(also posted at Huffingtonpost)
The last time there were large numbers of African Americans in the Republican Party was before the FDR Era. There was a reason for that, two reasons actually. First, the Republican Party was still seen as the party of Lincoln, the party of manumission. Second, the Democratic Party proudly claimed the title “Party of White Supremacy” well into the 20th Century. Woodrow Wilson ran on an explicit white supremacist platform, and was sworn in by a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
The names remained the same , but in 1968, during Nixon’s successful run for the White House, Republican strategist Kevin Phillips came up with a strategy to take advatage of white backlash against Civil Rights legislation signed by Kennedy and Johnson. He called it the Southern Strategy, and it was based on an appeal to white supremacy that would gather white supremacist Democrats, especially in the South, into a re-defined Republican Party as a counterweight to the political migration of most African Americans into the Democratic Party, and the tremendous poltical weight of Black voters in the post-Voting Rights Act South.
The late Republican strategist, Lee Atwater, would later explain in an interview:
“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’–that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff… You follow me–because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’”
George Wallace’s anti-Black independent presidential campaign that same year (1968) gave the Southern Strategy more urgency and impetus, and sswitched the Republican Party onto the track upon which it remains to this day, albeit with this Atwater-esque coded rhetoric: The Party of White Supremacy.
This placed the Democratic party (in this laudable winner-takes-all, money-driven, duopolistic system) in the unenviable position of depending on Black voters for its margin of victory every election, and Black voters in the unenviable positon of depending upon the Democratic Party — which continually apsires to be marginally better than Republicans for Black voters. The DP then had to walk the tightrope of not offending white voters with too much support for the essential Black voting bloc’s interests, and not alienating Black voters themselves. African Americans got stuck with the DP as the only viable insitutional expression of the franchise for which a lot of people suffered and died.
Now the Republican Party is faced with a potential political debacle (which I believe we should vigorously assist this year), in which every vote is going to count, and when the public is increasingly aware of the systematic Black disfranchisement tactics the Republicans used in 2000 and 2004. So instead of doing a Katherine Harris, Jim-Crow-the-Sequel deal like they did before, which might ignite a political firestorm in the Republican tinderbox, they have fallen on a new strategy for this election.
They are trying to strip away enough African American voters to break the Democrats in close races. For this effort, they have developed an expensive public relations campaign aimed directly at African Americans. I got my first taste of this “campaign” from my friend Yolanda Carrington, who posted a piece called “…the last refuge of a scoundrel…” on her blog.
In off the chain GOP news…I kinda thought that the Republicans were desperate to turn out the vote this election, but I don’t think The Onion could have dreamed up the shit I’m about to tell you now. Apparently a GOP PAC financed by a white billionaire named J. Patrick Rooney is running radio ads targeting African Americans. No surprise there, right? But just listen to some of these ads at the site Vote our Values (click on the link titled “Listen to the Ads” at the homepage). The spot transcribed below on abortion is titled “Don’t Go There,” and is scripted as a conversation between two men.
Michael: If you make a little mistake with one of your ‘hos,’ you’ll want to dispose of that problem toot sweet (sic), no questions asked, right?
Dennis: That’s too cold. I don’t snuff my own seed.
Michael: Huh? Really? Well, maybe you do have a reason to vote Republican.
These ads, which readers really have to hear in order to believe, are neither more nor less than self-parody. They are narrated with what sounds to be white actors attempting a “black” accent, with grotesquely self-conscious verbiage that was written by some clueless white PR denizen.. or, my theory… the GOP hired a Black PR writer, who gleefully took their money to write what he or she knew would be the most blatantly offensive ads one could get away with, and designed the ads to perversely turn out larger numbers of pissed off Black voters to vote straight Democratic tickets.
Yolanda came by today and played the ads for my daughter-in-law, a young African American from North Carolina, and my daughter-in-law almost had to pick her jaw up off the floor when she heard Black men who voted Democratic portrayed as jobless freeloaders who consorted with “ho’s.”
Yes, these ads did say that.
Republicans, it seems, have placed themselves on the horns of a racial dilemma. They cannot escape the coded racism embedded in their core appeal to a base that consciously, yet slyly, votes its white nationalism; and they now find themselves needing to appeal to Black voters using the same messages. Republican strategists are proving incapable of concealing their own fundamental belief that Black people are too stupid to see through these clumsy attempts at manipulation.
And so we get the message, loud and clear from the RP and its handful of Black opportunists, “Vote for us, if you want to be less fucked up.”