Posted on 11-01-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The revelation of Senator Harry Reid’s use of the “n” word while describing Barack Obama’s strengths as a candidate has set off the typical Washington fire storm.  While President Obama has accepted his apology and the Democratic caucus has rallied around Senator Reid the Republicans are crying foul.  They point to the double standard on race that forced them to jettison Trent Lott of Mississippi a few years back (though a lot of the pushing came from the White House in that one).  As others have pointed out,  the situations are not analogous.  Se here, here and here for a detailed explanation on the subject.

But the Republicans are right in that there is a double standard.  It seems unfair but they can look in the mirror for why Republicans (particularly southern Republicans) get so little leeway on race.

As the heirs to the Whigs, the Republican Party was born in its opposition to slavery.  After the civil war the Party of Lincoln could count on the support of the freed slaves.  However, things started to changed under FDR.  The New Deal created a blue collar coalition that included black voters.  By 1956 the Republican share of the black vote was 40% and has been heading down ever since.  However, the addition of Black voters to the Democratic coalition and the resulting push for civil rights fractured the Democratic Party

Southern Democrats who had reestablished control over the region after reconstruction and disenfranchised large portions of the African American population bristled when Northern liberals started preaching civil rights.  The breaking point came during the 1948 Democratic convention when Minneapolis mayor Hubert Humphrey urged the Democratic Party to “get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.”  Outraged Southern Democrats walked out and nominated Strom Thurmond as the presidential nominee of the States’ Rights Party (aka Dixiecrats).  Things got worse for them with the election of John F. Kennedy.  But the unkindest cut of all came when one of their own, former Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson rammed through the Civil Rights Act.  According to legend when Johnson signed the Act into law he remarked, “We have lost the South for a generation.”  He was right because the Republicans were waiting in the wings.

Richard Nixon made some clumsy attempts to court black voters in 1960.  After that Republican presidential tickets actively started courting the Southern white vote.  Barry Goldwater stumped against the Civil Rights Act in 1964, Richard Nixon deployed the Southern Strategy, or Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign kicked off in Philadelphia, Miss., site of the ”Mississippi Burning” murders with the message of “states rights” (though as noted in the link some have disputed whether Reagan’s appeal was targeted at Southern whites).  It worked.  By the 1990s the South had turned Republican.  On the flip side, by then the Republican share of the black vote had dropped to the low teens.  By 1992, the Party of Lincoln was the Party of Pat Buchanan and Jesse Helms.

Next the Republican Party turned its attention to destroying its share of the Hispanic vote.  Pete Wilson eagerly embraced Proposition 187 to secure reelection in the 1994 California gubernatorial election.  He won  the battle but the Republican Party lost the war and the Hispanic vote in California.  The home state of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan with its 54 electoral votes is now solidly Democratic.  Even though George W. Bush tried to win  (and in his own elections won) back the Hispanic vote, the racially tinged rhetoric unleashed by the opponents of immigration reform locked up the Hispanic vote for Barack Obama.  Had John McCain not been on the ticket, the Republicans would have lost Arizona in the 2008 Presidential Elections.

This is the current breakdown of minorities in the Republican Congressional caucus:

  • African Americans  – zero
  • Hispanics – 3 (three Cuban-Americans from South Florida, and even that once loyal Republican community is trending Democratic)
  • Asian Americans – 1 (Joseph Cao elected by fluke last year and who will almost certainly lose next year)

For a party that actively courts the Jewish vote, it has only one Jewish member in Congress (Eric Cantor).   Read the rest of this entry »

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