Monday, January 2, 2012

How Race Shaped American Party Politics

Southern Strategy Propaganda
Quite frequently when I engage my conservative friends in political banter, I am asked - rhetorically of course because they are always ready to give a lecture before hearing the answer - why do blacks in overwhelming numbers support the Democratic party?

After their lecture and my explanation, I flip the question and ask: why do non-wealthy whites continue to vote for the GOP and against their economic interests?

I agree, the GOP gives lip service to middle-class bedrock issues. But as one Democratic congressman retorted: When push to shove they will move heaven and earth to pass tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires and large corporations while raising taxes on 160 million middle class Americans.  That’s a position that damages the American people.

In fact, GOP front-runner Mitt Romney has tellingly declared that corporations are people.

So what spell has the GOP cast on the average white American voter? In an excellent article/essay posted on The Root , Paul Delaney poignantly explains how race has defined and shaped our two party system.

He writes:

It's a given that the GOP attracts more whites and the Democrats attract more blacks, but it wasn't always so.

President Lyndon B. Johnson was on target when he said in 1965 that with the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the Democrats had lost Southern white voters for a generation. He was off a bit and too optimistic. The loss has lasted longer than a generation, and the reason for it goes deep into our nation's history.

Since the 1860s, many whites in the Southern states have harbored a special, deep dislike for any of their brethren, anywhere on the continent, who took up the cause of former slaves. Think of the reactions to Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, Ulysses S. Grant, Viola Liuzzo, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

The civil rights movement jump-started a change in American politics that led to today's alignment of blacks voting heavily for Democrats and many whites supporting Republicans. It used to be the reverse -- after all, the GOP was the party of Lincoln, who signed the proclamation that freed African Americans from slavery. It was also the party of the black politicians of the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.

What happened? The switch in party loyalties, which happened in two stages, was based purely on racism.

At a conference I covered in Louisville, Ky., on school integration in 1976, a Southern white attorney who was an unwavering supporter of desegregation stunned the audience by declaring flatly that the problem they were having integrating the schools was simply, "White folks don't like niggers."  read entire story

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