Tuesday, June 30, 2009

And if I needed any more proof ... the racist legacy of the modern conservative movement

About a decade ago during my last dating relationship, my girlfriend's brainy middle son brought home from church some literature from the "Conservative Chronicle" that he said came from "some think tank." I looked it up on the internet, and when I learned who the editor was, a Southern reactionary named Samuel Francis, I decided I wanted nothing to do with it because it came across as borderline racist. (Needless to say, I refused to attend the church as well, and that would eventually doom the relationship.)

Well, it turns out that there was nothing "borderline" about that publication.

Today I learned that the "think tank" that produced it was the Council of Conservative Citizens, a name not as innocuous as it sounds -- it was formerly known as the White Citizens Council, a staunchly segregationist organization that opposed the civil-rights movement in the 1960s. In effect, it operated as a kinder, gentler Ku Klux Klan minus the sheets and secrecy and apparently hasn't changed its views in all that time. Furthermore, it had at least two right-wing now-former Republican politicians -- Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia and Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi -- speak at gatherings. (Yes, the same Trent Lott who insinuated that he was hankering for segregation in feting the late Sen. Strom Thurmond during his centennial in 2002.)

I find it interesting that the political right likes to call attention to the historic racism of the Democratic Party and, in its arrogance, have openly wondered why African-Americans don't vote Republican. They conveniently overlook the fact that the Southern racists that gave the national Democratic Party that reputation began migrating to the GOP beginning in the 1960s -- of politicians of that era, only the late North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms was never elected as a Democrat -- and completely sold out to the GOP on a national level during the Reagan years. (Recall that even Ronald Reagan himself ran racist campaigns to appeal to them.)

Basically, the political right ought to stop denying its ties to racist groups, present as well as past. I don't think it's any coincidence that race has become less a factor as the political right has fallen from power, because back in that day the right used it has a divide-and-conquer tactic to achieve and maintain power. But instead of marginalizing its opponents, it ended up marginalizing itself. There's a reason Jesus said, "You reap what you sow."

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