The Nation has just published the audio of Republican strategist Lee Atwater explaining, in 1981, how the GOP consciously and deliberately capitalized on white racism to build a base and win elections.
[It's a matter of] how abstract you handle the race thing. In other words, you start out ... Now y’all aren’t quoting me on this ... you start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” -- that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff.
And you’re getting so abstract now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites…. “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
There had been some conditions of the interview that prevented its release initially, and defenders of the GOP had questioned whether it was actually made up by liberals, but now the interviewer's widow has made the audio recording available, and there it is: "cutting taxes" is a substitute for "Nigger nigger nigger."
The timing of this is perfect. Just a week ago the Republican Party's "Southern Strategy" failed for the first time on a massive scale. The exploitation of ignorant white Evangelicals has worked well for them, it was an easy population to manipulate and they had it down to a science, but in 2012 it failed to produce a majority of votes, and it never will again.
For one thing, the role of women is not what it was, and the patriarchal sexism of the GOP's message drove women voters away. For another, the Hispanic population has grown to be a force to reckon with, and the bigoted fear of foreigners that was a hallmark of GOP rhetoric drove them away. And look people, we have an African-American President, and black people can see what party is looking out for them. Did you see where there were 59 districts in Philadelphia that did not have one single vote for Romney?
If they're smart, and I think they are, the GOP is going to abandon its ignorant-honky base. They can modify their conservative message of small government and the sovereignty of the rugged individualist to appeal to women and Hispanics. They need to get off the idiocy about abortion and contraception and rape; they need to dissociate themselves from images of barbed-wire fences and armed vigilante posses at the borders; even if they have to lie about it they need to make it less obvious that they are the party that supports the interests of the very richest Americans no matter what happens to the rest of us; the "war on terror" worked for a while but there is not enough xenophobia outside the white Protestant base to carry an election; evolution and climate change are real, science provides the best knowledge we've got, and the people demand something smarter than what "the stupid party" has been delivering.
I am actually kind of optimistic about this. If the Republicans would reclaim reasonable conservative values then the Democrats could move back from the unsatisfying centrist position they occupy now and argue in favor of liberal values, there could be honest debate and this polarized country could come together in comfort and prosperity. I don't know if they are capable of it, I don't know if Republican leaders are capable of thinking beyond the uptight, uneducated rural Protestant population that they have built their brand on, but they are going to have to start over and I hope they are smart enough to do it right. It was fun to see the Democrats kick butt but I would prefer to see a good honest fight where both sides offer real solutions to real problems and the voters choose the best ones.
Think about it: why was the conservative party the one that argued that people should be required to meet a government gender requirement in order to get married? A: The GOP stopped being "conservative" a long time ago, focusing instead on getting votes by manipulating the very worst side of ignorant people.
We are enjoying our moment of gloating, but the big-money guys who run the GOP are not going to let this happen again. If they want to win another election -- ever -- they will kick the teabaggers out of the party, cut off Limbaugh and Beck and Coulter and the others, and start over. Because the philosophy that Atwater describes in this audio recording doesn't work any more.
[ UPDATE 11/12/12: Rachel Maddow's post-election monologue has been so popular that someone made a poster from it that you can download in four different formats HERE ]
The Post this morning had a page A-13 headline: "GOP to review tactics and message to gauge what went wrong." This seems so backwards. What if there was a political party that believed in something, and then figured out how to win votes?
This week's election marked the collapse of an angry political movement. Conservatives need more than tactics and "a message," they need to think about their long-term vision for this evolving country, which is changing under them too fast for them to keep up. Rachel Maddow's summary of the election is a masterpiece. I don't usually link to TV shows on this blog, but every Republican should sit back and watch this.
It is worth it to watch the entire sixteen minutes and hear all she has to say, but if you don't want to take the time, at least read what she had to say toward the end:
[ After showing Karl Rove stunned and denying that Ohio had gone to Obama ] Ohio really did go to President Obama last night. And he really did win. And he really was born in Hawaii. And he really is legitimately president of the United States, again. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make up a fake unemployment rate last month. And the Congressional Research Service really can find no evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy. And the polls were not skewed to oversample Democrats. And Nate Silver was not making up fake projections about the election to make conservatives feel bad. Nate Silver was doing math. And climate change is real. And rape really does cause pregnancy sometimes. And evolution is a thing. And Benghazi was an attack on us, it was not a scandal by us. And nobody is taking away anyone`s guns. And taxes have not gone up. And the deficit is dropping, actually. And Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. And the moon landing was real. And FEMA is not building concentration camps. And U.N. election observers are not taking over Texas. And moderate reforms of the regulations on the insurance industry and the financial services industry in this country are not the same thing as communism.
Listen, last night was a good night for liberals and for Democrats for very obvious reasons, but it was also, possibly, a good night for this country as a whole, because in this country, we have a two-party system in government. And the idea is supposed to be that the two sides, both come up with ways to confront and fix the real problems facing our country. They both propose possible solutions to our real problems. And we debate between those possible solutions.
I am optimistic that this GOP meltdown will be a good thing in the long run. There can be more than one solution to a problem, and we need grown-ups in Washington to suggest ideas and debate them and move us forward.
It was kind of amazing last night when the news anchors called the win for Obama. California came in blue, not surprisingly, and a couple other West Coast states, and then they said they were confident that Ohio had voted Democratic, and that was it. If you were pacing yourself to stay up late, you got an early bedtime. Ohio's vote was close at first, but as they explained, the areas that were not counted yet were so blue that there was almost no chance they would come up Republican in the end. Pop the cork.
I didn't wait up for Romney to concede his loss. He was holding out for more votes to be counted when I went to bed. I did see Karl Rove whining on Fox that it wasn't fair. The Republicans in federal government devoted the last four years to ensuring that Obama served only one term, they failed to introduce legislation the country needed and opposed bills that they would have supported under a different President. The government now faces a "fiscal cliff" that could have globally disastrous consequences, as a result of refusal by legislators to negotiate on important budget matters. All they were thinking about was making the President look bad, and now they will have to deal with the reality of what they have created.
And of course we were watching four states that voted on marriage equality. At this point two of them have decisively voted to allow same-sex couples to marry, one is still being counted but marriage equality is likely to pass, and one state voted not to rule it out. For the first time after thirty-two failures, Maine and Maryland voted to accept marriage between same-sex couples, Washington state probably will but numbers won't be in until tomorrow, and Minnesota voters refused to write anti-gay bigotry into their constitution.
That's it, that issue is toast now. The deal is done, the Nutty Ones will have to find some other thing to complain about, the tide is not going to go back the other way.
We are especially proud to live in a state that has endured the bitterness and risen above it. The truth is, it doesn't make sense to tell people who love each other that they can't marry. We saw some ugly ads on television and there was a gigantic campaign in the churches, with thousands of ministers preaching against marriage rights for all, but in the end people voted with their hearts. When gay and lesbian people fall in love in our state they will be able to marry and start a home and fight over the remote control just like everybody else.
We have not been getting frantic about the election here at the Vigilance blog, but that doesn't mean we aren't paying attention to it. We live in one of the bluest counties in the country, we are pretty sure we know what party is going to prevail locally. In fact, a lot of people from Montgomery County have been going to neighboring states, canvassing and helping out.
I have not done a poll of our TTF officers and directors and there may some disagreement of opinions about some of the issues, but I think I can safely say that a hundred percent of us support Question 6, Maryland's marriage equality referendum.
Teach the Facts formed to support our county school board's decision to improve the sex-ed curriculum by including some information about sexual orientation. This commonsense addition to the curriculum was controversial to a handful of noisy radicals, and the culture wars came to town. We are not an LGBT group, we have members who are gay and transgender but generally we stand together, whoever we are as individuals, to support fair treatment of people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and we stand for teaching students to make responsible choices based on the facts.
The Maryland legislature passed a bill permitting marriage between same-sex couples, and the governor signed it, and predictably there was an uproar and conservative elements have put it before the voters. It is Question 6 on the ballot and we are voting Yes for it.
It seems obvious that gay and lesbian people should have the right to marry the person they love, just like everybody else.
It seems obvious that it can only be good for the society as a whole when people have secure and stable homes and families.
It seems obvious that extending marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples does absolutely nothing to affect heterosexual marriages in any way whatsoever.
It seems obvious that the definition of marriage is not set in stone, even as we vote for or against a Presidential candidate who had a polygamous great-grandfather.
It seems obvious that children can be raised to be successful and happy without two opposite-sex parents, as we vote for or against a Presidential candidate who was largely raised by his mother and grandmother.
You may not understand why someone would fall in love with someone of their own sex, but that is not a license for you to judge them.
We are a country that loves freedom, and there is a deal that is made, you will allow me my freedom and I will allow you yours. I am not constrained to do things you approve of, and I return the favor by granting you the freedom to behave without my understanding or approval.
Nobody will be surprised that we support Question 6, but there is a reason to mention it here. Until now, every time that marriage equality has been put to the voters it has lost. Polls are showing that Marylanders favor Question 6, a clear majority has pulled out in front, and there is a good chance that we can break the pattern by passing this into law by popular vote in the state of Maryland.
But I am wary of the opposition. They have been organizing under the radar, in the churches and living rooms and Internet groups. This is really important to them, they feel their way of life will be threatened if gay and lesbian people can marry. It is a get-out-the-vote issue for conservatives, who will get off the couch and cast a ballot against this bill even if they don't care about anything else. It is not a sure thing that this measure is going to pass with a majority vote, no matter what the polls say.
The point is this: you need to vote, even if you are confident of winning. If you didn't vote early, you have one day to have your voice heard. If Wednesday morning you pick up the paper and find out that gay and lesbian couples have been denied the right to marry it will be your fault. So if you care, vote.