Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jim Crow 2.0: Are Republicans Just Exploiting Their White Southern Base?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 18, 2009 at 5:52 AM

click to enlarge Jim-crow.jpg
An interesting article in The Root by Kai Wright argues that the revolts we're seeing at town hall meetings aren't really about health care. They're simply about reigniting Southern white racial fears that have lingered for decades.

The world is obviously changing, and that's freaking working class whites out. Their jobs, their homes, their ability to provide for their families -- it's all become very tenuous, which produces a natural anger. And since rage tends to be irrational, they're willing to see anyone as the cause of their woes.

But instead of providing policies that might assuage these worries, the Southern aristocracy -- in this case Republicans -- are doing their best to fan these fears. Take Senator Bob Corker. At a town hall meeting last week, his constituents spoke of forced abortions and euthanasia and a federal government out to get the white man. None of this is true, of course. But you didn't hear Corker say it. Though insurance reform is designed to help the very poor, rural people he was speaking to, Corker's against it. So better to let them think it's an evil plot, perpetuated by a black president, than admit he'll do nothing for them.

It's a strategy that goes back to Jim Crow and through the Southern strategies of Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes. Get whitey worried about a rising black man, and he'll entirely forget his own interests. "The Southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow," said Martin Luther King. "And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than a black man."

It's not much different in many parts of the South today. Except this time, senators like Corker can afford to be more subtle, because the party's official mouthpieces are doing the dirty work for him. Writes Wright:

Feeling poor, white and out of sight? It's because that black guy's trying to reshape America without you. Get him! Fox's Glenn Beck said it best: "Everything that is getting pushed through Congress, including this health care bill, are transforming America, and they're all driven by President Obama's thinking on one idea: reparations." And Rush Limbaugh: "The objective is an expanding welfare state. And the objective is to take the nation's wealth and return to it to the nation's quote, 'rightful owners.' Think reparations. Think forced reparations."

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