Republicans are understandably up in arms over Harry Reid's attempt to equate opponents of Obamacare with opponents of abolition, desegregation, and woman's suffrage. On the Senate floor Reid said,
"Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all the Republicans can come up with is, 'slow down, stop everything, let's start over.' If you think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said 'slow down, it's too early, things aren't bad enough.' When women spoke up for the right to speak up, they wanted to vote, some insisted they simply, slow down, there will be a better day to do that, today isn't quite right. When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today." [Reid Compares Opponents of Health Care Reform to Supporters of Slavery, Fox News, December 7, 2009]
Of course, Reid's comments are par for the course for the Democrats. They always resort to calling their opponents racist, no matter how little the issue at hand has to do with race.
But instead of going after the Democrats for their tired racism allegations, many Republicans are instead using the even more tired trick of accusing Democrats of being the party of segregation and slavery.
"After all, it was Southern Democrats who mounted an 83-day filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. The final vote to cut off debate saw 29 Senators in opposition, 80% of them Democrats. Among those voting to block the civil rights bill was West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, who personally filibustered the bill for 14 hours. The next year he also opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Mr. Byrd still sits in the Senate, and indeed preceded Mr. Reid as his party's majority leader until he stepped down from that role in 1989." [Harry Reid's History Lesson, by John Fund, Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2009]
Not to be outdone, Frances Rice, the president of the National Black Republican Association—in addition to repeating the canards that the Ku Klux Klan, segregationists, and slavery supporters were Democrats—added some new tidbits.
It turns out (she claimed) that the reason Richard Nixon didn't phone Martin Luther King when he was arrested in Atlanta during the 1960 Presidential election campaign is "because he knew that no individual Republican could have any control over the actions of the racist Democrats in the South."
And the much-denounced "Southern Strategy" was really "an effort on his part to get fair-minded people in the South to stop voting for Democrats who did not share their values and were discriminating against blacks." [Harry Reid twists Civil Rights history to bash GOP, by Frances Rice, Canada Free Press, December 8, 2009]
Rice's NBRA has already sponsored a "Reparations Petition to Congress Demanding a Formal Apology to African Americans for the Democratic Party's 200-year History of Racism."
Of course, there is a grain of truth in these PC Republican rants. The Democratic Party in the South once supported slavery and segregation. But blacks immediately left the GOP for the Democrats once they dropped those positions. Even former segregationists like George Wallace won the black vote by huge margins after he recanted his old racial views.
So Democrats can sensibly respond that the evil racist Democrats of the past are now Republicans. After the Democrats adopted the purported black agenda of quotas, welfare, and busing and the Republicans opposed (or pretended to oppose) it. Former Democrats like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond switched parties and became Republicans.
All of which got me thinking about arguments about the supposed need for a Republican "Hispanic Strategy". Many analysts concede that winning the white vote is more important than the Hispanic vote at the present time, but they suggest that if the GOP doesn't begin pandering today, then it will permanently alienate the Hispanic block that will become more numerous and powerful.
Michael Hais, a senior fellow at the New Democrat Network (and thus clearly committed to GOP electoral success) epitomizes this thinking
"But, while ethnically exclusionary strategies may offer the possibility of short-term relief, they do little to resolve the deep difficulties now facing the Republican Party. The ethnic composition of the United States is far different now than it was in the 1960s when the GOP began to separate white southerners (and like-minded white working class voters in other regions) from their long attachment to the Democratic Party. Four decades ago, 90 percent of Americans were white, and virtually all of the remainder were African-American. Hispanics were a negligible factor within the population and the electorate. Since then, the percentage of non-Hispanic whites in America has fallen to two-thirds. Hispanics now comprise about 15 percent of the population and just under 10 percent of the electorate. Moreover, Hispanics are a relatively young demographic. Even if no additional Latinos migrate to the United States, their importance will continue to increase as older whites pass from the scene…
"As the Republican base continues to diminish in the Millennial Era, that strategy will be a recipe for disaster for the GOP, certainly in the long term, and very likely in the short run as well." [The GOP's Impossible Dream: Republicans Can't Win Without Latino Support in Millennial Era, by Michael Hais, New Democrat Network, June 10, 2009]
Open Borders Republicans make similar arguments. I remember attending a Hudson Institute panel with Grover Norquist, John Fonte, and Mark Krikorian debating the merits of 2007 amnesty. Fonte and Krikorian gave hand-outs with substantive arguments against amnesty. Norquist's material was one piece of paper with the Rev. Dr. Samuel Burchard quote "We are Republicans, and don't propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been rum, Romanism, and rebellion" from the 1884 Republican Convention in giant-sized font—and nothing else.
Norquist told the audience
"This speech was given at the Republican National Committee meeting of the religious bureau, okay, the religious bureau of the RNC. You can imagine how many rabbis or priests were sitting in the room when they made that comment equating Roman Catholicism with treason. By the way, this is just 20 years after the end of the Civil War, so things were a little bit raw. This is not joking about the Confederate flag or something, referring to Roman Catholicism as the equivalent of liquor or treason was a little bit rough. It took us 110 years to win the Roman Catholic vote for the Republican Party in 1994." [Transcript of "The Senate Immigration Bill: Good or Bad for America" (pdf),The Hudson Institute, June 5, 2007]
Norquist repeats this line over and over. He once told a group at the left wing Maria Leavey Breakfast that "This is the quotation that I am going to have tattooed on Tom Tancredo when he falls asleep some day… this cost us the Roman Catholic vote in the United States for 110 years." [Transcript of "Breakfast with Grover Norquist", Maria Leavey Breakfast, June 14, 2007]
Ridiculous, of course. Irish Catholics voted Democratic long before 1884, in large part due to ethnic nepotism from Tammany Hall. They eventually switched over because of substantive issues such as abortion and cultural liberalism—not because it took 110 years for the trauma of that one sentence to leave their collective psyche.
The rapid realignment of blacks in the South shows that it does not take a century for an ethnic group to get over insults from a political party —perceived or real—if they see that substantive issues are at stake.
And Southern Democrats faced many more hurdles with blacks than a restrictionist GOP would face if they needed to pander to Hispanics. How many blacks supported segregation or slavery? But somewhere between 33% and 50% of Hispanics voted in favor of patriotic immigration reform measures such as Prop 187 in California and Prop 200 in Arizona.
I suggest Tom Tancredo tattoo on Grover Norquist a Public Policy Polling poll that showed 35% of Hispanic voters supporting Tancredo if he runs for governor in Colorado next year.
I fully concede that if immigration trends continue and America becomes a Third World country, Republicans will need to win a significant percentage of Hispanics. But the Democrats ability to win the black vote shows that the GOP can adopt the Sailer Strategy of mobilizing its white base for some "short-term relief" now, without worrying about the Hispanic vote 25 years from now.
And if the GOP actually adopts the Sailer Strategy, it just might save America—in which case the Hispandering will never be necessary.
"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.