strategy: 'It's All in the Charts'":

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.

Nixon's 1968 victory set the Republicans on a presidential winning spree - interrupted only for four years (1976-1980) by Georgia Governor and peanut farmer Jimmy Carter. In 1988, a number of Americans - especially LGBT people who suffered dearly under Reagan/Bush with the administration's abject refusal to deal with AIDS early on - considered throwing out the more mild-mannered VP George HW Bush in favor of two-term Democratic Massachusetts Gov. Mike Dukakis.

But in his first term as governor, Dukakis had supported a prison furlough program, including furloughs for first-degree murderers - that wound up including convicted murderer William "Willie" Horton, who subsequently committed a rape and assault. After Bush talked about Horton in a June 1988 speech, the National Security Political Action Committee - which was linked to the Bush campaign - produced two campaign ads featuring Horton and "the revolving door." This is from the award-winning documentary film Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story that discusses the impact of the racially-explosive ads:

But the tactic worked. In 1990, unapologetic North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms released the infamous "Hands" ad to defeat his popular African American Democratic opponent Harvey Gantt:

You needed that job, and you were the best qualified, but they had to give it to a minority, because of a racial quota. Is that really fair? Harvey Gantt says it is. Gantt supports Ted Kennedy's racial quota law that makes the color of your skin more important than your qualifications. Your vote on this issue next Tuesday. For racial quotas, Harvey Gantt. Against racial quotas, Jesse Helms.

In 1994, California Gov. Pete Wilson released an ad supporting Prop 187 that made undocumented workers cross the US-Mexico border look like scattering cockroaches:

So it seems the Romney campaign ad - flagrantly lying that African American President Obama "gutted" the welfare reform law and proposing that conservative Republican "Mitt Romney will restore the bipartisan reforms to welfare and move our country in the right direction (as if Republicans would protect welfare!) - is just another in a long line of racial fear tactics aimed at Southern and Southern-ized white voters:

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