Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CROUCH: Race and the Republican Party

By STANLEY CROUCH, King Features Syndicated Columnist | 6/30/2014

Steve Schmidt, David Frum and Joe Scarborough remain the Three Wise Men among Republicans, who continually step out of the Tea Party fog machine that the GOP has submitted to far too often. One gets the feeling that each is driven by sincere affection for the nation’s history and its continual ability to improvise and reframe itself though compromise. Compromise is always an antidote to the molten meltdown of hysteria wed to paranoia, a Fox News beaker swallowed by its “retirement community” of viewers, as Frank Rich calls it.

Many liberal commentators pointed out that in the last presidential election, Mitt Romney got only 2 percent of the black vote. Hustling and pretending to care did not change any of Eric Cantor’s inaction when it came to standing up for the Voting Rights Act passed under Lyndon Johnson. Cantor appeared with John Lewis, praised Martin Luther King Jr., held hands with those singing “We Shall Overcome,” but did not become a champion for the defense of black voters.

Steve Schmidt, David Frum and Joe Scarborough remain the Three Wise Men among Republicans, who continually step out of the Tea Party fog machine that the GOP has submitted to far too often. One gets the feeling that each is driven by sincere affection for the nation’s history and its continual ability to improvise and reframe itself though compromise. Compromise is always an antidote to the molten meltdown of hysteria wed to paranoia, a Fox News beaker swallowed by its “retirement community” of viewers, as Frank Rich calls it.

Many liberal commentators pointed out that in the last presidential election, Mitt Romney got only 2 percent of the black vote. Hustling and pretending to care did not change any of Eric Cantor’s inaction when it came to standing up for the Voting Rights Act passed under Lyndon Johnson. Cantor appeared with John Lewis, praised Martin Luther King Jr., held hands with those singing “We Shall Overcome,” but did not become a champion for the defense of black voters.

The conventional defense is that racism is a thing of the past, and America is no longer held short of just and fair treatment by the thorny shawl of segregation and neo-confederate bitterness over the loss of the Civil War. Thad Cochran’s victory over Tea Party opponent Chris McDaniel was a win for the “Washington establishment” of GOP politicians, those who, like the Three Wise Men, know how it’s done. It was examined this way in The New Republic:

“Chris McDaniel, the arch-conservative state senator who unexpectedly lost his primary runoff election ... to unseat Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, is dead right: The race was decided by non-Republicans. And not just that, but a certain type of non-Republicans taking advantage of the state’s open-primary system: African-Americans, or, as McDaniel referred to them in his defiant non-concession speech, ‘liberal Democrats,’ which appears to be the de-racialized code words of choice for some conservative Republicans when talking about black voters.

“The evidence is in the maps and numbers. Turnout was up statewide compared with the June 3 primary in which McDaniel narrowly beat Cochran, but fell just shy of the 50 percent share necessary to avoid a runoff. But the spike in turnout tended to be the greatest in the state’s heavily black counties ... As The New York Times’ Nate Cohn notes, the county with the largest share of black voters in the entire country, tiny Jefferson County, saw its turnout jump 91 percent. In larger Hinds County, which Cochran won by fewer than 6,000 votes on June 3, turnout jumped so much that he won it by nearly 11,000 votes. As the NBC First Read crew put it, ‘In a race that Cochran won by 6,000 votes, that’s pretty much your ballgame there.’

“It is hard to overstate the significance and historical ironies of black Mississippians crossing party lines to rescue a senior member of the state’s Republican establishment. Voting patterns are more divided by race in Mississippi than anywhere else in the country. ... The state’s black voters are as reliably Democratic as anywhere, but there are also more of them than in any other state — more than 37 percent of the population — making their monolithic voting tendencies all the more conspicuous. Meanwhile, white voters in Mississippi have become nearly as monolithically Republican in national elections. ... In 2008, Barack Obama won a mere 11 percent of white voters in Mississippi; John Kerry did barely better than that four years earlier.

“Thad Cochran has not gone out of his way to cater to the nearly 40 percent of his state that is African-American. The NAACP gives him an abysmal 4 percent rating on issues of importance to its members. Yet just enough black Mississippians came out for Cochran to spare him the indignity of ending his career at the hands of an upstart. ... Beltway pundits are ascribing Cochran’s last-minute success at ‘expanding the electorate’ to the genius of Mississippi power broker Haley Barbour, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and other Cochran supporters who stumbled on the brilliant strategy of touting Cochran’s opposition to Obama in white neighborhoods while touting his support for historically black colleges in African-American neighborhoods. But let’s give credit where it’s due, to the voters themselves. They are not sheep ... some number of them decided that they would rather not be represented in the Senate by someone who is openly nostalgic for the state’s pre-Civil Rights Era past. ... Yes, in helping Cochran win, these voters greatly reduced the odds of Democrat Travis Childers winning in the fall, but as Southern expert Ed Kilgore notes, such is the defeatism of being a Democrat in the Deep South that those sorts of calculations seem unrealistic to entertain.”

This all makes sense, as the GOP is very involved — verbally, at least — in reaching out to other colors besides white or English-speaking types, which makes it easy to call them neo-confederates and stay right on the money. Since the days of J.C. Watts in Oklahoma, little has changed in face or race.

For example, there is T.W. Shannon, a black spot of Tea Party challenge who recently lost in the Sooner State. Shannon is good-looking, his wife is described as “hot,” and their two children are seen as adorable. Shannon is also reflective of the state’s ethnic complexity, since he is part of the Chickasaw nation. He has that all-American look and is not ashamed of it or willing to push his bloodline as an explanation of anything. But Shannon is not a wound-up Tea Party man like Allen West, a pure stain that sits right next to Eric Cantor and makes the flexible idea of freedom questionable at its best.

Stanley Crouch is a syndicated columnist. Email him at crouch.stanley@gmail.com

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