In all the talk about Cliven Bundy in the days since his little verbal slip-up, there are two things I’ve yet to see mentioned by many persons.
The first is that we’ve seen this movie before: Right-wing nutjob does stupid stunt, then gets fawning media coverage from right-wing media and even much of the regular media, then says something that causes his media pals to drop him like a hot potato. The “something” that is said by the right-winger is generally something that tends to reveal, quite clearly, that the common threads running through modern American conservatism and the modern Republican Party are in fact the deliberate nurturing and propagation of bigotries of all sorts, but especially white paranoia towards nonwhites (aka “the Southern Strategy”) and straight male paranoia towards women and GLBTQ persons. (Hell, we’ve even seen it happen at least once before this year, with the preppie faux “common folk” Robertson family, and the year is still young.)
The second is that even those persons who do mention the first thing — namely, that Bundy’s not a “lone nut” but is in fact accurately representative of modern American conservatism and a product of the decades-long use of the Southern Strategy — don’t go into detail why the Southern Strategy was created and who benefits from its existence.
See, it’s not just that the Republican Party and American conservatism made conmon cause with institutionalized bigotry — the John Birch Society, the White Citizens’ Councils (now united into the “Council of Conservative Citizens”), the “Sovereignty Commissions” of the various former Confederate states — for political gain. It’s that they did so to help out Big Business.
That’s right, kiddies: American business leaders have a vested interest in keeping us divided by racial and other paranoias. Why? Because the white Americans, at least, can then be conned into voting against their own economic best interests, and against the preservation of civil society.
This, my friends, is the full working description of the GOP’s Prime Directive, the “Southern Strategy”.
Top Reagan advisor Lee Atwater laid it all out back in 1981, when he explained the workings of the Southern Strategy in a videotaped interview:
It has become, for liberals and leftists enraged by the way Republicans never suffer the consequences for turning electoral politics into a cesspool, a kind of smoking gun. The late, legendarily brutal campaign consultant Lee Atwater explains how Republicans can win the vote of racists without sounding racist themselves:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Ni–er, ni–er, ni–er.” By 1968 you can’t say “ni–er”—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 “Ni–er, ni–er.”
Don’t expect to see this on your evening TV news anytime soon. They like their tax cuts and not having to deal with the Fairness Doctrine.