I present, as a test case, the issue of whether the Republican Party should be identified as a “neo-racist” entity...I want to test the theory that there is one truth in political discourse that the media has almost entirely failed to recognize or fears to utter, one at the heart of presidential campaign reporting: The Republican Party is an institutionally, structurally racist entity. It’s the veritable elephant in the room of campaign coverage.
No, I’m not saying all Republicans are racist. I’m saying that as a party, ever since Goldwater and Nixon concocted the benighted, openly racist “Southern Strategy” in the ’60s, the Republican Party has profited from overt and covert racism.Once more, and as we are fond of saying, racism is not an opinion.While Ron Rosenbaum is a bit off in his suggestion that "the media" has not been discussing Mitt Romney's racial appeals to aggrieved whites in order to defeat the country's first black president (see my pieces here, here, here, and here). He is also to be commended for finally broaching, on a national website of no small amount of prominence, the fact of Mitt Romney's support of his religion's white supremacist doctrines, and the latter's silence on the issue through a good portion of his adult life.
Moving forward, Ron Rosenbaum's essay "Is the Republican Party Racist?" does some great work synthesizing some new research by Thomas Schaller, Nicholas Valentino, and David Sears that explores white racial resentment and its impact on vote choice and issue positions. In this case, empiricism and rigorous social science inquiry offer no comfort for racism deniers (and those others) who want to excuse-make (or ignore) how racism is a driving element for Southern Republican voters:
Eventually the party became somewhat less overt in its public statements but not in its appeal at the voting booth.
Which means in practice that the GOP starts out every presidential election with (depending on census changes in electoral vote numbers) some 100 electoral votes, more than a third of the way to the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.
Is it an accident that these 100 votes come from the core states of the Old Confederacy—Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina?
Looked at another way, as things stand, there would be no presidential "race" at the moment if it weren't for those ex-confederate states—even if they split their votes. Mitt Romney would have little or no chance of winning and might as well quit the race now. Nor would the GOP have much chance of re-taking the Senate or even winning the House again. They would be dead as a political party if not for the legacy of racism. I think that's a fact. Do you think it's "he said/she said"?
That doesn’t mean that all Southern whites vote GOP only because of race. But when I checked in with the careful historian of Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Rick Perlstein, author ofbooks on the Goldwater and Nixon phenomena, he suggested that recent research has demonstrated that racial attitudes—as opposed to mere conservatism on other policy issues—determine Republican votes in the South...
At the very least these patterns make Southern voters susceptible to what some observers have called "dog whistle" appeals to racism, such as Mitt Romney's false claim in campaign ads that Obama had "gutted" welfare reform work requirements, reminding many of Reagan-era attacks on "welfare queens" in Cadillacs.In all, racism pays a psychic wage to those who are White. It can also be financially enriching to those people of color, such as black conservatives, who are overly identified with White authority.
Whiteness is an identity based upon exclusion, and where support of the Common Good across the color line is washed away by racial chauvinism. The story is also a complicated one: white racial animus also does the work--at least in theory--of securing more resources and power for the in-group, even while such benefits are not accrued equally for all white people: this is the cruel realpolitik calculus underlying the Wages of Whiteness.
The contemporary Republican Party has been able to leverage these dynamics. Under the Southern Strategy, and Mitt Romney's masterful mix of overt white racist appeals and "dog whistles," the Tea Party GOP has been able to maintain a strong base of support as the country's de facto White Political Party.
Ultimately, the Confederacy and the demons of Jim and Jane Crow are the lifeblood of the Republican Party's electoral strategy.
Social scientists have developed a sophisticated vocabulary for discussing white racism. I am fluent in this language. I have long held reservations about it, because for all of the methodological specificity and precision such a vocabulary offers, we are whistling past a graveyard, trying to avoid calling racist white people what they really are--what are prejudiced, bigoted, white supremacists.
My use of the phrase "white supremacist" is intentional. White supremacy does not necessarily involved shaved heads, klan robes, and burning crosses. Through such formulations, colorblind racism sustains itself. White supremacy, in the post civil rights era, is both a desire and commitment to further a society where white people maintain authority, control, and power by virtue of skin color and birthright. Insecurity about the browning of America, and society where white folks will "only" be a plurality and not the majority group causes anxiety on the part of both white liberals and conservatives. Both parties only differ to the degree of their honesty about their relative anxieties about an increasingly multicultural and diverse United States.
[Some open questions. How do you define racism? Are those who use racism for their own ends properly described as "racists?" Are they something else? How did calling out white racism and white bigotry become politically incorrect, where white racists are now, and somehow bizarrely, framed as "victims?"]
For example, "white racial resentment" and "symbolic racism" are discussed as phenomena that are subtly different from old school traditional racism. The latter is overt hate, lynchings, racial violence, and a belief in biological determinism where distinct "races" are judged to be superior or inferior to one another.
Modern racism, the realm of the former, is a construct based upon "bad culture," where black and brown folks are judged to be "lazy" and "unAmerican" because the white racial frame views them as violating "traditional" norms of "hard work" and "patriotism." The New Racism is based upon black and brown folks "bad" behavior, as viewed out of context from a cognitive map wherein white privilege is the norm, and Whiteness is valorized as naturally benign and good. White pathology and "bad culture"--much of it a precise copy of that common to the "ghetto underclass"--is little if ever discussed.
I follow a simple rule. Racist behavior is the purvey of racist people. If a person does not approve of racism, they should not be part of a political party, or any other organization, which traffics in such bile. By implication, Mitt Romney is a racist because he is intentionally using white racism in order to win the White House.
This is not rocket science; people of good conscience are making a mistake when they avoid stating the obvious for fear of hurting a bigot's (or members of a racist, herrenvolk, White political party's) feelings.
Or alternatively, these same members of the public are making a mistake when they retreat in fear of playing into the New Speak of the White Right, with its Orwellian vocabulary of "reverse racism," "black racism," and "white oppression."
As a practical matter, the Tea Party GOP is a White Party.
Political parties are exercises in branding. Like McDonald's which is known for its French fries, many voters are drawn to the Republican Party because it is the white man's party. They may not know all of its specific policy positions, but in keeping with the restaurant analogy, these conservatives know that french fries (here being white racism; polite, crude, and otherwise) are the featured dish.
Mitt Romney's use of white racism is a function of a political brand that has staked out that segment of the public and done the prerequisite market research to win their trust and loyalty. His escalation of racist appeals to alienated and angry white people will only increase during the weeks leading up to the election because Romney is trapped by a type of path dependency.
A person campaigning for the Presidency, as the nominee of the United States' de facto White Political Party, has little choice but to double down on white racism and racial resentment. Despite the risk of alienating undecideds and Independents, for conservatives, the road to the Presidency follows the heart of white racism. This is the Right's version of the Titanic--you do not change its course at the last minute.
Mitt Romney is a utility maximizing gangster capitalist who knows the math: in his racist assaults and lies about Barack Obama he is simply leverage the Republican Party's brand name. To do any less would be a waste of resources.