Monday, November 10, 2014

Re-imagining the Race Card

One of the funniest things about House of Cards is the idea of Francis Underwood as a White Democratic representative from South Carolina, let alone "majority whip."  This is a dying breed in the Deep South, where Dixiecrats long ago turned Republican in the wake of the Reagan Revolution and have taken over state legislatures and most US Representative seats in Congress.

John Barrow had been able to hold onto his Georgia seat for 10 years thanks largely to his sense of humor and lack of any real Democratic conviction.  He only voted the Democratic line 35% of the time these last two years.  But, even that was too much for Republicans to take, who finally managed to oust Barrow, thanks to the deep pockets of Rick Allen, who bankrolled his own campaign.  Barrow was the last of this dying breed.

I guess the Republicans didn't want to take any chances that Barrow might realign himself with the Democrats in 2016.  After all, he had thrown his support behind Barack Obama in 2008 only to step back further each succeeding Congressional term.    He also moved twice to avoid being gerrymandered out of Congress, leading the Augusta Chronicle to state in 2010 that he was "perhaps the most shameless, duplicitous, self-serving politician of his era."  Seems to me he is just a survivalist like any other politician.

However, in this day and age there is no wiggle room left.  You are either with us or against us in the Republican world, and unless Barrow was willing to change parties, like Zell Miller,  his fate was sealed.

Meanwhile, the GOP is busy promoting women and persons of color to offset their image as a "White Man's Party."  They are quite proud of the victories by Tim Scott in South Carolina, Mia Love in Utah and Joni Ernst in Iowa.  The Republicans desperately want to break down the last line of defense the Democrats have on gender and racial politics, especially since it was a big issue this election cycle.

I'm not sure if Tim Scott is ready to become the GOP's anti-Obama, but he has adopted the same groupspeak of the Republicans when it comes to chastising the Commander-in-Chief, even threatening impeachment, as he did back in 2011, when he served as a US Representative from South Carolina before being promoted to the Senate by Niki Haley when Jim DeMint decided to step down from his high-ranking seat.

It is important to have a black face to counter a black face, which is why Republicans are so enthralled with Dr. Ben Carson, who compared the Obama administration to Nazi Germany.  Tim wouldn't go that far, at least one hopes.  This kind of rhetoric doesn't bring about the "harmony" the good doctor imagines, it only further increases the animosity that has become so much a part of politics today.

Mia and Joni are the Republicans' answer to Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein, women universally loathed by conservatives for their "gender politics."  Neither Mia nor Joni have much of a track record.  Mia last served as mayor of a small Utah town before being handpicked by the GOP to run for US Representative.  Sound familiar?  Joni is a retired Lt. Colonel who served for two years in the Iowa State Senate before running for the US Senate.  Both were actively promoted by "Mama Grizzly."  Mia had barely lost in 2012, but added Republican support put her over the top this time around.

The Democrats have their work cut out for them in 2016.  This is an emboldened Republican Party that now sees itself as the "Party of Civil Rights," replete with attempts at pithy commentary in the National Review.  With these bright young faces to promote its new found sense of political equality, Republicans feel that Democrats can no longer use the race or gender card against them in elections, even though Blacks have less representation throughout the South than demographics should warrant.

If we look at South Carolina, Blacks make up 30 per cent of population but only 20 per cent of the state legislature.  Jim Clyburn is the lone African-American in the US House of Representatives.  The five others are all White Male Republicans.  I don't think Jim Clyburn is fooled by this new embrace of "Civil Rights," having lived long enough to see the Civil Rights movement first hand and know that contemporary Republicans are speaking out of the side of their mouths.

It wasn't that long ago that Clyburn, John Lewis and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus were shouted down in the ugliest terms imaginable at a Tea Party rally on the steps of Congress.  Emmanual Clever was even spat upon by one protester.  The Republicans still have a long way to go if they want to be the "Party of Civil Rights."

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