“You start out in 1954 by saying, “Ni**er, ni**er, ni**er.” By 1968 you can’t say “nia**er” – that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites…”
Lee Atwater was a political strategist for the Republican Party and in the quote above he was outlying the southern strategy, pioneered by former Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater and mastered by the 1968 Richard Nixon presidential campaign. It was a turning point in the Republican and Democratic parties. The Democratic Party was split, by northern and southern Democrats, and there were also liberal and conservative Republicans at this time. Northern Democrats voted for the 1964 Civil Rights laws, supported by President Johnson and Southern Democrats voted against it.
This made the south up for grabs, then as now, much of this country was split along racial lines. But the decision to court southern voters in 1968, and stoke racial cleavages, made the Republican Party the white nationalist party.
Since Nixon’s southern strategy, the Republican Party has had an ever-evolving use of stoking racial divides that have turned into abstract economic talk. And over the last 8 years under the Obama presidency, a reverting back to rhetoric out of the 1960’s, as well as ability to question President Obama’s “American heritage.”
To call their criticism of Obama thinly coded racially tinged language would be an understatement. The entire rise of the Tea Party was that of modern-day proto-white nationalism. This has also been added by the Democratic Party, specifically Bill Clinton Democrats who in desperation to win office, fully adopted the “law and order” rhetoric of the Republican Party.
Law and order rhetoric was used by Richard Nixon in a successful attempt to frame the Civil Rights and Black Power movements as corrupt, criminal, and out of control. He claimed he wanted to bring control to the streets of America. He used this rhetoric to brutally crack down on the movements, to arrest, frame, and kill many black leaders.
This same rhetoric was adopted and expanded upon by Reagan to escalate the war on drugs, and then we saw an explosion of mass incarceration and investment on the war on drugs under Clinton.
But not only was this rhetoric adopted, so was the economic coded language. Clinton fully adopted neo-liberal economics, economics that was developed, used, and sold, by using the same racially coded language. Telling whites that black people will suffer more. This gave us Clinton’s welfare reform and NAFTA, which economically gutted black America, especially blue collar black America, far more than it did white Americans. Wage stagnation was felt far more in black America than white America.
Everything causing the economic anxiety of white America today has been felt by black America for decades.
But time was against the Republican party and changing demographics have put the southern strategy on life support. Today, it’s less of a southern strategy and more of a pure racial cleavage strategy. Although there is a large amount of racism within the Democratic party, an issue I will get to in a later column, the GOP is now very clearly the party of white nationalists. This goes far beyond the south, and into rural and medium-sized cities. Large cities and urban areas tend to have more liberal views of race, even though there are still major issues there.
“So, on appearance, many Americans, who are growing in diversity, are stuck between a white nationalist party and a party that is still economically rooted in neo-colonialism and American imperialism. As the Democratic Party isn’t serving its voters of color, it is the party of implicit racism and oppression, opposed to explicit. That is a problem.”
One’s attitude on race is the determining factor in support of Trump, not class. In fact, Trump supporters tend to make more money than Hillary Clinton supporters. The idea that it’s all poor whites, or pure economic anxiety, is a myth, one that we must break through.
This cleavage has been growing and leveraged through the Tea Party ever since President Obama was elected. This made space and gave rise to the figure we see in Trump and that space will continue to be there even after his loss.
The tactics in attempts to make Obama an illegitimate president, the tactics spreading the voter fraud myth, and voter ID laws, the tactics spreading xenophobia against brown skin Muslims, the tactics of spreading fear of the brown and black immigrant criminal, and the tactics of spreading the idea that illegal immigrants are taking the rightful jobs of white Americans are all tried-and-true tactics of the Republican party.
The only thing that is new about what Trump is doing right now is that he has dropped much of the coded language, giving large swaths of the Republican Party permission to be open with their bigotry, racism, and xenophobia.
The main objection by the Republican Party to Trump isn’t his message and it isn’t his hate. The problem for them is how he delivers it. Even many major news outlets failed to really even attempt to hold Trump accountable for his open racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and hate. Every time he had himself a “calm” day, a normal day for most Republican politicians, they thought he was turning a corner, only to be duped again.
Only when evidence of Trump speaking about sexually assaulting white women did GOP individuals start to truly distance themselves. And only then, did major news outlets hold him accountable for his words and actions.
We already know that the Republican Party lacks the ability to self-reflect and we already know that large aspects of their base, that they still want to cater to, are openly racist. The Republican Party as the white nationalist party won’t end after this election.
In four years, there is a high likelihood that the Republican Party will nominate someone that is just as much of an open white nationalist as Donald Trump, but they will be refined. They won’t be out of control of the party structure. They will be the party structure.
Their economic policies are white economic policies, that’s the problem with neo-liberal and libertarian based economic policies. They are thinly veiled, white nationalist economic policies. Meaning, you cannot be fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Those two don’t go hand in hand.
So, on appearance, many Americans, who are growing in diversity, are stuck between a white nationalist party and a party that is still economically rooted in neo-colonialism and American imperialism. As the Democratic Party isn’t serving its voters of color, it is the party of implicit racism and oppression, opposed to explicit. That is a problem.
If the Democratic Party wants to be relevant to millennials, it needs to take a cue from Bernie Sanders and the Black Lives Matter movement, not chastise or criticize them. It needs to embrace those ideologies. Progressive populism is back, and the Democratic Party needs to embrace where the young voters are going, who almost single-handedly nominated Bernie Sanders — a man who openly claimed to be a socialist, mind you.
It seems the leadership of the Democratic National Committee doesn’t fully understand their role in the rise of Trump, their role in the rise of a new progressive populism, or their role in the dissatisfaction of young people, specifically young people of color, of their political party.
So where are we? We are at the point where the Republican Party will continue to be the white nationalist party, a party that is, unfortunately, one recession away from being able to gain power. And we have one party that is still too in the pockets of Wall Street, especially its leadership, as it fails to fully embrace its base. The Democratic Party is not a liberal one and anyone that believes that has fallen for Republican propaganda, which calls anything Democratic socialist, even if it’s something they once supported themselves.
Simply put, there is a moderate party and a white extremist party, which leaves many people of the largest voting age population disenfranchised.
And I know many reading this will be yelling to themselves, “What about the Green Party?” They have failed to truly build a base and is too focused on national politics and not taking advantage of the political cleavages presented by the Democratic Party at a local and state level. Instead of putting a lot of their small resources towards a candidate for president, they should be far more focused than they are in building a powerful local- and state-level grassroots base.
We’re in for a heck of a four to eight years, as those emboldened by Donald Trump will not be backing down even if he loses. And more people will move left and away from the status-quo. Those that want to change it must use this time in building power and changing local and state level politics. There’s a lot of power there, especially since more than half our states are run by thinly veiled white nationalists like Gov. Scott Walker.