Saturday, November 15, 2008

What it means: Part 3

Long ago, Lyndon Baines Johnson said to Bill Moyers that he was giving away the Southern vote to the Republicans for the next generation by signing Civil Rights legislation into law.
He was wrong.
The Southern vote was effectively locked up for several decades. An entire region was effectively written off for almost a half-century’s time. That the Republicans shouldn’t have cravenly courted the votes of fearful bigots and racists sadly wasn’t even a question. It was never wondered privately or aloud I suspect, that perhaps both parties should have closed their ranks against the people in our nation who still talked about the Civil War as a “war between the states”.

Much of the problems in our civic and our political lives are centered within how the two parties present America to itself during local and national election cycles.

In regard to the so-called “masses”, Republicans have been the party of the angry and self perceived “disentitled” men of the South and northern state suburbs. Let’s call them the “men of America who drive to work” for the sake of unifying a demographic in practical existential terms. The Republican Party pandered to what Richard Nixon called the “silent majority” in post 1960s America, exacerbating a tenuously inactive division between; homeowners and city dwellers, between the Rich and the poor, between the old and the young, and ultimately between White men and everyone else in the country. If a young man grew up poor in New York, working his way through college, the Republicans spoke to him exclusively as a White man reducing him to one visible inarguable aspect of his identity. The Republican leadership used code words for his frustrations, scapegoating everyone and everything from Feminism, to Jews, to Japanese carmakers, to unions, to Affirmative Action, to Political Correctness for the dashed hopes and hard uphill-life the American economic system and its manipulators was imposing on him. Generations of immigrants came to America in the 20th Century and were folded into a White identity that has no substantive basis, no connection to the histories of American tragedy (like slavery and the genocide of Native Americans), no connection to exploitation but most importantly… no actual connection to power.
Why would the Right and the GOP, who historically represent money and power above all else, speak to Polish Americans in Chicago Illinois, or Italian Americans in Nanuet, New York for example, in particulars that matter directly to them, why address them as individuals, or talk to them about their lives?
It’s far more politically expedient to make them White, and program them with the idea that they are part of some storied, legendary American past, so they can get angry to the point of hatred and violence at its imagined loss. It's far more useful to make them think that the gains of the Rich "White" ruling class, are part of their concerns.

How is it that Bill O’Reilly uses “Wild West” metaphors, referring to himself as a gunslinger in a fight… when he doesn’t have any direct ancestry in Frontier America? O'Reilly's forebears were Irish Immigrants. How is it that Sean Hannity can speak of the founding fathers as if he were a descendant of the English colonists?

The idea that there is a burdened, disenfranchised, disentitled White male class suffering at the hands of a government, or a secret Liberal cabal that is taking things from them in order to give them to someone else who is not White is finally falling apart. Apparently this inane but pervasive racial trope can no longer disguise the reality of American life.
Does any of this divisive nonsense that the Republican Party has promoted really matter if you’re a Southerner who's about to be homeless?
I guess the question now, looking back at the past forty years is: Has identifying as "White" robbed certain Americans of their ability to see through political rhetoric and sloganeering that disguises platforms like “trickle down economics” and policies like the “off shoring” of jobs and industry as “good for the country”?

Corporations and the Rich have been using the government as instruments of their own will for their own betterment since attaining the money to do so. They have been exploiting everyone in North America and the world, since the 19th Century, always leaving "Whites" behind with everybody else while calling it "prosperity". They have been getting many Americans to vote against their own interests (when they vote at all) by getting large swathes of the poor and the middle class to imagine themselves as Mayflower descendants before considering the concrete aspects of their economic identity. Republicans were adept at making Americans ignore reality. But it seems the party is over...
-literally and figuratively.

This presidential election has been a hard reckoning for the Republican Party. They are wondering where it has all gone wrong. They need only look at the last 25 years which is a legacy of running on the thin and dishonest appearances of a populist philosophy of less taxes, less spending, less government, more freedom; when in actuality, the Republicans have governed by spending recklessly, giving disproportionate tax breaks to the Rich, increasing the size of government and infusing the political process with a Christian focus that is unconstitutional and narrow minded. The Republican Party today makes no bones about smugly disregarding the inalienable rights of the citizenry or representing the topmost single digit percents of the Wealthy population exclusively.

Republicans need to start speaking to Americans, as citizens. Presenting candidates who speak “country” just isn’t going to cut it anymore. George W. Bush’s Texas accent and folksy affectations haven’t done one thing to better this country.

Republicans will actually have to start talking about things that matter to all Americans. They'll have to stop dividing the union that President Abraham Lincoln waged a costly war to keep united. They’ll have to return to his mandate and legacy.


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