Misdirection: Bartlett Ignores GOP's Racist Present for Dems' Racist Past
In one of the most disgusting and disingenuous acts of political misdirection in recent memory, former Reagan and Bush 41 advisor Bruce Bartlett is asking Americans to ignore the Republican Party's racist present and instead focus on the Democratic Party's racist past. Taking to the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Bartlett extracted a catalog of quotes from Jefferson to Biden to document the Democratic Party's' shameful past history when it comes to African-Americans. But no amount of sleight of hand can obscure the inescapable truth of American politics today. It is the GOP which plays to win with the Race Card. And no doubt, the GOP is the Party of Hate.
As a partisan Republican, Bartlett can be forgiven for lamenting the GOP's dismal performance among black and Hispanic voters. (African-American American voters continue to support Democratic candidates by almost 9 to 1 margins; the GOP's xenophobic assault on immigration reversed virtually of George W. Bush's gains among Hispanics, who by the 2006 mid-terms gave Democrats by 69% of their votes.) But his obvious history lessons in his new book (Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past) about post-Civil War Democrats in the South neglect to mention that they virtually all found a new home in the Republican Party in the 1960's:
"They were openly and explicitly for slavery before the Civil War, supported lynching and 'Jim Crow' laws after the war, and regularly defended segregation and white supremacy throughout most of the 20th century."
Most of the 20th century, that is, until the civil rights movement and the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act in the 1960's. President Lyndon Johnson, who signed those acts into law, presciently predicted, "There goes the South for a generation." Make that two; even as savvy a politician as Johnson severely underestimated the devastation Democrats' support for civil rights would produce among white voters in the South.
This transformation, apparently the only theory of evolution conservatives understand, is perhaps the defining political reality in the United States today. Many people once believed the earth is flat. Democrats no more believe that now than any of the race-baiting messages produced by the Republican National Committee and its water carriers. The last - and only - bastion of political racism in this country sadly resides in the Party of Lincoln.
As I detailed last year in "The Amazing Race Card," Nixon's southern Strategy is alive and well in today's Republican Party. The party's efforts policies, messages, slurs and gaffes in the Bush White House, on Capitol Hill and in the states:
"...are only the latest signs that racial bigotry is not the exception in the GOP, but perhaps the rule itself...
...Clearly, today's Republicans have no claim to the mantle of the "Party of Lincoln." As Joe Klein described it, the race card in Karl Rove's hands is no accident, but key to the GOP strategy for the 2006 mid-term elections: "if things get really desperate, he will play the race card, as Republicans have ever since they sided against the civil rights movement in the 1960s."
And Republican racism and fear-mongering hardly ended with the GOP's crushing defeat in the 2006 midterm elections. As I documented just last month in "The Party of Hate":
"In Washington, House Minority Leader John Boehner is struggling to rebrand a downtrodden and disheartened Republican Party in time for the 2008 elections. It's no wonder. Its agenda stymied and burdened by an unpopular war and an even less popular President, the GOP is being pulverized in the polls. And with its evangelical base splintered and big business supporters jumping ship, the only message seemingly uniting Republicans is disdain - of immigrants, of blacks, of gay Americans and above all, Muslims. The GOP is now the Party of Hate."
The degree to which Ronald Reagan was himself a skillful player of the race card with his symbolic 1980 speech at Philadelphia, Mississippi (as Paul Krugman would suggest and conservative stalwarts like Bruce Bartlett and David Brooks would reject) may be open for debate. But the omnipresent racism and none-to-thinly veiled racial appeals of the Republican Party is beyond dispute.
Democrat Woodrow Wilson is dead. The race card is alive and well in today's Republican Party.
For more background on the evolution of GOP into the Party of Hate, see:
UPDATE: For an excellent discussion of Bartlett's subterfuge, visit Matthew Yglesias. There, the author himself shows up - and get smacked down.