[Continuing our series on deception in politics.]
From Woodrow Wilson, the iconic Progressive president and the spiritual father of the modern Ku Klux Klan, to Barack Obama, the ultimate Progressive president, an essential element of Progressivism has been a belief in the inherent inferiority of certain groups of people.
Obamacare, for example, is rooted in the idea that many Americans are just too dang stupid to make their own decisions on healthcare, and must be helped along by well-credentialed elites (e.g., those who got into Ivy League schools because of who their fathers were).
In Wilson’s time, the principal target of Progressive bigotry was the African-American population, along with various other groups such as people of Italian or Irish or Asian-Pacific origin, or Jews from eastern Europe, or the mountain people of the South.
Today, the top targets include traditional Christians, and people from rural areas where gun ownership is common, and working-class and small-business-class people, and—especially—Southerners. Sometimes the target of Progressives’ bigotry is Southerners as a whole, sometimes it’s Southerners who are or appear to be of European descent, and sometimes it’s the people of Appalachia, a region that includes much of the South and extends into border states and the North. (There’s no requirement that bigotry be consistent or make any sense. It’s bigotry.)
Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw declared recently on “Meet the Press” that the Republican Party’s problem is that it is “full of rednecks,” and not a single person on the program criticized him for it. MSNBC’s Alex Wagner recently said that Eric Cantor’s statements regarding violence against women are unconvincing because of his “dripping Virginia drawl.” And this Politico piece, with a few changes (making, say, Catholics or African-Americans the target of the author’s hate), would have fit well in the Thunderbolt or some other Klan publication:
. . . [T]he Dixie pathos that [Abraham] Lincoln and [Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Thaddeus] Stevens sought to destroy instead morphed into the scoliotic backbone of American politics that burdens us today—a vendetta against Washington, D.C., so besotted with ancient grudges and hidebound demagogic exaggeration that it renders productive discourse and open exchange of ideas a virtual impossibility.
The game of division practiced by conservative reactionaries today—mostly southern, though the obstructionist contagion has spread to all 50 states—is the same as the fathomlessly fraudulent politics that split the country in 1861. Think the Dixie-fried Tea Party and health care fight represent something new? The impulse behind them is the same one that gave us Jim Crow, brought the National Guard to Little Rock High School and led Hank Williams, Jr. to record, “If the South woulda won, we woulda had it made.”
Nearly two years of fighting after the calamity of Gettysburg proved exactly what two-plus years of battle over Obamacare does: This is a tribe incapable of accepting compromise or conciliation. . . .
Southern “traditions” of inflexibility and sabotage have hobbled American political progress across four centuries. One wonders what Lincoln would have made of a country, 150 years after his landmark call for renewal, still allowing itself to be held captive by a political race whose most powerful views, emotions and ideas lurk forever behind them.
Progressives justify their hatred of Southerners on the ground that today’s Southerners are responsible for the Jim Crow laws—never mind that few of the politicians who backed those laws are still alive, and that many of today’s Southerners moved into the region, or their parents or grandparents moved into the region, since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. (Figures from the 2010 Census indicate that, in every age cohort above age 24, a majority of Southerners consists of people born outside the state in which they currently reside.)
In turn, because the South has trended Republican in recent years and the newly Republican South has helped give the GOP a majority in the House of Representatives, Progressives blame Southerners for their own failure to achieve complete control of government. This Republican trend in the South is said to be a reaction by white supremacists to the Voting Rights Act—never mind that, with the exception of 1964, the South wasn’t significantly more Republican than the rest of the country in presidential elections until 1988 (23 years after the Act was passed); that Republicans barely existed at the local level in most of the South until 1994 (29 years afterward); and that Republicans didn’t come to dominate the South until 2010 (45 years after the Act).
Note: The oft-told-but-probably-fictional story is that, when Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, he lamented that the Democrats were throwing away the Southern vote for many years to come. But if it was white supremacists’ reaction to the passage of the Voting Rights Act that made the South go Republican—as is taught by almost every political science professor in the country—then how does one explain that rather protracted delay? Almost a dozen years after the VRA was passed, there was not a single Republican among the 140 members of the Alabama state legislature.
And the time between VRA passage and the creation of a Republican-dominated South (including the election of a Republican-majority legislature in Alabama)?
It was this long: the length of the U.S. Civil War; plus the length of U.S. involvement in World War II; plus the length of time from the day that Einstein and a colleague proposed building an atomic bomb, until it was designed, manufactured and tested; plus the length of time from President Kennedy’s proposal that the U.S. send a man to the moon and return him safely to the earth, until that mission was accomplished; plus the number of days in a typical work-year, if one doesn’t take a vacation.
Now double that.
That’s the length of time between the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the rise of the Republican South.
Yes, as every Progressive points out when this topic is discussed, Storm Thurmond, after 35 years as a Democratic politician, became a Republican; he switched to the Republican Party in 1964, largely out of a desire to become the GOP’s power-broker in the South. But the vast majority of segregationist Democrats stayed true to their party throughout their careers. And as late as 1980, the national Democratic Party was led by President Jimmy Carter, who was the segregationist candidate in the 1970 primary for governor of Georgia, and by Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd, a former recruiter for the Klan.
Somehow, in the mind of Progressives, every Southern Republican in 2013 is just a Klansman without a sheet …which, of course, justifies any action necessary to defeat such scoundrels, whether it’s the crippling of the filibuster or the abuse of the IRS or efforts to block voter ID laws.
But (I can just hear my Progressive friends say) what about Nixon’s Southern Strategy? That is a topic I’ll deal with in a future column.