Is the Republican Party Racist?
It depends on race-baiting tactics and the votes of former Confederate states.
I'd say that to call this—or past Southern electoral history—an accident devoid of racism is to be blind to American political history and culture. I don't think you can find a single political scientist who would tell you Mitt Romney's GOP has a path to victory without the old Confederate South's electoral votes. As things stand now, the loss of 100 sure electoral votes would put him hopelessly in a hole.
And yet let’s return to the Bavaria analogy. A party that supported the flying of the SS flag would be called neo-Nazi. I believe Republicans who depend on shameless Confederate flag-flying, white-dominated electorates, nostalgic for their antebellum genocidal “tradition,” should be called neo-racist in the news pages and network broadcasts. I think it’s a fact, not a he said/she said matter. I know, it’s shocking when you think about it, isn’t it? But I believe it’s the truth.
In a way mainstream media outlets who promote a false equivalency between the two parties by failing to note at the very least the neo-racist supporters of the Republican Party are themselves complicit in the charade that the GOP is a morally legitimate entity. Not that racists don’t vote Democratic, and yes I know the GOP was, was, the party of Lincoln, but that was long ago in another country.
I would hope that before the election comes there are at least some discussions in some newsrooms about how to make this clear. How to avoid false equivalency.
Why is it that we have to be reminded that the Civil War was not a war of moral equivalence? Just blue and grey, both sides brave and good. Sorry, no way. The issue is likely going to come up again later this year if, as is expected, the Supreme Court reviews the Voting Rights Act, one of the greatest pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress, because it put the spotlight on the rancid racist history of Southern states that sought to continue the shameful legacy of the Confederacy through a history of racist voter denial. Is this a matter of moral equivalence too? In other words, should historically racist states be treated as equal to states that did not legally institute racism by the courts when it comes to voter discrimination? I don’t think so.
It’s not just an intellectual exercise deciding whether Southern racism is still a factor. The current Supreme Court could rule the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional this term, on the grounds that all states are morally equivalent and history should play no role in assessing their behavior. They would be wrong to do so. That’s a fact.
Speaking of reminders of why we need to end the false equivalency. Consider this one, a thrilling comment from someone who was once at the forefront but who hasn’t spoken out on the subject for some time. Obviously he felt it was something people needed to think about anew.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan said:
This country is just too fucked up about color. ... People at each other’s throats because they are of a different color. It’s the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back—or any neighborhood back. ... It’s a country founded on the backs of slaves. ... If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today.
Yes: “A country founded on the backs of slaves.” And a party cravenly unashamed to base its existence on the backs of slaveholder states. Journalists, start telling the truth about the GOP.
Correction, Oct. 8, 2012: This piece incorrectly stated that the core states of the Confederacy had voted solidly Republican in presidential elections since 1964. With a few exceptions, the core states have been a Republican bulwark in the 10 presidential elections since 1968.
Ron Rosenbaum is the author of The Shakespeare Wars and Explaining Hitler. His latest book is How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III.