Sunday, August 28, 2011

"We have lost the South for a generation"

With those words reportedly spoken to Bill Moyers after signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, LBJ showed that he actually underestimated the power of racism to affect our politics. If generations are counted in 20 year increments, we're now in the middle of the 3rd generation and the South is still lost.

I think of that today when I remember that Rick Perry was once a Democrat and switched parties in 1989. The post Civil Rights re-alignment of the South outlasted LJB's prediction.

This kind of historical analysis is important when we wonder why the GOP has become so extreme. There are probably many reasons for it - but there have been swings, as LBJ predicted, that have led us to this place. Perhaps the biggest reason is the exit from the Republican Party of the so-called "Eisenhower Republicans" in the northeast and African Americans all over the country after passage of the Civil Rights Act. That was matched by the exodus of southern whites from the Democratic Party - with folks like Perry only switching relatively recently.

Of course, the other dynamic that occurred was the development of the moral majority in the late 70's and its alignment with the Republican Party. As we've seen recently, this group of formerly disengaged fundamentalists has now morphed into the Tea Party. No one has documented that better than Frank Schaeffer.

You essentially have a party that has shed its economic conservatives in favor of racists and religious fundamentalists. The old guard of establishment Republicans are now finding themselves increasingly threatened by these rabble-rousers and are fearful of falling prey to the same fate that caught up with the former Senator from Utah, Bob Bennett.

But the long-term demographics spell trouble for a party based on these issues. We all know by now that in 30 years white people will be the minority in this country. But we also know that the extremism of fundamentalists is causing many Americans to reject Christianity.

America is a less Christian nation than it was 20 years ago, and Christianity is not losing out to other religions, but primarily to a rejection of religion altogether, a survey published Monday found...

The rise in evangelical Christianity is contributing to the rejection of religion altogether by some Americans, said Mark Silk of Trinity College.

"In the 1990s, it really sunk in on the American public generally that there was a long-lasting 'religious right' connected to a political party, and that turned a lot of people the other way," he said of the link between the Republican Party and groups such as the Moral Majority and Focus on the Family.

"In an earlier time, people who would have been content to say, 'Well, I'm some kind of a Protestant,' now say 'Hell no, I won't go,'" he told CNN.

The truth is that what racism and fundamentalism have in common is that they are based on irrational fear. During these times of economic stress, people are more vulnerable to being manipulated by that kind of fear. And that's what the Republicans are counting on. With the end of the Cold War and the Obama administration's masterful handling of the threat of terrorism, the extremist Republicans are counting on a fear of each other via racism combined with cultural wars to spread division.

Our mission is not to ramp up yet more extremism, but to make sure those efforts fail.

Unity is the great need of the hour - the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it’s the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.

I’m not talking about a budget deficit. I’m not talking about a trade deficit. I’m not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans.

I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.

- Barack Obama, January 2008


  1. Thank you. I find that I check your blog often and find solace in the wisdom, truth and empathy which you exhibit. You make a difference and your gift of writing is a light that shines.

  2. Wow - thanks anonymous.

    I know that what we all want more than anything to make a difference. That's the best compliment of all!!!!!!!!

  3. Thank you. I put your post on my FaceBook. You are sanity in another wise nutty world. Thank you,
    Roberta in MN

  4. The Republicans should be careful -- they too could lose the South eventually. Most of those states are 20% to 40% black, and much of the white population is poor. If enough people (especially younger) turn away from religion, as is happening throughout the country, it's not hard to imagine a coalition against the Republicans rising to 50% and beyond.

    The praise for your blog is well deserved. I first discovered it when you were calling the "poutragers" to account, and it was a refreshing blast of sanity amid the foetor. I've often recommended it to other readers.

  5. Roberta - my MN sister!!

    Thanks Infidel. I appreciate your support.

  6. Here via Infidel. I have occasionally crossed paths with your articles in the past and this one ranks right up there at the top with the rest of what I've seen. Excellent. "Occasional" will now become "routine." This old southern belle feels that "converts" often turn out to be more rabid than life-termers. Keep up the good work.

  7. Thanks Leslie.

    And thanks Infidel who does such an excellent job of linking folks!

  8. Beware Democrats...Marx believed that the problem with the socialism of his day was that it did not deal with economic issues. He proposed that his new (communist) economic system, which called for redistribution of wealth, was more equitable. But it is clear that this system does not work either, at least in part because it requires people to be altruistic. Unfortunately, working for the benefit of others over the self is not in harmony with the current state of human nature. Marx advanced a secular solution to what is a spiritual problem. But by its very nature, a spiritual problem can be solved only at a spiritual level. We need to keep the free enterprise system free. The best way to get the 47 million OFF food stamps is to allow the businesses to develop through competition and creativity...not government mandates. Romney knows how business develops, Ryan knows the government numbers...they would be better to lead the country through the economic malaise we are in. I would love to see a poll of business leaders, who they would feel more comfortable in the White House...bp

  9. The Republican Party left me, I did not leave the Republican Party.
    Dwight Eisenhower: "Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
    The fulfillment of Eisenhower's prophecy has happened. The Republican Party of Lincoln and other fine people is dead. Let’s call it the Pig Party.
    LBJ's observation of the impact of civil rights legislation and Eisenhower's quote about those wishing to destroy Social Security can help us understand the reasons why some push hard today to destroy Social Security for all. It’s the pervasive idea of inequality.

  10. Adding to Brian S. Parrott’s false chastisement of Democrats:
    Comparing BP’s post and his discussion of Marx. Adam Smith, the “father of capitalism,” recognized the failure of free market capitalism because "it requires people to be altruistic." Mr. Smith naively believed Christians would have a "natural inclination" to be ethical and moral. Not true Smith then advocated regulated capitalism, not crony or “free market” capitalism.
    Marx looked at the economics of a feudal royalty-based economic system and falsely concluded that to be capitalism. Stalin, who claimed to adapt the Marxist system, merely continued czarist feudalist and monopolist practices, but with a more brutal one. Absolute power was concentrated at the top.
    Only the USA has successfully implemented capitalist and socialist practices side by side. Socialist practices CAN be solutions when there is a higher “return on investment.” Free land was handed out by our government for a little more than a century. The frontier closed in the early 20th Century and the free land handouts ended. FDR figured out how to fill the vacuum. The nation fell apart only after Reagan and Bush began dismantling FDR programs. To a white racist, the nation fell apart when Jim Crow ended and civil rights legislation was passed.

  11. “Duck” Robertson brings to mind one other issue which was thrust upon Eisenhower by hysteria in 1954. The phrase, “one nation under God…” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. We have not won a war since then.
    Lillian Carter (Jimmy Carter’s mother) purportedly once said (something like this)… “if you must tell someone you are a Christian, you probably are not one.” How can a “duck” be a Christian anyway?