Wednesday, December 26, 2007

When Republicans play the race card, they lose

Steve Benen, writing at Political Animal, discusses how in 2006 "the National Black Republican Association ran radio spots in Baltimore insisting that African-American voters should back the GOP, because Democrats were responsible for Jim Crow laws, the KKK, and releasing vicious dogs and fire hoses on civil-rights activists."

GOP pundit Bruce Bartlett joined in the ridiculous argument to remind us of the way-back history of racist Democrats. Is his offense a sin of omission in failing to address how the Democratic Party paid for its stand on civil rights as bigoted defectors stampeded toward the Republican Party, which welcomed the racists into its ranks? Are Bartlett's efforts a propaganda extension of the rightwing Project 21 initiative to bamboozle the public with the dubious slogan, a new leadership for Black America?

Following up, Steve wrote:

Bartlett insists that the Democratic Party's history must not be "swept under the rug as old news," adding that if Dems believe Reagan's racist appeals in 1980 still matter today, Democrats' history has to matter, too.
Matt Yglesias nailed Bartlett's argument to the wall with a single stroke and Steve Benen concluded, "I'm far more concerned with the Republicans' transparent present that the Dems' not-so-buried past." To which I commented:
Yeah, me, too.
I met Harold at the Playboy party....
The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.
Harold, call me!
E.J. Dionne wrote at the time of the ad runnning, "And there is what will, sadly, become the most famous advertisement of this [2006] election cycle, the "Harold, call me'' ad run by the Republican National Committee against Rep. Harold Ford Jr., the Democratic candidate for the Senate from Tennessee. To claim that an ad depicting a pretty blonde woman coming on to an African-American politician does not play on the fears of miscegenation on the part of some whites is to ignore history."
How convenient for Bartlett to ignore this recent GOP history.
If Bruce Bartlett, who's hawking his attack on Democrats through his new book release, "Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past," I wonder how much he writes about Democratic presidents Harry S. Truman and LBJ? I haven't read his book so I don't know. So let's examine the racist past of Democrats during the Truman era and what thereafter happened.

[Keep reading... more history after the jump.]

Almost sixty years ago on July 26, 1948, a Democratic president defied his own party's extremists to end discrimination in the military by issuing Executive Order 9981. With a stroke of his pen, President Truman signed the document that declared racial equality for soldiers of color:
WHEREAS it is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country's defense.
1. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.
Note these words: the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country's defense. Funny how today, those same words should apply to gays in the military, but in opposition to their Democratic rivals, the 2008 GOP presidential candidates support the ban on equality. Truman's bold leadership lifted the segregation of soldiers of color in the military and helped precipitate the burgeoning issue of desegregation throughout the land.

Fast forward to today and examine two Democratic WH contenders: Obama is African-American and Big Bill Richardson is Hispanic. Where's the diversity in today's GOP compared to today's Democrats? According to the Catholic News Service:
In its analysis of the ethnic makeup of the 109th Congress, Congressional Quarterly said the number of African-Americans in Congress had increased by four with one in the Senate and 42 in the House. All are Democrats.
The number of Hispanics in Congress was up two in the Senate -- one Democrat and one Republican -- and increased by one in the House to 24 -- 19 Democrats and five Republicans.
I haven't had time to research the ethnicity of the current 110th Congress but I daresay you will find more diversity among Democrats than Republicans. Who's walking the talk?

Are we also to ignore former GOP senator George Allen's macaca moment during 2006? Or the racial overtones of the 2006 ad aimed at Democrat Harold Ford in Tennessee? Which matters? History today or the distant past that no longer affects Democratic politics but still impacts the GOP?

Back in 1948 when Truman issued his executive order to denounce racism in the military, a New York Times article, "Presses For Rights: President Acts Despite Split in His Party Over the Chief Issue," reminded me that history repeats itself. See if you can grasp the twirling boomerang and the parallels to the politics du jour within the GOP and its media surrogates. If not, I'll help you out in a minute:
On the eve of his appearance before Congress, the President issued two executive orders to carry out his sweeping aims. He said that men in uniform should have "equality of treatment and opportunity" without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.
Similarly, he decreed that "merit and fitness" should be the only application for a Government job, and that the head of each department "shall be personally responsible for an effective program to insure that fair employment policies are fully observed in all personnel actions within his department."
The two orders were expected to have a thunderbolt effect on the already highly charged political situation in the Deep South, a situation which is expected to be aggravated further tomorrow when Mr. Truman makes his omnibus call on Congress for action. The message, in one of its eleven major elements, is expected to go down the line for his ten-point civil rights program, which last February started the deep fissures in the Democratic party.
In recent months, Mr. Truman has been caught between two fires on the civil rights issue. The more extreme Southern Democrats, arguing that the program infringed on states rights, have named their own Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates. Their feelings, it was predicted, would become even more exacerbated by the executive orders.
A federal official interested in promoting the rights of Negroes said tonight that while the orders were a step in the right direction, they called for the end of "discrimination," but made no mention of ending "segregation." Proponents of the Negro cause declare that segregation is prima facie evidence of discrimination.
This official recalled that integration of Negroes in the Army went down to companies who served alongside of companies of white troops. He believed that the President's order on the armed forces, which was not specific on the degree of integration or mixing to be attained, might push the line down to platoon.
He did not believe that it would go down to the squad, the smallest unit, or twelve men, as that would involve white men and Negroes eating and sleeping in the same quarters.
[Italics added. The PDF file of the article appears to have moved, so I've used the text from my archive of the 1948 article.]
Truman's presidency coincided during the days of the Dixiecrats, Southern Democrats who opposed civil rights and desegregation under the banner of states rights. Disgruntled Dixiecrats -- Strom Thurmond and Trent Lott types -- would later join the Republican Party to faithfully turn the racially-divided South into its current red-state haven in defiance of the Democratic Party that had the audacity of justice, the integrity and grit, to push civil rights. Forget about doing the right thing: The Right wants the might of its own prejudice.

As the illustrious Digby recently wrote at FDL, "Notice how polite the racism has become? No 'nigger, nigger, nigger' anywhere." Yet we all know the heart of racism still beats, just covertly in the Republican pesharim of "Afro-American" and "states rights." Sadly, rightwing racsim doesn't end with one ethnic minority.

Remember the hissy fit over the first Muslim elected to Congress, Keith Ellison (D-MN), his use of the Quran instead of the Bible during his swearing-in ceremony? The Right questioned his loyalties and values:
Does he believe in Sharia law or freedom? Does he respect the authority of nation states or only that of the Nation of Islam? Does he believe in tolerance and equality between Muslims and non-Muslims? Does he believe in freedom of speech even when it slanders Islam? Can he, in good conscience, uphold our man-made constitution even when it conflicts with the Koran?
The following smear really drives the GOP prejudice home: " is alarming that citizens of the U.S. have elected someone who appears to be in bed with our enemy." Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) called Ellison's decision a threat to American values. I wonder what The Greatest, Mohammad Ali, thinks of such slanderous rhetoric and the GOP's assault on religious freedom? Good job, Rethugs!

Turning to immigration, Hispanics have left the GOP for the friendlier big tent in the Democratic Party:
It also would imperil Republican prospects for years with Hispanics, the fastest-growing slice of the American electorate. In 2006, surveys suggest Republicans got less than 30 percent of the Hispanic vote, a drop of about 10 points that cost them a half-dozen House seats and several in the Senate.
This reflects disillusionment with the anti-immigrant posture of prominent Republicans. The party chairman, Mel Martinez, a Florida senator and an immigrant from Cuba, warns it could be ominous for next year: "If we get the same type of Hispanic support in the next election cycle that we did in the last, there is no way we can elect a Republican president."
Ask Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) what reward he received in backing immigration reform that eventually stalled in the Senate. As with the civil rights movement, the stumbling block for Graham emanated from his southern constituency in addition to like-minded wingnuts in the "bigotsphere." Oh, the pain of reaching for a just solution in a party filled with racists.

The dog won't hunt Bruce Bartlett's latest contention that somehow the racist past of Democrats matters today when in truth, the party made a U-turn post-Truman, through the civil rights movement under LBJ, and up until today. What matters, what Bartlett hasn't honestly confronted, is how prejudiced the current GOP and its mouthpieces in Big Media remain 27 years after Reagan's Philadelphia, Mississippi speech in 1980.

I'm still waiting for GOP candidate Ron Paul to publicly denounce his white supremacist friends.

Crickets chirp.