Thursday, January 1, 2015

Replacing the Klan

"Little Charlie" of the Dixie Rangers of the Ku Klux Klan, Louisiana, in her own design for a bridal veil, with fiancé. Image via Kati3H.
Jeremy Alford in the Times clarified something about Louisiana, the Klan, and the Republicans as they've developed since David Duke ran for governor in 1991:
Two decades later, much of his campaign has merged with the political mainstream here, and rather than a bad memory from the past, Mr. Duke remains a window into some of the murkier currents in the state’s politics where Republicans have sought and eventually won Mr. Duke’s voters, while turning their back on him.
Duke took up the project of making the Klan contemporary and respectable, trading the hood and sheets for a business suit and open racist rhetoric for the dogwhistles of complaining about welfare and the putative sexual promiscuity of certain people (a true Klansman, he never could stop talking about the international Jewish bankers' conspiracy, though). The national Republican party had been working since 1964 for the same voters as the ones Duke represented, in what came to be known as the Southern Strategy, and finally got them all.

They knew what they were working toward, they knew what percentage of the white vote Duke received in 1991 (over 60%), and they knew the effect of dire warnings about welfare queens and crack houses and school busing all over the country from southern California to Michigan to Massachusetts. It was just politics; I don't think they quite realized that they were really replacing the Klan in Louisiana and the Deep South states as the fundamental White Power organization, and I'm honestly inclined to believe in their hurt feelings when you call them out on it, but that's what happened.

As I've been trying to explain for a long time now, most people with respect to their own quietly desperate situations at least are progressive, that is they want to be given a share of the general power and some personal autonomy; and a true conservative movement, one that seeks to slow or stop the devolution of power from the ruling class to ordinary folk, to maintain the authority structures as they are, can't win an election in a simple way, because they're just a tiny percentage of the population. They must create a population of deluded allies to feel conservative along with them (and get lots of people not to vote as well, e.g., through legislated vote suppression and negative campaigning*, and discount the votes of opponents who do show up through gerrymandering).

What Republicans have been doing over the past 50 years is making poor whites, older men in particular, feel they have a conservative interest, an endangered privilege that strange, rude people want to take away from them; encouraging them to be fearful and aggrieved, pointing at sources of treachery everywhere from the government to their own disloyal women and defiant children, focusing their anger on the people they rule instead of the people who rule them (by which I mean large corporate interests, not government, which is clearly weaker right now after decades of Norquistism than it has been at any time since the 1920s). And it has worked, too.

On the other hand it's not going to work forever. Change is coming, in spite of the dismal results of last November's election, as the population changes ethnically and culturally with increased immigration and the coming into its own of the sweetly broadminded Millennial generation. And it's my belief that the coalition between money-conservatives and race-rednecks cannot last much longer, if only because they can't agree on the immigration issue.

It's hilarious to see a redneck representative like Sean Hannity, as Steve M was pointing out this morning, denouncing rich-guy representative Speaker John Boehner for guilt-by-association with Whip Steve Scalise and his racist connections, when Hannity himself has been in so very deep with people considerably more vile, if possible, than Duke himself, like the late Bob Grant and Hal Turner (Duke has always stayed aloof from violence and threats of violence in a way Turner in particular has not).

I'd like to express the hope for 2015 that a lot more of these awkward connections will get exposed. Put on the popcorn.

Lifehack by Ohgizmo.
*While the jury is out on whether negative campaigning decreases turnout, Hannah Griffin in a clever study of 2012 found that the absence of negative campaigning as perceived by voters raises turnout, and a hint that Republican voters respond positively to Republican negativity in particular. 

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