Republicans and Racism : Could Go the Way of the Whigs

Republican emailing with pictures of all the presidents. Obama’s square is just a black space with two eyeballs.

It’s perfectly OK to be a racist in the Republican Party, as long as you keep it ‘in house’ and pass it off as a joke.

By Ted McLaughlin / The Rag Blog / June 18, 2009

Before the mid-sixties,the dominant political party in the South (and in Texas) was the Democratic Party. In fact, at that time, most of those states had virtually a one-party system. I know that in Texas, the only real election was in the Democratic primary, because the November election was a foregone conclusion. Republicans didn’t have a chance.

But that changed in the mid-sixties, when President Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats stepped up, bit the bullet, and did the right thing by passing the civil rights laws. It was badly needed and long overdue, but it was also disastrous for the Democratic Party in the South. Sadly, there were still a lot of racists in Texas and the South at that time, and they fled en masse to the Republican Party.

With the addition of this huge volume of racists, the Republican Party in the South not only became competitive, but became the dominant party of the region. It is still that way, although due to changing attitudes the Democrats are now starting to become more competitive in Texas and many Southern states, as more and more whites shed their racism.

But while white racists fled the Democratic Party in the late Sixties, African-Americans flocked to that party. Even to this date, it is not uncommon for African-Americans to vote for Democrats in a block — many times voting 90-95% Democratic in elections.

Republicans have pushed forward their tokens like Alan Keyes and Michael Steele, trying to give the impression they are a “big tent” party. Then they are amazed that these tokens aren’t able to attract African-Americans to their party. They haven’t figured out that the tokenism won’t work as long as their party harbors and accepts a rabidly racist element.

They not only harbor these racists, but in many instances they allow them to assume positions of power and influence in the party. A couple of fresh instances of this came to light just in the last week.

In South Carolina, a prominent GOP activist named Rusty DePass responded to a Facebook comment about a gorilla escaping a Columbia zoo by remarking, “I’m sure it’s just one of Michelle’s ancestors — probably harmless.”

When called to task on this incrediby racist remark, his only defense was “The comment was clearly in jest.” He thinks it’s OK to be racist, as long as its funny. Well, it’s not OK, and it shows just how accepting of racists and racism the Republican Party has become.

Meanwhile in Tennessee, Sherri Goforth, a legislative staffer for Republican State Senator Diane Black, e-mailed a little racist humor to some others in her party. It was a poster that had been knocking around the internet for a while among right wing racists. It shows pictures of all the presidents of the United States — all but President Obama. Obama’s square is just a black space with two eyeballs.

Was Ms. Goforth embarrassed by her obviously racist action? Not in the least. She was just upset because she accidently sent the e-mail to some who weren’t racists and she got exposed. She said, “I went on the wrong email and I inadvertently hit the wrong button. I’m very sick about it, and it’s one of those things I can’t change or take back.”

It’s perfectly OK to be a racist in the Republican Party, as long as you keep it “in house” and pass it off as a joke. These are not the only instances of Republican racism. There have been many others, like the poster showing the White House lawn turned into a watermelon patch. Is it any wonder that most African-Americans (and other minorities) don’t feel comfortable in the Republican Party — the party that accepts such behavior from its members?

With each succeeding generation, the United States becomes a little less racist. Added to the fact that many whites are shedding their racist tendencies, is the fact that in many parts of this country, the majority of the population is now composed of minorities. Both of these trends are going to continue, and that’s bad news for the Republican Party.

The Republican Party must face its internal racism and get rid of it. Failure to do so will ensure they become a party of little significance in the future, and could result in their demise. Dump the racism or go the way of the Whigs!

[Rag Blog contributor Ted McLaughlin also posts at jobsanger, an excellent Texas political blog.]

The Rag Blog

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2 Responses to Republicans and Racism : Could Go the Way of the Whigs

  1. I have an rss feed to jobsanger, and so enjoy that web-site.

    I’d seen this painting/photograph on their site; hesitated in circulating it because wasn’t sure how some people might react to the ‘stark truth’……….

    For those of us who read the children’s book, LITTLE BLACK SAMBO; who saw nothing ‘wrong with it’, and adored THE SONG OF THE SOUTH, and saw everything right with it, it’s good to live long enough to see the needed changes coming.

  2. Steve Russell says:

    This is stuff that needs to be said out loud more often. LBJ’s remark about having “given away the South” when he signed the Voting Rights Act was, as I recall, in a private conversation rather than a public speech.

    It’s true that the Dixiecrats were to the Repugs as the escaped Nazis were to the Nationalist Party in South Africa in 1948. And we saw the damage done to South Africa by grounding politics is racism.

    For what it’s worth, my students have been to the political right of me for most of my teaching career, but that has changed. And, most happily, during the last election I saw my generation arguing McCain v. Obama in racial code-speak. My students are clueless about racial code-speak. They argued about substantive policies.

    Within 20 miles of the center of the Indiana KKK (once a powerful force in mainstream politics here) nobody takes notice of interracial couples. That, by the way, is an example of the racists being right about what would follow integration.

    OF COURSE “race-mixing” would follow integration.

    It reminds me of a silly pissing match I got into with a UT student body president. She was advocating for the ERA, which I agreed was a Good Thing, but denying that making women’s equality the law would eventually also end legal discrimination against gay people. Of course, that’s the case. Pissed her off so badly she worked on my opponent’s campaign when I ran for Justice of the Peace.

    Ah, memories…

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