Saturday Sermon: Race and Republican Economics

Regular readers know I’ve been beating this drum since the inception of this blog, but the Krugman says it well:

The fault, however, lies not in Republicans’ stars but in themselves. Forty years ago the G.O.P. decided, in effect, to make itself the party of racial backlash. And everything that has happened in recent years, from the choice of Mr. Bush as the party’s champion, to the Bush administration’s pervasive incompetence, to the party’s shrinking base, is a consequence of that decision.
If the Bush administration became a byword for policy bungles, for government by the unqualified, well, it was just following the advice of leading conservative think tanks: after the 2000 election the Heritage Foundation specifically urged the new team to “make appointments based on loyalty first and expertise second.”
Contempt for expertise, in turn, rested on contempt for government in general. “Government is not the solution to our problem,” declared Ronald Reagan. “Government is the problem.” So why worry about governing well?
Where did this hostility to government come from? In 1981 Lee Atwater, the famed Republican political consultant, explained the evolution of the G.O.P.’s “Southern strategy,” which originally focused on opposition to the Voting Rights Act but eventually took a more coded form: “You’re getting so abstract now you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites.” In other words, government is the problem because it takes your money and gives it to Those People.
Oh, and the racial element isn’t all that abstract, even now: Chip Saltsman, currently a candidate for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, sent committee members a CD including a song titled “Barack the Magic Negro” — and according to some reports, the controversy over his action has actually helped his chances.
So the reign of George W. Bush, the first true Southern Republican president since Reconstruction, was the culmination of a long process. And despite the claims of some on the right that Mr. Bush betrayed conservatism, the truth is that he faithfully carried out both his party’s divisive tactics — long before Sarah Palin, Mr. Bush declared that he visited his ranch to “stay in touch with real Americans” — and its governing philosophy.
That’s why the soon-to-be-gone administration’s failure is bigger than Mr. Bush himself: it represents the end of the line for a political strategy that dominated the scene for more than a generation.

While I think some Republican strategists are hoping gay is the new Magic Negro (so to speak), that strategy presents a real problem for them. Unlike the unholy chimera of racial bigotry and “small government”, there is no dog whistle that assumes gay people are economic ‘free loaders.’
Without the implicit connection between economics and “Those People”, it becomes much harder to make the case for conservative economics (Big Shitpile doesn’t help either). Instead, all the Republicans are left with is hatred–their natural base over the last 40 years–and there’s no fig leaf to cover it.

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4 Responses to Saturday Sermon: Race and Republican Economics

  1. Bill says:

    Hmm…it always seemed to me to be less about
    racism and more about Social Darwinism. After
    all, Republicans seem to like rich black folks
    just fine.
    Is it the blackness or the poorness that matters?

  2. iRobot says:

    I have to disagree, R’s dont like rich black people. J.C. Watts, the only black republican, retired because he couldnt get a position of importance in the congress. I was suprised that they wouldnt give him anything, he was the perfect R, conservative fiscally and a bible banger.

  3. dean says:

    Just a thought: I wouldn’t make the claim that the republican leaders are themselves racist: I think they’ve realized a large part of the country has (overt or not overt) racist beliefs, and that by framing their (the leaders) points as they do, they appeal to this large group.

  4. yogi-one says:

    I think you are right. The GOP is going to have to do some re-inventing.
    I think you will still see a lot of anti-New Deal, anti-regulatory economic philosophy. However, the GOP seems perfectly willing to give large sums of taxpayer money directly to huge banks, Big Oil, and now Big Auto with little oversight.
    Where you will see the most shift is in the racism. In America today, having race be the foundation for your political party is simply not going to win elections. Period. If the blacks, the Latinos, the Asians, and a large chunk of the women vote against the GOP, they’re finished.
    It is simply not viable to be the rich white male good ol’ boy party any more. That party, from now on, will remain a small faction. Most people in the USA today are not from Bill O’Reilly’s generation. If you are looking for the under 30, or even under 40 vote, O’Reilly is not going to deliver that demographic for you. And you can’t win without it.
    Bush showed us, by getting rid of voices of sanity like Colin Powell, Gen Shinseki, and others and keeping only the minority members that would do their bidding (Rice, Gonzales, etc) that just having someone whose skin was not white is not enough of a change if those people just end up towing the white-good-ol-boy line.
    Bush was the GOP’s version of the perfect stooge. And McCain successfully adopted that mantel by changing a lot of his earlier positions in order to declare his stooge-dom. McCain made it very clear that he would adopt any position that the people who could get him elected told him to, even if that position shifted every week. The transformation from Straight-Talk to Mush-Mouth Express was painfully clear, especially since the internet made it so easy to string together all his foot-in-mouth boners on sites like YouTube.
    The conservative agenda has, actually, a lot of appeal among minority communities. There are many Asians and Latinos who have essentially conservative political views. The GOP, however, cannot bring them under their tent as long as they make cling to racism.
    The double whammy for them is that now the GOP is also seen as the party that screwed our economy. The GOP has worn the mantel of fiscal responsibility for decades, but that all fell to pieces in the past two years. There’s simply no way to blame the current crisis on Bill Clinton, their favorite all-around scapegoat. The crisis is clearly a result of the neoconservative, Chicago-school philosophy that “thou shalt not apply the law to Big Business”.
    So two major tenets of their platform have collapsed: completely unregulated business (seen at its worst in the lawless war-profiteering free-for-all of the Iraq War), and racism as developed though the Southern Strategy (seen at its worst post-Katrina, where Bush does a fly-by over New Orleans, then enjoys tea at Trent Lott’s house, saying he can’t wait until Trent’s house is restored).
    If you have lost both the moral high ground, and the economic high ground, your party is in trouble. They have a lot of restructuring to do.
    But Americans are very politically forgiving (if not forgetful). If the GOP can separate out conservatism from extremism, they can regain viability fairly quickly.
    The key for them is to recast conservatism as a non-radical, common-sense philosophy based on traditional American values. I think that is the tack you are going to see them take in the next 10 years.

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