R.I.P.–The Myth of the Racist Right

It was a watershed moment. When pollster Frank Luntz asked the mostly-white focus group of South Carolina Republicans to respond with raised hands to the question, “Let’s go in alphabetical order. How many of you think Herman Cain won the debate?,” nearly all hands went up. “We can stop right there!,” Luntz exclaimed. He went on to say he had never seen anything like it in all his years of conducting similar focus groups. Only one person entered the viewing room a staunch Herman Cain fan but, by the end of the first GOP presidential debate of the 2012 campaign season, just about the entire room was aligned with Cain.

"Something very special happened this evening," Luntz said.

Indeed. And the larger implications of this singular event are even more special.

For decades now, the most pernicious lie being told by liberals about their opposition on the right is that they are inherently and irredeemably racist. This lie has brought intelligent discussion to an immediate halt, stifled serious examination of the malfeasance of the liberals in using an entire race of human beings as laboratory animals for the past half-century, and rewritten history to an extent that would make George Orwell proud.

Are there racists among conservatives? That’s like asking “Do humans sin?” It’s a silly question and the answer is obvious.

Is conservatism as a philosophy inherently and irredeemably racist? No. Conservatism, at its core, believes in the individual right of man to govern himself and not be subjected to the caprice of other men, and that right is bestowed on all of us, regardless of race, by our Creator. Therefore, conservatives as a whole are not racists, and those racists among us are motivated by factors other than their conservatism.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party, the standard bearer for modern liberalism, has completely washed itself of its history of virulent and violent racism dating back to the Reconstruction era, if not before. It conveniently ignores the fact that none of the civil rights legislation of today, including the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, would be on the books if it wasn’t for the Republican Party. It also conveniently ignores the subtle racism of their patriarchal policies toward black people.

Liberals like to say that the racist elements of the party, primarily southern Democrats, left their ranks after the civil rights movement of the 1960s and became Republicans, but even this widely accepted myth crumbles under scrutiny.

I wrote about the GOP’s “southern strategy” in my book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Tom’s Porch, and even I didn’t delve far enough into the data to offer a sound analysis devoid of myth. I accepted the mantra that even some leaders in the GOP chanted, and described the strategy as a cynical attempt by a political party to win disaffected voters through appeals to their prejudices, one of which was race.

An analysis of the data, however, reveal that race couldn’t have been the centerpiece of the southern strategy because 1) President Nixon and the GOP were firm and vocal in their support for civil rights, and federal affirmative action programs began on Nixon’s watch, 2) it wasn’t until the 1980s that white Southerners trended more Republican than Democrat, and 3) this argument discounts the leftward lurch of the Democratic Party that alienated not just Southerners, but middle-class Americans in general, on a wide range of issues other than race.

Moreover, the strategy was implemented at a time when the South was becoming less racist, not more, and the demographics were changing. In truth, the southern strategy was not predicated on racist whites leaving the Democratic Party, but the Democratic Party leaving middle-class America behind and adopting a more radical identity. The fact that some who left the Democrats to become Republicans were racists does not indict the party or its central principle of conservatism, as their decision had more to do with their limited political options than a concerted effort by the GOP to attract them.

It also does a disservice to the South which, despite its evolution, is once again under assault for its conservative values, and being labeled as racist in spite of evidence to the contrary.

Two southern states, Louisiana and South Carolina, elected Americans of Indian descent, Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley respectively, as their heads of state. Florida’s lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll,  is black. The two black conservatives in the U.S. Congress, Tim Scott and Allen West, hail from South Carolina and Florida respectively.

The elections of Scott and West are particularly noteworthy because of the overwhelming support each of them received from the Tea Party movement, which has also been smeared by the Left as racist.

These “racists,” however, chose Tim Scott,a black man, over the son of the late segregationist Strom Thurmond, and the son of the late Carroll Campbell, former governor of South Carolina, in last year’s GOP primary. It is the same class of voters, those likely to vote in the South Carolina GOP primary, that chose another black man, Herman Cain, as the winner of the presidential debate.

These “racists” sent Allen West to the U.S. Congress as the first black Republican to represent that state in the U.S. Congress since the 1870s.

In my travels, I speak to a lot of Tea Party and GOP groups and, if they could nominate their favorite candidate for president today, it would be Allen West, with Herman Cain right behind him. The warm and genuine reception I receive from these same groups further amplifies the truth I’m speaking.

You can speak the myth until you’re blue in the face, but racists simply wouldn’t support a black person for public office, especially the highest office in the land, and not with the unrestrained enthusiasm and affection that I’ve witnessed. This is apparent to anyone who pays attention and whose brain isn’t swimming in the liberal Kool-Aid.

Most conservatives oppose President Obama because of his philosophy and his policies, not because of his race. Most conservatives embrace Herman Cain, Allen West, Tim Scott, and other black public figures because of their philosophy and their policies, not because of their race.

At the end of the day, which mindset is more racist?

The one that encourages individual liberty and initiative over group grievances and dependency, because we believe each individual has something to offer the world, and is capable of success?

As the great black author Zora Neale Hurston put it, “It would be against all nature for all the Negroes to be either at the bottom, top, or in between. We will go where the internal drive carries us like everybody else. It is up to the individual.”

Or is it more racist to presume we’re inherently incapable of navigating “the boisterous sea of liberty,” in the words of Thomas Jefferson? Is the mindset that wants to protect us because we can’t protect ourselves, that presumes we are children rather than men and women, uplifting or demeaning?

President George W. Bush called it “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Black historian G. Carter Woodson rejected such condescension as an attempt to “discredit the Negro as a capable competitor in the economic battle of life.”

Success stories like Robert Taft High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the graduation rate among the almost all-black student body rose from 18 percent to 95 percent in ten years, and virtually all graduates are destined for four-year universities, are possible because the students were told they can do it, and nothing less than excellence is expected and demanded of them.

The motto of Anthony Smith, the black principal who took over this failing school nine years ago? “Failure is not an option.” The black students at the school now outscore white students statewide in math, reading and science.

Don’t tell me we need to be patronized in order to make it in America. We need to be challenged, because we are strong and resilient people. That is our heritage, a heritage that liberals have stolen from us, whatever their intentions.

Behind the purported compassion of white liberals for black people is a preening condescension that says "we’re here to care for you because you can’t care for yourself."

If racism is defined as the belief that “a particular race is superior to others,” then what in the world do you call the liberal presumption about the ability of black people to make it in the world without their help?

To me, that paternalistic attitude sounds far too much like the mindset from a particularly evil part of our past, as described by historian Kenneth Stampp:

The most generous master, so long as he was determined to be a master, could be paternal only toward a fawning dependent; for slavery, by its nature, could never be a relationship between equals, Ideally it was the relationship of parent and child. The slave who had nearly lost his manhood, who lost confidence in himself, who stood to receive the favors and the affection of a patriarch.

So I hereby declare the time has finally come for Americans of discernment and goodwill to put the myth of the racist Right to rest. It will be a festive occasion, resembling New Orleans jazz funerals after the deceased have been interred in their final resting place. The passing of this myth is a cause for celebration.

Those who persist in trying to raise this myth from the dead are either weak-minded and easily manipulable, or demagogues who worship power over the truth, and are worthy of nothing but our scorn.

From now on, when you read of or hear someone uttering this inane charge, an appropriate response would be, “If that all you’ve got?” Regrettably for them, it is.

In their attempts to prop up a corpse, they have as much credibility as those who think Elvis is alive and enjoying fruity libations on some tropical island with Tupac Shakur.