Updated: Is the Republican Party Racist?

“Every method that human ingenuity can conceive of is being used to undermine, dilute and circumvent the rights of minority voters to enjoy the franchise.”

Whitney Houston dies. Fox News posts the story and a torrent of racist comments follow. Some will say, but these are just commenters… They don’t represent the GOP. Right?

Head on over to the minstrel show at CPAC this weekend where “wearing track suits and colonial-style wigs, Steve Crowder, a Fox News contributor and comedian, and Chris Loesch, the husband of conservative commentator Dana Loesch, warmed the crowd up with a rap about “Mr. America” that using the n-word and claiming they’re saying “knickers.”  (There’s a reason there’s no conservative competition for Jon Stewart). You can also read a defense of ”Mr. America” at Breitbart’s blog. And none of this is any different than what Rush Limbaugh says every week.

Or take a short walk on the Republican Primary campaign trail where:

Black people have lost the desire to perform a day’s work. Black people rely on food stamps provided to them by white taxpayers. Black people, including Barack and Michelle Obama, believe that the U.S. owes them something because they are black. Black children should work as janitors in their high schools as a way to keep them from becoming pimps. And the pathologies afflicting black Americans are caused partly by the Democratic Party, which has created in them a dependency on government not dissimilar to the forced dependency of slaves on their owners.

Or take a visit to the land of cotton, where old times are definitely not forgotten, and segregation is being recreated through redistricting. The strategy is simple: create majority-minority districts and pack Democrats into as few as possible

“We’re having the same conversations we had forty years ago in the South, that black people can only represent black people and white people can only represent white people,” says [State Senator Eric] Mansfield. “I’d hope that in 2012 we’d have grown better than that.” Before this year, for example, there were no Senate districts with a [black voting age population] of 50 percent or higher. Now there are nine. A lawsuit filed by the NAACP and other advocacy groups calls the redistricting maps “an intentional and cynical use of race that exceeds what is required to ensure fairness to previously disenfranchised racial minority voters.”

Creating majority-minority districts maximizes the number of white majority districts, where white effectively means Republican.

in states like Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, the Democratic Party can thrive only as a multiracial coalition. The elimination of white Democrats has also crippled the political aspirations of black Democrats. According to a recent report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, only 4.8 percent of black state legislators in the South serve in the majority. “Black voters and elected officials have less influence now than at any time since the civil rights era,” the report found. Sadly, the report came out before all the redistricting changes had gone into effect. By the end of this cycle, Republicans in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee could have filibuster-proof majorities in their legislatures, and most white Democrats in Alabama and Mississippi (which haven’t completed redistricting yet) could be wiped out.

The effect is significant:

Democrats accounted for 47 percent of the statewide vote in Georgia in 2008 and 2010 but, thanks to redistricting, can elect just 31 percent of Statehouse members. [Stacey Abrams, the first African-American leader of the Georgia House] is especially upset that Republicans pitted incumbent white Democrats against incumbent black Democrats in four House districts in Atlanta, which she sees as an attempt to divide the party through ugly racial politics. “They placed whites who represented majority-minority districts against blacks who represented majority-minority districts and enhanced the number of minority voters in those districts in order to wipe the white Democrats out,” she explains. The new districts slither across the metropolis to pick up as many black voters as possible. Abrams says the new maps “look like a bunch of snakes that got run over.”

I hestitate to call the Republican Party racist. I know too many good people who are Republicans. They aren’t racists either. But what do you call an organization that uses racism and racists to achieve its political ends?

The use of race in redistricting is just one part of a broader racial strategy used by Southern Republicans to not only make it more difficult for minorities to vote and to limit their electoral influence but to pass draconian anti-immigration laws, end integrated busing, drug-test welfare recipients and curb the ability of death-row inmates to challenge convictions based on racial bias. GOP presidential candidates have gotten in on the act, with Newt Gingrich calling President Obama “the best food-stamp president in American history.” The new Southern Strategy, it turns out, isn’t very different from the old one.

(For some reason, my previous post didn’t update. It was longer than the two paragraphs that appeared. I’ve tried to recreate it here).


22 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. YES (to answer your question)

    That’s what this “campaign” is about and has been all along.

    As well as misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and all the rest.

  2. No

    They ARE just commenters, and they don’t represent the GOP.

    More broadly, I think it’s important to call out racist things when they”re said, but I don’t think it’s helpful to ask if an entire party, representing millions of Americans, is racist. It simply is not. We owe them better than we sometimes get from the likes of Breitbart, who is a toxic personality and more of a problem for them than he is for us.

    • Unmoderated comments sections are cesspools

      so I think you are right to say they do not prove anything about the GOP.

      But your conclusion that the GOP “simply is not” racist is unsupported and there is a preponderance of evidence that it is.

      I base that on the actions and words of its leaders, its programs, and its voters. Not all leaders and programs but most of them; not all voters, but a decisive fraction of them.

      • Fair point

        I would say that GOP leaders have done a really poor job at reining in their rhetoric. When the Tea Party did some extreme stuff (the outlier for me remains Obama depicted as a cannibal), they said nothing. They still haven’t said anything.

        So we can chide them, in my view, for pandering to racist elements. (Hell, alleged white supremacists spoke at CPAC.) But I don’t think we can call the party racist. Condemning the whole party shuts down further conversation.

        • Not just rhetoric

          but policy. Not just words but deeds.

          And, who is worse, the “sincere” racist, who really believes that crap, or the opportunist who exploits (and inflames) the racism of others? Tough call that.

          Your statements about this being not “helpful” and how calling racism racism “shuts down further conversation” are debatable but beside the question. Is it true?

          Do you have some strategy on these issues that involves being tactful, and nice or are you just personally conflict averse? I don’t disagree with that necessarily, but one must start from the truth, however ugly.

          • No strategy

            More fatigue. I’m tired of being called a hippie socialist traitor, and I’m beginning to get tired of demonizing the other side.

            Can we argue that GOP policy is racist? Yes. Can they argue that it isn’t? Yes, and they do.

            What specific Republican policy would you say is racist, and why?

            On who is worse, both are bad, but the proverbial few bad apples don’t corrupt the entire philosophy.

            I wouldn’t say I’m conflict averse (though I am, a little), but I’d rather fight the actual fight, not a rhetorical war.

            • I just listed a couple of

              political things they are doing that are inherently racist.

              I’d say that intentionally segregating racial minorities for electoral purposes is racist. I’d also say that strategies used to suppress and interfere with the voting of racial minorities is inherently racist. All this is happening while the states most guilty of targeting black voters are suing to be relieved of Civil Rights legal strictures.

              As Trickle Up says, it’s not just words, it’s actions that distinguish the GOP’s racism. And even if it were a matter of words, words matter. Perpetuating racial sterotypes matters. Most political fights are carried out in words.

              • I don't know enough

                Tom Finneran tried to create a minority-majority district here, and most people assumed his intentions were honorable.

        • what is worse...?

          … someone who believes in a racist ideology? Or someone who manipulates others belief in a racist ideology for their own ends…?

          So we can chide them, in my view, for pandering to racist elements. (Hell, alleged white supremacists spoke at CPAC.) But I don’t think we can call the party racist. Condemning the whole party shuts down further conversation.

          You’ve narrowed the distinction down to the IMMORAL, who are straight up racists, versus the AMORAL, who simply use racism as a tool to achieve their ends. Neither of them sounds like something for which I would vote.

          • Not amoral at all

            The “pure” racists are just racist. The opportunists are both racist and liars.

          • Me neither

            But let’s put it this way.

            Suppose there were racist elements in the Democratic Party. (Not hard to do, since there are.) Suppose they became visible, and Dem leaders failed to condemn their actions. Would it then follow that the entire Democratic Party was racist? No.

            My main point, throughout this thread, is that the standard for applying the label racist, while no doubt met by SOME Republicans, is still well short of condemning the whole party.

            • not even a nice try...

              Suppose there were racist elements in the Democratic Party. (Not hard to do, since there are.) Suppose they became visible, and Dem leaders failed to condemn their actions. Would it then follow that the entire Democratic Party was racist? No.

              Suppose there were racist elements in the party. Suppose they became visible BY RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.

              Suppose, further, that party leaders failed to condemn their actions. Would it follow that the entire party was racist…?

              YES it would.

              Every single one of the PRESENT Republican candidates, and some of those who have already dropped out, ARE clearly, definitively and unambiguously RACIST. Each one of them has spoken, repeatedly, to racist thought.

              The Republcan party is not a group of moderates occasionally mingling with a few racists…. it is a group of racists pointedly ignoring the few moderates amongst them.

              • I just can't get there

                But I hear the argument, and I’ll agree to disagree.

                • You aren't disagreeing...

                  …you’re just refusing to shrink the margin you give for the benefit of the doubt. That’s not a disagreement.

                  You’re on the cusp of a choice you refuse to make. I’m stating it plainly for you. Others won’t do so and therefor you won’t know what side you’ve ended up on until it’s too late.

                  It’s all well and good to want to believe that so many people, nearly the entirety of the Republican party is either racist or approving in the face of racism and so that speaks well of your moral compass. But to overlook the evidence doesn’t speak well of your ability to test reality.

  3. Maybe

    The commenters may not represent the entire GOP, but how did their audience react? If they had presented their act in front of Democrats, would the reaction be different? I think the answers to those questions are illustrative.

  4. Just saw the update

    Much more nuanced than the condensed version.

    • Just noticed your comment.

      I don’t know what I did. I had an entire post without the lead I had started with. It wasn’t until I saw people responding just to the commenter portion that I looked at it.

      The one question I have is, at what point is it appropriate to start calling the Republican Party racist? It’s a question worth making people think about.

  5. Gerrymandering

    I don’t see the creation of majority-minority districts as “racist,” for a couple reasons.

    First, the creation of such districts typically get the support of the minority community itself. I happen to think that this is remarkably tone-deaf politically (sure, you pretty much guarantee the election of a minority representative, but it makes it more likely Republicans will control the House), but the fact remains that such gerrymanders tend to get the support of both the GOP and minority groups.

    Second, it has much less to do with race specifically and much more to do with politics. Republicans know that 90%+ of black voters support Democrats. So by patching black communities together in the same district, they can be virtually 100% sure that they’ve created a stable Democratic vote-sink that drains Dem votes from the surrounding areas. Race, in this way, is used as an easily identifiable (and accurate) proxy for Democratic voting. The motivating factor for these vote-sinks is to hurt Democrats, not racism.

    • How many angels dance on the head of a pin?

      The result is to reinforce white dominance.

      Whether rationalized as “just politics” or “just racism” doesn’t matter, the outcome is the same.

      The GOP continues to play racist politics, and has done so ever since it enthusiastically embraced the southern racists ejected by the Democratic Party in 1968.

      • Well

        if the gerrymandering was indeed “racist,” then I’d have a hard time believing that African-American legislators and advocacy groups would support the creation of majority-minority districts. But they do.

        I would agree, by the way, that a strain of the GOP continues to play racist politics, at least ever since the Southern Strategy was developed to play off feelings of racial resentment held by the white working class. The more recent remarks about “welfare queens” or the “food stamp president” are specifically meant to evoke associations with “undeserving” blacks and other minorities. Those are the revealing examples; support for majority-minority districts is not.

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