The vast majority of Republicans aren’t racists. In fact, I believe their are as many (if not more) Democratic racists as Republican racists. I have even defended the tea party openly saying, that I reject the conventional wisdom that the movement is racist and have found more than enough evidence to back my claim. But what has become apparent is that the Republican Party (note the party itself and not the tea party) in 2012 are returning to race-baiting much as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. During that period the cynical nature of Republican campaigns focused on converting historic Democrats in the southern states to the GOP and scaring suburbanites who aligned with the Democrats on most issues. These strategies were best discussed in a book I have read over and over again, Chain Reaction. Bill Clinton read this book carefully in 1992, and changed the tenor of the debate at the same time as many in the GOP were beginning to recognize the damage this cynical campaign strategy was doing to the GOP’s image among younger voters.
Recent Republican campaigns led by George W. Bush and Jeb Bush here in Florida were notable for their attempts to reach out to minorities while completely rejecting overt and subtle racism. George W. Bush despite all his others faults was probably the most race and ethnic neutral Republican in the White House since Warren Harding. This is noteworthy given that adopted Texan George H.W. Bush ran a campaign for US Senate in 1964 against liberal icon Ralph Yarborough using overtly racial rhetoric and attacking the Senator for his support of Civil Rights. Then Bush was on the ticket in 1980 when Ronald Reagan kicked off his General Election campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi where just 15 years earlier two young Jewish students from New York and one local African-American had been murdered when trying to register blacks to vote. The murders were covered up by local authorities in league with the Ku Klux Klan. The investigation by the FBI was dramatized in the 1988 film Mississippi Burning. The result was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which Rick Scott seems to not want to honor but that is a topic for another time. In 1988, Bush benefited from arguably the most blatantly racist national campaign since George Wallace sought the White House. What it accomplished was temporarily holding off en emerging Democratic electoral vote coalition which likely would have begun to emerge in 1988 had it not been for Willie Horton, and other “crime” and “welfare” ads. The goal of the racist rhetoric was almost always aimed at Democrats whose crossover votes the GOP needed to win local, state and Federal elections.
In other words the generational shift in the Bush family has seen a transformation from race-baiting to inclusiveness. “Compassionate Conservatism” was more than just a tag line for Jeb and George W. Bush. They showed in many ways they believed in it.
John McCain rejected the instincts of many of his advisers and surrogates in 2008 continuing the pattern of Republican leaders taking the high road. This came despite McCain’s own record on Civil Rights including his vote against the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday in 1983, when he likely was just reflecting the viewpoint of his conservative constituents. McCain showed a desire to run a post racial campaign and recognized the national interest in not using code to describe his black opponent. But Mitt Romney’s campaign feels no such obligation and here in Florida, where race still plays a role in elections, particularly among Democrats (yes, more Democrats that vote based on race I believe in Florida than Republicans) the below primer to code words being used this campaign season is important to remember.
Note: these terms have different meanings in different parts of the country, less racist in other areas. But this is a guide for the interpretation of these terms in Florida.
“Socialism” = Government handouts for African Americans and Hispanics. Look at Southern History. This term has been used since the 1950s by southerners attacking both white and black politicians for liberalism. The term was also used to describe Supreme Court justices Hugo Black ( a one time KKK member from Alabama who eventually became one of the most liberal and pro civil rights justices ever) and Earl Warren on southern billboards in the 1960s. Senate Judiciary Chairman James Eastland even kept a scorecard of “socialist” ruling by the Supreme Court which usually involved race.
“Busload of voters” = Blacks being herded by Democrats or other progressive groups to vote for the socialist candidate.
In the 1960s and 1970s also refereed to as the “block vote” a not so subtle subtle play on words.
“Voter roll clean-up” = Much like the poll tax make it as difficult as possible for minorities to exercise their constitutionally protected right to vote.
“Welfare Queens” = self explanatory. Kills two birds with one stone. Anti-Black and Anti-Woman.
“Food-stamp President” = Black President though I think Newt Gingrich made this one radioactive it won’t be used again this cycle.
“Rejection of American Exceptionalism” = Used to describe Obama in 2012 but previously meant “guilty” white liberal who wants to help counties with black and Hispanic majorities at the cost of American supremacy and superiority.
“Immigration Reform” = Make sure we limit immigration from Latin America but we are more than happy to continue letting European and Asians in at the same rate they currently enter the country. This is less racist than realpolitc as Europeans and Asians are more likely Republicans while Latinos more likely Democrats.
“Domestic Terrorist” = Oklahoma City? Antrax? Abortion Clinic bombers? No, this means a Muslim plain and simple.