In New York magazine, Frank Rich summed up this political history while noting how today’s right-wing revisionists have tried to reposition their heroes by saying they opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 simply out of high-minded “small-government principles.” But Rich wrote:
“The primacy of [Strom] Thurmond in the GOP’s racial realignment is the most incriminating truth the right keeps trying to cover up. That’s why the George W. Bush White House shoved the Mississippi senator Trent Lott out of his post as Senate majority leader in 2002 once news spread that Lott had told Thurmond’s 100th-birthday gathering that America ‘wouldn’t have had all these problems’ if the old Dixiecrat had been elected president in 1948.
“Lott, it soon became clear, had also lavished praise on [the Confederacy’s president] Jefferson Davis and associated for decades with other far-right groups in thrall to the old Confederate cause. But the GOP elites didn’t seem to mind until he committed the truly unpardonable sin of reminding America, if only for a moment, of the exact history his party most wanted and needed to suppress. Then he had to be shut down at once.”
This unholy alliance between the racists and the corporatists continues to this day with Republicans understanding that the votes of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other minorities must be suppressed if the twin goals of the two principal elements of the Right are to control the future. That was the significance of the 2013 ruling by the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority to gut the Voting Rights Act. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Supreme Court’s War on Democracy.”]
Only if the votes of whites can be proportionately enhanced and the votes of minorities minimized can the Republican Party overcome the country’s demographic changes and retain government power that will both advance the interests of the racists and the free-marketeers.
That’s why Republican-controlled statehouses engaged in aggressive gerrymandering of congressional districts in 2010 and tried to impose “ballot security” measures across the country in 2012 and 2014. The crudity of those efforts, clumsily justified as needed to prevent the virtually non-existent problem of in-person voter fraud, was embarrassing to watch.
As Frank Rich noted, “Everyone knows these laws are in response to the rise of Barack Obama. It is also no coincidence that many of them were conceived and promoted by the American Legal Exchange Council, an activist outfit funded by heavy-hitting right-wing donors like Charles and David Koch.
“In another coincidence that the GOP would like to flush down the memory hole, the Kochs’ father, Fred, a founder of the radical John Birch Society in the fifties, was an advocate for the impeachment of Chief Justice Warren in the aftermath of Brown [v. Board of Education] Fred Koch wrote a screed of his own accusing communists of inspiring the civil-rights movement.”
Blaming the Democratic Party for ending segregation – and coyly invited by opportunistic Republicans like Nixon and Reagan to switch party allegiances – racist whites signed up with the Republican Party in droves. Thus, the Democratic Party, which since the days of Jefferson had been the party of slavery and segregation, lost its southern base, ceding it to the new Republican Party.
A Flip of Allegiance
This flip in the allegiance of America’s white supremacists – from Democrat to Republican – also put them in the same political structure as the anti-regulatory business interests which had dominated the Republican Party from the days of the Robber Barons. These two groups again found themselves sharing a common interest, the desire to constrain the federal government’s commitment to providing for “the general Welfare.”
To the corporate Republicans this meant slashing taxes, eliminating regulations and paring back social programs for the poor or – in Ayn Rand vernacular – the moochers. To the racist Republicans this meant giving the states greater leeway to suppress the votes of minorities and gutting programs that were seen as especially benefiting black and brown Americans, such as food stamps and health-care reform.
Thus, in today’s neo-Confederate era, the American Right is coalescing around two parallel ideological motives: continued racial resentment (against black and brown people getting welfare to the presence of a black family in the White House) and resistance to government regulations (from efforts to control Wall Street excesses to restrictions on global-warming emissions).
Though the white racist element of this coalition might typically be expected to proudly adopt the Stars and Bars of the Old Confederacy as its symbol, the modern Right is too media-savvy to get boxed into that distasteful imagery of slavery.
So, instead the Right has opted for a rebranding as Revolutionary War-era patriots – calling themselves Tea Partiers, donning tri-corner hats and waving yellow banners with a coiled snake declaring “don’t tread on me.” Instead of overtly defending the Confederacy, the Right proclaims its commitment to the Founding Principles found in the Constitution.
But this sly transformation required the Right to rewrite the Founding Narrative, to blot out the initial interpretation of the Constitution by the Federalists who, after all, were the ones who primarily crafted the document, and to pretend that Jefferson’s revisionist view – representing the pre-Confederate position of the southern plantation owners – was the original one. [For more, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Right’s Made-Up Constitution.”]
Now this doctored history – accepted by millions of Americans as true – has become the driving force for what many pundits predict will be a “wave election” for the Republicans and the Right.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.