The Ultimate Black Republican Pseudohistory Conversion Speech

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 19 2013 10:06 AM

The Ultimate Black Republican Pseudohistory Conversion Speech

Nothing stimulates the pleasure centers of the Republican brain like a black conservative whaling on Democrats and liberals. This isn't judgment, just fact. You don't get a month of Herman Cain, Republican Front-Runner, without lots of white conservatives wanting to tear up "the race card." You don't get presidential buzz for Ben Carson—Ben Carson!—unless you appreciate this phenomenon. And you don't see a story like "Louisiana state senator switches parties" go viral without a black politician tearing into the left.

So: Elbert Guillory, a first-term state senator from Lafayette Parish (which broke 2-1 for Romney in 2012), has become a Republican. He's explained his conversion in a video that's already received 400,000 views. He doesn't mention that he was a registered Republican once, then switched parties to run for office, but he's got the rhetoric down cold.

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Example: He asks the thoughtful to "echo the words of one Republican leader who famously said, ‘free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’" That's an urban legend; MLK Jr. wasn't a member of either major party, but he campaigned against the GOP during its 1964 Goldwater turn. Like Rand Paul, Guillory ends his history of the Democratic Party in the late 1950s, when it was still a lumpy coalition of urban liberals and revanchist Southern whites.

It was the Republicans in Congress who authored the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments giving former slaves citizenship, voting rights, and due process of law. The Democrats, on the other hand, were the Party of Jim Crow. It was Democrats who defended the rights of slave owners. It was the Republican President Dwight Eisenhower who championed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, but it was Democrats in the Senate who filibustered the bill.

But this explains why the South generally produces more black Dem-to-GOP party switches than the rest of the country. There's a thwarted legacy of Republican-black friendship in the South, and there's a black polity that's closely tied to the Protestant church. The natural rise of the GOP as the conservative party of government has doomed any black Democrat who wins office to permanent minority status. So why not switch parties? Guillory's easy slide into the accepted "Democrats are the real racists" rhetoric will absolutely get him talked about as a contender for Sen. Mary Landrieu's seat. Yeah, sure, there's a congressman (the obscure Bill Cassidy) running, but if E.W. Jackson can win the Virginia lieutenant governor's nod with a speech, why wouldn't a conservative go for Guillory?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.