Ron Rosenbaum

The Tea Party, "The Southern Strategy" and Race

The best recent elaboration of a relationship I’ve discussed recurrently here—race, the “Southern Strategy” and the racism that shows up in Tea Party commenters–can be found here.

For those Tea Partiers whose knowledge of history is, shall we say, circumscribed, here’s his adumbration of the relationionship beten the Tea Party and the race-based Southern Strategy:

“The insistence that the tea party movement is more about taxes, big government and personal freedoms is partly true. And many tea party people honestly believe it. But if you dig below the surface into the details underlying these banner themes, it’s not difficult to find that, yes, it’s about taxes — taxes on the rich to finance the extravagant lives of layabout welfare queens, or big government “ramming health care down our throats” as a means of slavery reparations to African Americans, and personal freedoms being stripped away by a liberal fascist Nazi who wants to give money and handouts to minorities in the form of health care subsidies and mortgage relief. You know, typical Nazi behavior. If I had a dollar for every Nazi who wanted to funnel government cash to immigrants and minorities…

It’s the subtext that gurgles just below the surface of these three topics that composes the tea party version of the Southern Strategy.

Developed by Republican strategists like Harry Dent and Pat Buchanan during the rebuilding of the GOP in the post Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act era, the Southern Strategy’s goal was to win over southern whites by demonizing blacks using subterfuge, dog whistles and coded language. As I mentioned last week, the late Republican mastermind Lee Atwater described the use of the Southern Strategy as being all about the use of “abstract” issues that imply race without explicitly using direct racial epithets or even the words “black” or “white.”

Atwater described some of the abstract issues of his era as “forced bussing” or taxes, and framing these issues in a way that subconsciously fuels white resentment towards blacks, and serves to coalesce white votes around Republican candidates. After all, Republicans will readily admit that trying to win over black voters has been a lost cause since LBJ, so why not exploit that loss by playing to white racial bias and thus locking down larger chunks of the white vote?”

I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who has made this link, as I have done so repeatedly. And I’m not the only one who has experienced first hand the proof in the form of barely coded, sometimes unashamed racist commenters. I really urge you to read the whole essay, you might see what the Tea Party and its enablers will look like in the perspective of history–and whether you want to be associated with it. Writer Bob Cesca makes the case that the true, barely-hidden ideology of grievance the Tea Partiers express is based on race. it’s not that they dislike Government so much. They sure seem to like Medicare: how many Tea Partiers have responded to my appeal for them to act on their ant-Government principles and pledge to refuse Medicare? Come on, Tea Partiers, it would reduce the deficit too! What’s that you sayyou don’t want to go about without health care insurance?

No the evidence of their inaction suggests they just dislike government when it seeks to help people not like them, the minorities they stereotype for instance.

Don’t believe me? Cesca reprints a typical comment he got to an earlier post on the subject from a typical Tea Partier (who sounds just like the commenters to my posts. I’m going to reprint it in full and ask you Tea Partiers out there (and their enablers) if you’d find anything here you wish to repudiate. If this is the kind of person you want to be in bed with, politically. If I don’t hear any repudiations, I’ll assume that this is how you think. (I know the barely literate style is how your write):

“The Tea Party is NOT about race, it is about me paying taxes to support every non contributing individual that has the ability to pro create. It is not my/our fault that the majority of NON contributors are minority. It is not my/our fault some refuse to learn English, thereby limiting their employment opportunities. Hell, the whole race thing is nothing but bullshit for losers such as Garafolo and yourself to capitalize on. Rest assured Booby Boy we no longer give a damn about what you think do or say The main reason the Tea Party exists is Obama’s Marxist/Socialistic COMMUNISTIC leanings that will ultimately cost me, part of the 50% that pays taxes, as opposed to the 50% that DON’T PAY!! An ideology that will transform this Country into a third world nation. Try having some honest debate Booby and you might gain cred. Until then you’re shining Garafolo’s shoes. Sounds to me like you may be an immigrant yourself with an axe to grind. Is that the case Booby? If so you can always go home! Careful moron that light you’re looking at is a train not the end of the tunnel……”

Yes, the Tea Party has certainly elevated political discourse in America. My sympathy to those who for either idealogical or opportunistic commercial reasons will be stained forever by association with them.