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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Friday | January 17, 2003

GOP mocks the "party of Lincoln"

This is a topic that requires far more attention and research than I can devote at this time. But it boggles the mind how badly the Republicans have botched the race issue over the past month.

After Lott's ouster, many Republicans crowed about exorcising their heritage of racial intolerance. The spin (eagerly lapped up by the media) was that a new generation of Republicans (the neocons) had asserted themselves over the Old Guard (the paleocons). Lott had to resign in disgrace, and a new, more tolerant Republican Party had arisen like a phoenix from the ashes of the GOP's Dixie heritage.

Except that Lott wasn't really ousted. He was simply demoted. He kept his seat, and was even rewarded with a cushy committee chairmanship. There were whispers that Lott was promised continued influence over the GOP agenda in the Senate. And as confirmation of those rumors, Judge Pickering was re-nominated for an appeals court slot.

Judge Pickering, for the uninitiated, wrote a law review journal instructing the MS legislature how to best close a loophole in that state's anti-interracial dating statute, fought for a lenient sentence for a cross-burner, and then perjured himself during his previous confirmation hearings in the Senate last year. His opposition to Civil Rights protections is extensive and well-documented.

So, while the GOP engaged in an orgy of self-congratulatory rhetoric, Bush dumped the Lott-backed Southern segregationist right back on the Senate's lap. And Frist and Co. jumped to laud Bush's nomination and Pickering's "excellent qualifications".

Then, in the eve of the Rev. Martin Luther King's birthday, Bush announces that he will actively oppose the Univ. of Michigan's tame affirmative action program. Bush used the code word "quota" when discussing UMichigan's program, but what is the reality?

Applicants receive up to 40 points for other factors that indicate an applicant's potential contribution to LSA. They may receive 20 points for one of the following: membership in an underrepresented minority group, socioeconomic disadvantage, attendance at a predominantly minority high school, athletics, or at the Provost's discretion. Reflecting the University's commitment both to state residents and to broader geographic diversity, counselors assign ten points for Michigan residency, six additional points for residency in underrepresented Michigan counties, and two points for residency in underrepresented states. Applicants receive one or four points for alumni relationships. The personal essay can earn up to three points. Based on an applicant's activities, work experience, and awards, counselors may assign up to five points for leadership and service, and five more points for personal achievement.
Did you see Bush arguing against points for "alumni relationships"? Of course not -- that's what got him into Yale in the first place. How about points for living in "underrepresented counties" -- a sop for whites living in rural counties? Nope. Those were apparently fine.

The one issue that was targeted by Bush to celebrate MLK's birthday is race.

It's been said a million times, but bears repeating: The GOP may or may not be racist, but that's not really the issue. Its Southern base will respond to coded appeals to racist impulses -- be they Confederate flags or talk of "quotas" at the University of Michigan.

The GOP knows it cannot hope to attract a significant portion of the African American vote. But by talking "tolerance", Bush hopes to attract the suburban white female who will not vote for avowed racists. But the base is more powerful than any white suburban soccer mom, and it must be appeased -- hence we get Pickering and distortions of UMichigan's affirmative action program.

It's thus clear that in the post-Lott world, absolutely nothing has changed within the GOP.

Update: Terry Neal tackles the same issue this morning:

But then again, some political observers say the Bush campaign strategy, and his strategy in office, has been less about attracting black voters than it has about sending a message to moderate, white suburban voters -- especially women -- in the north that he is a different kind of southern Republican, one who doesn't use racial code words and divide by race.


And that - -not any expectation of changing black voting patterns -- explains the current GOP hand-wringing over race. In other words, the White House knows it must continue making inroads with suburban white women and Hispanics to have any chance of holding onto majorities in the near future.

To that extent, the 2004 presidential election could hinge on whether Democrats are successful at making issues of things like the University of Michigan case and the Pickering nomination in coming weeks and months.

Posted January 17, 2003 08:54 AM | Comments (75)


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