Following is the essay you can designate as Volume 10, Number 26 of This Week's Clue, based on the e-mail newsletter I have produced since March, 1997. It would be the issue of July 2.
It is very seldom that national parties collapse. The most recent such event I can recall is the collapse of the Progressive Conservative Party in Canada, which ceased to exist as a national force in 1993. A successor party finally came to power last year.
Usually, failed national parties go through a long period of reform and come back wearing new clothes. This is what Labour did under Tony Blair. It's what the nation's Conservatives are now trying to do under David Cameron.
But can that happen when the party in question finds itself isolated to a regional base, more important to an ethnic base? That's what is happening to the Republican Party, which is devolving into something like Canada's Parti Quebecois, only based in the old Southern Confederacy. (To the right, that party's favorite for the Presidency.)
In the Midwest, farmers are abandoning Republicanism. The Mountain West is suddenly friendly toward Democrats. The Midwest sees Republicans on the run in most every state. The party is nearly extinct in the Northeast. On the West Coast, only Alaska remains GOP country, and that party may soon be speaking from inside a jail cell. Republicans who succeed outside the Confederacy (like Arnold Schwarzenegger) do so only by leaning into the prevailing Democratic thesis, accepting its premises and seeking moderation.
But in the old Confederacy, and especially in the Deep South, where I live, the Republican Party is advancing across a broad front. In Georgia's 10th CD, for instance, Democrats didn't even make the run-off. Mississippi is now seen as a model for Republican governance, a model Louisiana seems anxious to emulate. In Florida and Tennessee, the Republican Party is strong, in South Carolina and Texas it's dominant, and everywhere else in the South it is competitive.
Outside the old Confederacy, this is just not the case. And one can argue that some of the party's dominance in the South is attributable to Washington largesse, largesse you can expect to be pulled by a future Democratic government.
This is the bargain Nixon made. This is the final nail in the coffin of the Nixon Thesis. And there's a reason for it.
Where there is two-way ethnic tension, people gravitate toward their own tribe. In Quebec it's the French tribe. In the American South, it's the white tribe. Nixon's Southern Strategy transformed the Republicans into the White party throughout the South, but most especially in those states where blacks represent a sizable minority.
I live in one of those states, Georgia. (The others are South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.) What I have seen, since Republicans took power in Georgia in 2002, has been a gradual acceptance of covert racism, which has lately evolved into acquiescence in overt racism.
- Republican Lynn Westmoreland was one of just two votes against keeping Civil Rights era murder cases alive, and no Georgia Republican called him out on it.
- The Genarlow Wilson case, also in Georgia, proved there is one justice for whites and another for blacks, and no one was called out on that.
What outside analysts don't get is that this is not a one-way street. Cities throughout the South remain Democratic, and largely black. Black Democratic Mayors are allowed to hold power, even black county executives where they are in the majority, but in exchange for that meager ration of power these communities are cut out of government funding by majority-white legislators, even where, as in Atlanta, these cities continue to drive the state's economic growth.
In Georgia, in 2004, black Congresswoman Denise Majette was able to
win the Democratic Senate nomination and went down to a 2-1 defeat.
Now, DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones, another black, is preparing to do
the same thing. In Mississippi, black representative Erik Fleming
played this part last year against Trent Lott. In Alabama Vivian Figures (left)
is going to play this part against Jeff Sessions. All these people think they're breaking through some sort of glass ceiling, but they're just reinforcing stereotypes.
It's tribalism. It's the same thing you see in Northern Ireland, the
same force which split Yugoslavia, the same force that caused the
Burundi genocide and the Darfur tragedy, the same force that created
Apartheid in South Africa, the same force tearing apart Iraq. Tribalism
creates a zero-sum game, where calls to ethnicity draw a knee-jerk
reaction, and where corruption can flourish.
That's really why the immigration bill was stopped. Republicans throughout the South have spent the last year running against the immigration bill in order to consolidate power. They talk about brown hordes as code for keeping the niggers down, and it works.
Outside the Confederacy, you can argue it's no different. In cities with
large black populations voting often breaks down along the color line.
In cities like Los Angeles, where Hispanics now dominate, we're seeing
the same thing along the ethnic line.
Most Americans know this is profoundly anti-democratic, and where the racial minority is relatively small it's possible to have cross-ethnic coalitions. Of course you've got to bring your own people with you. Black Republicans in the North can't do that today, and so they get trampled.
But where there are two pieces of pie, one large and one small, the majority is going to try and trample the minority and take the whole pie. That's the political shape of the South. It's not the political shape of America.
By becoming a regional party, based on an ethnic divide, the
Republicans have sealed their doom as a national force. In the future
they will have to hide their Southern roots much like Democrats did for
generations after the Civil War, when it pretended Woodrow Wilson was
from New Jersey (not Georgia or Virginia) and won a narrow, minority
victory. The Southern veto on Republican power will have to become a
Southern exclusion for the party to have any chance, and it will take
several election cycles to drive this point home.
But what of the South? I think there is hope for the South, if white
folks who have immigrated from elsewhere just start calling racism what
It will be interesting to see how long this will take, before this third rising of the Klan is challenged directly, in its lair, by people throughout the country who are sick and tired of racism, sick and tired of excusing racism, sick and tired of both overt and covert racism, sick and tired of being slaves to hate and ethnicity.
The immigration debate is the Republicans' last code word. Pretty soon it will be stripped away, along with the South's political power.
And then we'll finally get to the heart of the matter, and the last battle of the Civil War.