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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

PoMo conservative revisionism

by digby

This makes my head hurt so much I just want to crawl into bed and drink Nyquil. Apparently, Kevin Williamson at National Review is seriously trying to make the stupid argument that the Republicans have always been the party of civil rights and that nothing's ever happened to change that.

Ed Kilgore explains the truth to him:

Prior to 1964, southern white Republicans were a hardy minority built on the Mountain Republicanism of regions that had opposed the Confederacy and middle-class business-oriented city-dwellers. While neither faction was loudly racist, nor were they champions of civil rights, either. Not all Democrats were virulently racist, but the virulent racists were all Democrats. As V.O. Key demonstrated in his classic study, Southern Politics, the most race-sensitive white southerners, centered in the Black Belt regions of the Deep South, stuck with the White Man’s Party even as other southerners defected to the GOP in 1920 (over Prohibition) and 1928 (over Prohibition and Al Smith’s Catholicism). In 1948, these same racists heavily defected to the Dixiecrats in a protest against the national Party’s growing commitment to civil rights. They mostly returned to the Democrats after that uprising, until 1964, when they voted almost universally for Barry Goldwater, purely and simply because Goldwater had opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Four years later most of them voted for the race-centered candidacy of George Wallace, and four years after that just about every one of them voted for Richard Nixon. These were not people attracted to the GOP, when they were, because it was “pro-civil rights,” as Williamson asserts, or because they favored that party on any other issue. It was all about race, which is why, for example, the GOP percentage of the presidential vote veered insanely in Mississippi from 25% in 1960 to 87% in 1964 to 14% in 1968 to 78% in 1972.

Jimmy Carter (who was endorsed by Wallace and most other surviving Democratic ex-segregationists) got a lot of those voters back for the obvious reason of regional pride, and after that issues other than civil rights did matter in the region, though the racial polarization of the two parties was evident from the beginning in Mississippi and eventually spread elsewhere. But however you slice it, the idea that Barry Goldwater in 1964 was viewed by white southerners as anything other than the direct descendent of the Dixiecrats is just ridiculous. Sure, issues other than civil rights buttressed GOP strength in the region later on, but it would not have happened if the GOP had not also rapidly become the party most hostile towards or indifferent to civil rights. It’s also worth mentioning that among the Republicans who were notably interested in civil rights in and after 1964, none of them were southerners.

Also too, the sun came up yesterday and we have a long border with Canada. Plus gravity. This is not in dispute. There is no controversy. There isn't even a slightly different interpretation. It is what happened, period.

I used to write a lot about PoMo conservatism and epistemic relativism or just plain old Bizarroworld politics. Rewriting history is part of all that. In order to create an alternate reality it's important to re-imagine a past that led to it. And I think that the more blatantly dishonest it is, the better. People have to really strain to accept it and that makes it more emotionally valuable.

Fundamentally dishonest crackpots like Ann Coulter always say this stuff.

But I've come to realize that it has a bigger purpose than just being a gadfly and getting under liberals' skin. These people lay the groundwork for an alternative history which, when their followers finally hear it espoused by someone like Kevin Williamson, sounds like something they've always known.

That's just sad.