Whose Plantation?

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American History, Bush Administration

I’m so happy the New York Times got rid of that damnfool subscription firewall. Now I can link directly to Bob Herbert’s excellent column today.

“The G.O.P. has spent the last 40 years insulting, disenfranchising and otherwise stomping on the interests of black Americans,” he writes. Last week the Senate Republicans blocked the vote on a measure that would have given District of Columbia residents — who are mostly black — representation in Congress. And then there was the debate snub —

At the same time that the Republicans were killing Congressional representation for D.C. residents, the major G.O.P. candidates for president were offering a collective slap in the face to black voters nationally by refusing to participate in a long-scheduled, nationally televised debate focusing on issues important to minorities.

The radio and television personality Tavis Smiley worked for a year to have a pair of these debates televised on PBS, one for the Democratic candidates and the other for the Republicans. The Democratic debate was held in June, and all the major candidates participated.

The Republican debate is scheduled for Thursday. But Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson have all told Mr. Smiley: “No way, baby.”

They won’t be there. They can’t be bothered debating issues that might be of interest to black Americans. After all, they’re Republicans.

This is the party of the Southern strategy — the party that ran, like panting dogs, after the votes of segregationist whites who were repelled by the very idea of giving equal treatment to blacks. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. (Willie Horton) Bush, George W. (Compassionate Conservative) Bush — they all ran with that lousy pack.

Here’s something about Saint Ronald of Blessed Memory they’d rather we all forgot:

Dr. Carolyn Goodman, a woman I was privileged to call a friend, died last month at the age of 91. She was the mother of Andrew Goodman, one of the three young civil rights activists shot to death by rabid racists near Philadelphia, Miss., in 1964.

Dr. Goodman, one of the most decent people I have ever known, carried the ache of that loss with her every day of her life.

In one of the vilest moves in modern presidential politics, Ronald Reagan, the ultimate hero of this latter-day Republican Party, went out of his way to kick off his general election campaign in 1980 in that very same Philadelphia, Miss. He was not there to send the message that he stood solidly for the values of Andrew Goodman. He was there to assure the bigots that he was with them.

“I believe in states’ rights,” said Mr. Reagan. The crowd roared.

Let’s talk about states’ rights. Juan Williams writes at the Washington Post:

Fifty years ago this week, President Dwight Eisenhower risked igniting the second U.S. civil war by sending 1,000 American soldiers into a Southern city. The troops, with bayonets at the end of their rifles, provided protection for nine black students trying to get into Little Rock’s Central High School. Until the soldiers arrived, the black teenagers had been kept out by mobs and the Arkansas National Guard, in defiance of the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling ending school segregation.

Here’s a web site dedicated to this episode of American history that provides some background:

Three years after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, which officially ended public-school segregation, a federal court ordered Little Rock to comply. On September 4, 1957, Governor Orval Faubus defied the court, calling in the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African American students–“The Little Rock Nine”–from entering the building. Ten days later in a meeting with President Eisenhower, Faubus agreed to use the National Guard to protect the African American teenagers, but on returning to Little Rock, he dismissed the troops, leaving the African American students exposed to an angry white mob. Within hours, the jeering, brick-throwing mob had beaten several reporters and smashed many of the school’s windows and doors. By noon, local police were forced to evacuate the nine students.

When Faubus did not restore order, President Eisenhower dispatched 101st Airborne Division paratroopers to Little Rock and put the Arkansas National Guard under federal command. By 3 a.m., soldiers surrounded the school, bayonets fixed.

Under federal protection, the “Little Rock Nine” finished out the school year. The following year, Faubus closed all the high schools, forcing the African American students to take correspondence courses or go to out-of-state schools. The school board reopened the schools in the fall of 1959, and despite more violence–for example, the bombing of one student’s house–four of the nine students returned, this time protected by local police.

This incident enflamed southern white segregationists. Since the end of Reconstruction in 1877, they’d had a free hand to oppress African Americans all they liked. Now the federal government was enforcing the civil rights of citizens of color, and the yahoos were outraged. This was a violation of states’ rights, they said. (And, frankly, I believe much libertarian antipathy toward “big government” was kick-started by the Little Rock showdown also.)

“States’ rights” wasn’t a new idea, of course. But it had a clear connection to segregation. In 1948, several southern Democrats bolted when the Democrats put an anti-segregation plank in the party platform. This splinter group formed the States’ Rights Democratic Party, whose slogan was “segregation forever.”

Surely any American in the 1950s and 1960s with a measurable IQ understood that “states’ rights” was a code word for “white supremacy.” Today you’d still have to be pretty thick not to get that, but we do seem to have a lot of thick people among us these days.

Anyway, the Democratic Party became increasingly split between the northern, mostly pro-civil rights Dems and the southern segregationist Dems. Lyndon Johnson’s endorsement of civil rights legislation, followed by his antipoverty programs, were the last straws for southern Democrats. Eventually several prominent segregationist Dems switched parties and became Republican, along with a majority of white voters. In the 1950s “solid South” referred to the fact that southern states voted as a block for Democrats. Now the southern states vote as a block for Republicans.

I realize most of you know this, but it still has to be spelled out for righties. They refuse to acknowledge this is what happened. Yes, 50 years ago the Republican Eisenhower supported civil rights, and the Democratic Faubus did not. That was before the Southern strategy, my dears. Things have changed a bit since.

One of the more pathetic attempts at denial comes from Jon Henke at Q and O. Reagan did not kick off his re-election campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, says Henke. He was at a fairground ten or twenty miles outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Please. Reagan was in Mississippi, in the same county in which Andrew Goodman was murdered, and he said “I believe in states’ rights.” Reagan couldn’t have been more explicit if he’d said “I believe in Jim Crow.” Reagan may not have re-instated Jim Crow laws (as President, that was outside his authority), but then he campaigned against abortion, also, without bothering to follow up.

Herbert continues,

In 1981, during the first year of Mr. Reagan’s presidency, the late Lee Atwater gave an interview to a political science professor at Case Western Reserve University, explaining the evolution of the Southern strategy:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ ” said Atwater. “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

To go back to an example I’ve used before in another context, check out Richard Nixon’s 1972 Republican Convention acceptance speech. Although it’s all in code, the first half of the speech is about race.

The first issue Nixon launched into was not Vietnam, but quotas. He was speaking out against Affirmative Action. He spoke of “millions who have been driven out of their home in the Democratic Party” — this was a nod to the old white supremacist Dixiecrats who were leaving the Democratic Party because of its stand in favor of civil rights (the famous Southern Strategy). McGovern had proposed a guaranteed minimum income for the nation’s poor that was widely regarded as radical and flaky and (in popular lore) amounted to taking tax money away from white people and giving it to blacks. Nixon warned that McGovern’s policies would raise taxes and also add millions of people to welfare roles — another racially charged issue. Then Nixon took on one of his favorite issues, crime. If you remember those years you’ll remember that Nixon was always going on about “lawnorder.” This was another issue with racial overtones, but it was also a swipe at the “permissiveness” of the counterculture and the more violent segments of the antiwar and Black Power movements.

Herbert continues,

In 1991, the first President Bush poked a finger in the eye of black America by selecting the egregious Clarence Thomas for the seat on the Supreme Court that had been held by the revered Thurgood Marshall. The fact that there is a rigid quota on the court, permitting one black and one black only to serve at a time, is itself racist.

Mr. Bush seemed to be saying, “All right, you want your black on the court? Boy, have I got one for you.”

Republicans improperly threw black voters off the rolls in Florida in the contested presidential election of 2000, and sent Florida state troopers into the homes of black voters to intimidate them in 2004.

And righties wonder why African Americans tend to vote for Democrats. Well, actually, they don’t wonder. They have a Theory. African-Americans are being kept in a slave relationship with the Democratic Party, the theory goes. African Americans are being kept on the Democratic Party plantation. According to Francis Rice, chairman of the National Black Republican Association,

In order to break the Democrats’ stranglehold on the black vote and free black Americans from the Democrat Party’s economic plantation, we must shed the light of truth on the Democrats. We must demonstrate that the Democrat Party policies of socialism and dependency on government handouts offer the pathway to poverty, while Republican Party principles of hard work, personal responsibility, getting a good education and ownership of homes and small businesses offer the pathway to prosperity.

There’s a decent deconstruction of Rice at People for the American Way. And no, Martin Luther King was not a Republican.

The Freepers give us some nice elaboration on the “Democratic plantation” theory:

Democrats are seen as the party of proactive government. Blacks are disproportionately employed in government employment. ‘Nuff said. … Deterioration with black culture and breakdown of the family starting in the 60’s including high drug usage rate, high dropout rate, high illegitamcy rate, high incarceration rate, high welfare dependency rate. The more people behave irresponsibly and depend on the government, the more likely they will vote Democrat. … The democrats bought the votes of blacks with the massive “Great Society” spending programs that over proportionality took money from non black America and gave it to black America. We can argue that these programs destroyed the black family – but now they are entitlements and blacks will vote for anyone who will fund and expand them… How about the black minority is a surrogate action group for post holocast Jews. The blacks were assigned civil rights issues that would benefit the smaller minority Democrat Jews. … It goes back to the Johnson administration when he voted into law “The Great Society” meaning you could sit on your ass and collect welfare for life. This was specifically sold to inner-city blacks coming on the heals of then civil rights movement which was Republican led, I should add. … Because Democrats decided that they wanted to champion the Civil Rights movement and set out to show Blacks that they were victims and needed a lot of free handouts to “make it”. Human nature seems to gravitate towards those that want to give you something for nothing and to tell you that you can do no wrong because any wrong you do is someone else’s fault. The irony is, Democrats have effectively put many Blacks back into slavehood, and they embraced it willingly.

And on and on. You can count on the Freep to show us the naked truth of rightieness.

I’m not going to heap any praise on the Democratic Party, because frankly it hasn’t done as much as it could have to earn African American votes. I’d say it’s Republicans that persuade African Americans to vote for Democrats. Bob Herbert explains how.

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17 Comments

15 Comments

  1. joanr16  •  Sep 25, 2007 @1:25 pm

    A darned impressive post, for a woman on pain meds.

    I knew about Florida AG Katharine Harris’s skanky “felons list” manipulations during the 2000 election, but until now I’d never heard of the 2004 incidents that Bob Herbert mentions. I just wish someone had sued the crap out of Harris et al, over these civil rights violations. In so many ways, the Bushies have taken us back 100 years in civil rights.

  2. Not the senator  •  Sep 25, 2007 @1:42 pm

    I saw the posts from Henke and his Rightwing comrades claiming that due to Abraham Lincoln and Republican support of the Abolitionists, the GOP was actually the civil rights party. I was tempted to try and explain the Southern Strategy and post-Johnson Civil Rights Act shift of segregationists into the GOP over the last 50 years but thought why spend the effort? Henke and his ilk know exactly what has happened and are only purposely throwing up a smokescreen, clouding the issue for their supporters. You know, the ones who also believe that Saddam attacked us on 9/11?

    It’s just more of the bamboozlement, the big lie, that will be reinforced by the right-wing noise machine.

  3. whig  •  Sep 25, 2007 @1:59 pm

    :)

  4. Swami  •  Sep 25, 2007 @2:37 pm

    Excellent post, Maha.

    I realize most of you know this, but it still has to be spelled out for righties.

    Well I for one didn’t know. Although I am very knowledgeable about the history of the civil rights movement in terms of events,names, and places. But I never looked at the political maneuverings and deceptions(code talking) that occurred under the surface. In retrospect, and armed with the knowledge you have provided, I can see more clearly now. Thanks for the insight.

    And if anybody out there runs into Clarence..tell him I want my video of Long Dong Silver back.

    Something to ponder for the Reganites.. How many welfare queens can be supported on 10 billion dollars a month?

  5. Ian  •  Sep 25, 2007 @4:00 pm

    Of course the crushing irony about all this, the really soul-destroying fact of the matter, is that when the GOP was founded, it REALLY WAS the party of civil rights (to the limited extent possible in those days) and helping blacks … it was created in large part to be the abolitionist party. I don’t have enough hostorical knowledge to be able to say whether or not the existence of the GOP at that time was necessary and/or sufficient to the eventual freeing of the slaves, but that was their goal.

    A hundred years later and they have completely switched sides.

    Sad.

    -me

  6. Marshall  •  Sep 25, 2007 @5:19 pm

    As a Southerner, I knew very well why Reagan went to Philadelphia. He was speaking in code, obscure to those who wanted to be bamboozled, but very clear to his target audience.

    The Republican party since 1980 has consistently, at least in the South, used these kinds of of coded appeals, and for the life of me I do not understand why the Democrats let them get away with it.

  7. A Canadian Reader  •  Sep 25, 2007 @9:05 pm

    I know why the right is so strong in the States: they lie and twist the truth–loudly, forcefully and constantly. Those who still have a brain in their heads have to spend all their time refuting these lies, rather than getting on with making society stronger, better and fairer. It’s an exhausting, thankless task.

  8. MNPundit  •  Sep 25, 2007 @9:09 pm

    Interestingly enough, the 101st was re-segregated for the mission. The unit was fully integrated by then pursuant to the executive order, but it was only the white troops that were sent in, presumably to avoid the spectacle of and potential constitutional problems of what to do when racist US citizens attack US Army soldiers who were black.

  9. James E. Powell  •  Sep 25, 2007 @10:17 pm

    There is no doubt that without its racist core, the Republican Party would not be able to compete for the White House or for majority status in either house of the congress.

    What is sad and tragic is that the rest of us, most of the rest of us anyway, sat around and watched Nixon, then Reagan, then Gingrich, then both Bushes use race-coded and overtly racist appeals during elections without any of us standing up to it, without calling it what it is and shaming it out of American politics.

    Instead, it’s made Rush Limbaugh and his imitators rich.

  10. maha  •  Sep 25, 2007 @10:26 pm

    MNPundit: I did not know that. Interesting.

  11. Deep Thought  •  Sep 26, 2007 @4:49 pm

    Of course, the killer of young Mr. Goodman was a Democrat… just like the sheriff that tried to impede the investigation. And the senator that claimed it was a hoax. And the state legislature, which was (and is) majority Democrat – you know, the Democratic legislature that, like all the other Democratic legiislatures, passed the Jim Crow laws? Yeah, them.

  12. maha  •  Sep 26, 2007 @4:54 pm

    Folks, please read comment #11. I give you another rightie who can’t read. Illiteracy seems to be a congenial defect common to righties. Or maybe just stupidity.

    Mr. Deep Thought: Do yourself a favor and read posts all the way through before you make a fool of yourself in the comments. Thanks much.

  13. MNPundit  •  Sep 26, 2007 @6:42 pm

    I was told that by my Constitutional Law professor who is the age of the Little Rock Nine are now–it might not be an authoritive source but I haven’t been able to find any pictures of the incident with black soldiers in them….

  14. KingGeorgeTheTenth  •  Sep 27, 2007 @2:07 am

    Good post. Over the summer I took an Urban Planning course on Native Americans that detailed our governments early policies (pushing them out of their traditional lands and putting them on crappy reservations). We didn’t treat them very well either. Another example of these people negatively influencing the political debate is this whole manufactured controversy over “illegal” immigration.

    These immigrants simply can’t find jobs in Mexico do not qualify for work visas to the US because our immigration system does not work. They don’t want health benefits or welfare, just a few hundred bucks in their pockets, then they would go back home (can you blame them?).

    It brings me to a question: how can we be proud of being Americans? I know of the national myths the US basis its identity on: “home of the free and the brave” or how we welcome the tired, hungry and poor; but lets be real, we don’t really like anyone who has brown skin do we? Our lack of honesty with our selves is appalling. I’m just some dumb Graduate Student from Montana and I can figure this out, so James E. Powell is asking the correct question, why do we let these bigots poison our political system? Why does the comedian Rush Limbaugh have such influence?

  15. Daryl  •  Sep 27, 2007 @2:18 pm

    “This was a violation of states’ rights, they said.”

    The said the same thing before the Civil War. The funny part is the Fugitive Slave Act they hammered through eleven years before ( a stronger version of earlier fugitive slave laws) basically said *!!@@*&% state’s rights.

    As for Reagan he may not have been able to reinstate Jim Crow but that didn’t stop him from unleashing a DoJ that tried its darnedest to wipe out pert near every civil rights gain made up to that time. You bet I remember the firm of Meese, Reynolds and Pendleton. Their open hostility toward the black community was breathtaking.

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