For God’s Sake, Read Your History

9 Jun 2016

On March 1, Real Clear Politics reported on an exchange between Van Jones and Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord. According to the article,

Lord argued the Ku Klux Klan was a “military, terrorist arm of the Democratic party.”

“For God’s sake, read your history,” Lord said to Jones.

Ah, yeshistory. We’ve been here before. For some reason, when Republicans demand that Democrats “read their history,” they like to leap back 100 years. But a funny thing happened on the way to these forums. Starting around 1960, White America collectively lost its shit over the rise of the Civil Rights Movementas White America still tends to do whenever Black America so much as raises its voice, or its fistsand the Republicans saw an opportunity.

Let’s touch down on June 25, 1963, when the Washington Post and Times Herald printed a story by famed journalists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, titled, “The White Man’s Party.” Here are some excerpts:

There was a self-conscious lack of support, either private or public, for Negro rights at the meeting of the Republican National Committee [in Denver] last week. And for good reason.

Far from desiring to out-do Democrats as crusaders for racial equality, substantial numbers of Party leaders from both North and South see rich political dividends flowing from the Negrophobia of many white Americans. These Republicans want to unmistakably establish the Party of Lincoln as the white man’s party.

According to Evans and Novak, a “new political strategy for the Party was obliquely suggested in private chats,” based on a few widely-held assumptions:

Assumption No. 1: The Negro is inextricably linked to the Democratic Party…

Assumption No. 2: Because of his support for the Negro movement, President Kennedy is in serious trouble in the South.

Assumption No. 3: The spread of Negro demonstrations to the North has stirred concerneven fearamong Northern whites, including many Democrats. The white construction worker sees lowering the color bar in his Jim Crow union as a threat to his job. The lower middle class suburbanite, who has invested much of his savings in his home, sees the Negro who wants to live next door to him as a financial threat.

What to do?

Based on these assumptions, the Party policy on Negro rights should be ambiguous and cautious in an effort to woo the white vote. Outright avowal of segregation is not under consideration.

It never is, somehow.

But Republicans can legitimately base opposition to Negro demonstrations and to tough new legislation on established Republican principles of law-and-order, states’ rights and limited government.

It’s dog whistles all the way down. Evans and Novak end with this:

Not only is segregation doomed, but it also is inevitable that Negroes will eventually break through the bonds of poverty. They then might be naturally attracted to the Republican Party along with millions of other middle-income Americansbut not if the Republicans had by then become labeled as the white man’s party.

Too late. Over half a century later, neither segregation nor the “bonds of poverty” has been broken, and the Republican Party is now the party of Donald Trump.

Here’s a picture I took in a parking lot in upstate New York:

IMG_2262

Whom do you think this guy is voting for? “Party of Lincoln,” indeed. As Jeet Heer recently wrote in The New Republic, “Conservative elites can denounce Trump all they want as a ‘cancer’ or an impostor. In truth, he is their true heir, the beneficiary of the policies the party has pursued for more than half a century.”

It’s called the Southern Strategy. For God’s sake, Lord, read more history.

***

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