Don’t Let the GOP Tell You They’re The Party Of Racial Harmony
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is trying to create narrative on race, the South, and the GOP, in advance of a presidential run, that isn’t the way it was, or is. We already see how the almost-all-white Tea Party movement, the anti-Hispanic, anti-immigrant stances, and the anti-Muslim attitudes on the right are dividing us now. Steve Kornacki at Salon gives historical perspective, and challenges the Human Events puff piece on Barbour.
So Barbour has invented his own sanitized, suburb-friendly version of history — an account that paints the South’s shift to the GOP as the product of young, racially inclusive conservatives who had reasons completely separate and apart from racial politics for abandoning their forebears’ partisan allegiances. …Barbour insists that “the people who led the change of parties in the South … was my generation….Segregationists in the South, in his telling, were “old Democrats,” but “by my time, people realized that was the past, it was indefensible, it wasn’t gonna be that way anymore. So the people who really changed the South from Democrat to Republican was a different generation from those who fought integration.”
Sadly, for Barbour, and for America, this is not true. When LBJ signed civil rights legislation, Strom Thurmond led an exodus of Southern Democrats to the Republican Party. That led to Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy and Ronald Reagan’s embrace of “states’ rights,” kicking off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where there civil rights workers had been murdered.
In Barbour’s revisionist history, old segregationist Democrats from the South stood in the way of integration in the ’50s and ’60s, but then a new, enlightened generation of post-racial conservatives came of age and transformed the region into a Republican bastion for … some other reason.
In reality, the Republicans’ domination of the South today is a direct result of the party’s rejection of civil rights in ’64 (and Nixon’s Southern Strategy, which called for coded appeals and behind-the-scenes assistance to Southern bigots). The partisan disparities in Southern elections speak to an enduring racial divide: While Barack Obama won nearly 45 percent of the white vote nationally in 2008, he got just 11 percent in Mississippi and 10 percent in Alabama.Click here for reuse options!
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