Let’s Drop the False Pretenses. The Republican Party is the White People’s Party

It’s official. White identity is the cornerstone of the Republican Party.

Political pundits and social observers have for decades commented on the racial transformation of the Republican Party. From the beginnings of the Southern Strategy in the 1960s to the present day, the Republican Party has become more visibly white. This is not to say that all white people vote Republican, or that non-white people are excluded from being members. But it does mean that to be a member of the Grand Old Party, you need to embrace the core principles of the white power structure along with their underlying belief in white supremacy.

The transformation of the Republican party becoming nearly all white begins with the formation of the Dixiecrat Party in 1948 and accelerated with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After signing this historic piece of legislation into law, President Lyndon Johnson told an aide: “We (Democrats) have lost the South for a generation.” Two months after the signing, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond switched parties and began trying to mold the Republican Party to appeal to the values of Southern white voters. Kevin Phillips, a political strategist for Richard Nixon, convinced party leadership to pursue what would come to be known as the “Southern Strategy”. This strategy involved peeling away white voters in the South from the Democratic Party by appealing to whites who were hostile to the ending of de jure segregation codified in Jim Crow laws as well as by enlisting the help of patriarchal, religious conservatives such as Billy Graham. This strategy worked as Nixon won 70% of the popular vote in the South in the 1972 presidential election. That lopsided margin persists to this day. According to data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, Republicans won the white vote in the Deep South in the 2014 midterms by 65 percentage points, 81 percent to 17 percent.

Fast forward to today and witness the Republican Party increasingly painting itself white with shades of nationalism. Recently, an election commissioner in Jones County, Mississippi posted on social media a concern she had that:

“the blacks are having lots [of] events for voter registration. People in Mississippi have to get involved too.”

Shouldn’t election officials be happy that voter registration is going up, no matter which group is seeing an increase? And, what criteria does she use to distinguish between “the blacks” and “people in Mississippi”? Should Black voters in Mississippi be worried about their votes being counted?

Similar statements have been made in the past on other voting issues by Republican officials. In a June 2012 speech Pennsylvania House Republican Leader Mike Turzai stated that voter ID requirements would “allow Romney to win Pennsylvania”. But he is not alone. In a 2016 television interview Wisconsin Congressman Glenn Grothman said that photo ID would “help the GOP nominee win Wisconsin”. In 2012 former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer told the Palm Beach Post that Republican laws passed to reduce early voting days and hours were not passed, as Republicans claimed, to save money and reduce voter fraud, but were passed for one reason only… “We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us [Republicans]. They never came in to see me and tell me we had a [voter] fraud issue. It’s all a marketing ploy.”

These public admissions by Republican Party officials are revealing in that they no longer are trying to shield the true reason behind their voter legislation bills — to reduce minority voter turnout. And why attempt to suppress votes? Because the many minority groups in the United States are rejecting the values of white dominance espoused by the Republican Party.

The impetus behind Republican voter suppression efforts can be seen in the demographic data of national elections. In the 2018 mid terms, Blacks voted 90% to 8% in favor of Democrats, the Hispanic/Latino vote went 64% to 33% in favor of Democrats, and for the Asian community, the results were 69% to 28% in favor of Democrats. Based on recent legislation, comments, and actions by the Trump administration, there is no indication that these numbers will improve for Republicans for the November 2020 election. Large percentages of America’s minority communities see the Republican Party as supporting the interests of the white power structure.

President Trump’s speech at Mt. Rushmore on July 3rd set the tone for his reelection strategy which has been crafted to appeal to the most devoted part of his base: white people. And what does his white base want to hear? That he is going to try to preserve the United States as a bastion for whiteness and to stem, and perhaps, reverse the change to a multicultural and diverse society. Trump is going to protect white people from non-white people who are a threat to what he called “America’s vanishing white majority.” At Mt. Rushmore with the backdrop of four ex-presidents with checkered racial histories behind him, Trump declared:

“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children… This movement is openly attacking the legacies of every person on Mount Rushmore.”

Trump’s use of the word “our” instead of “white” is a not- so- disguised dog whistle to his followers. They understand that Trump’s words are meant to preserve the white legacy of the past and to pacify fears of a decline in white power and influence in American society. Trump’s defense of the Confederate flag and Civil War monuments is a gesture to white people who continue to take pride in- and hold onto- historical symbols of white power.

The attempt to promote the idea of white supremacy and power requires more than just the speeches of Republican politicians. It also is dependent on a vocal and compliant conservative media. And there is no stronger megaphone for the perceived slow replacement of the white race in America than Fox News’ white nationalist-in-chief, Tucker Carlson. Fox News has a viewership that is 94% white. Even though advertisers have been abandoning his show, Tucker Carlson still has the largest audience in cable news. Advertisers did not want to be associated with Carlson’s disparaging remarks about the Black Lives Matter movement that included fear mongering statements such as:

“this may be a lot of things, this moment we are living through, but it is definitely not about black lives, and remember that when they come for you. And at this rate, they will.”

Tucker Carlson has been making racially charged statements on his own for years, but recently he has had some help. Over the last four years Blake Neff worked as a writer for Tucker Carlson’s show. Much of what Carlson read off his teleprompter was written by Blake Neff. Neff resigned recently after making horrific racist, misogynistic comments such as: “Would u let a JET BLACK congo n****er do lasik eye surgery on u for 50% off?” anonymously on online message boards such as AutoAdmit. Can anyone really be surprised at the growing influence of white identity and white supremacy activities in America?

The modern Republican Party is not unique in using race and ethnic identity as a unifying force. Authoritarian governments worldwide have relied upon it for winning elections and implementing policy. The National Party (NP) was the governing party in South Africa during the de jure system of apartheid. It was understood by white citizens in South Africa during apartheid that the NP existed to promote the interests of white citizens, at the exclusion of every other race and ethnic group.

The Republican Party has embraced the ideals of white nationalism. This can be seen in the record high number of anti-Semitic crimes committed in the United States in 2019, Supreme Court rulings like Shelby County v. Holder which reduced voting protections for African Americans, mainstream media outlets spewing racial vitriol spawned from the depths of racist message boards, border walls to keep out unwanted immigrants, and widespread Islamophobia.

Just as South Africa found its way to end apartheid, so too can the United States find an end to the long reign of white supremacy. The country’s long history of racism and white supremacy will make the task a difficult one. After apartheid ended, South Africa set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which acted as a restorative justice body inviting people to provide statements about their experiences. These public testimonies were an attempt to heal the country. The protests over the killing of George Floyd have served as an informal attempt at truth and reconciliation. For the country to experience an end to white supremacy and a move towards justice, that process needs to be formalized.

Retired social science teacher and avid reader. Trying to find a place for justice and compassion in society. Twitter: @GHoffarth

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