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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Has 'Rebranding' Actually Made the GOP More Tolerant of Racism?

Tea Party sign - 'Obama's plan - white slavery'
After Mitt Romney's loss to Barack Obama in 2012, many in the Republican Party decided it was time to spiff up the Grand Old Party's image. The Republican candidate lost women and minorities, leaving the party with mostly white Christian male voters -- a demographic on the decline as time goes on and no longer numerous enough to swing an election. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus commissioned an "autopsy" of the party's losses and followed by announcing a "rebranding" effort to reach out to minority voters. "If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them, and show our sincerity," he said.

Unfortunately for all involved, that effort never got beyond the conceptual stage. Part of the problem was that the party had let themselves become captive to populist grifters like Sarah Palin. Serious rebranding would mean shutting down her branch of the party, with its exclusionist messaging and its reliance on perpetual white victimhood. So she and others like her pushed back to protect their gravy train. But the bigger problem was the reason GOP voters found Palin so appealing in the first place -- the aforementioned exclusionist messaging and reliance on perpetual white victimhood. You could rebrand to attract minority voters, you could remain unchanged to keep the current batch, but you could not do both. Republican voters believe in Reagan's racist "welfare queen" myth, with minority voters living off welfare at the expense of white workers. They believe in the form of Affirmative Action -- existing largely in their paranoid imaginations -- that promotes disqualified jobseekers and college applicants, while keeping deserving white candidates down in order to maintain some fictional quota. In short, despite the fact that the very wealthy in this country are disproportionately white and male, they believe that white males are the most oppressed people in America.

That's not going to work very well as a minority outreach message. It soon became clear that the GOP would have to change some policies stances to attract new voters -- and they weren't interested in doing that.

In fact, you could argue that the mere call for rebranding only made things worse. Rightwing conservatives are called reactionaries for a reason; they don't come up with changes to policies or the status quo, they react to and resist them. Look up "conservative" some time. When a conservative says they want change, it means they want to change something back. This isn't change at all, but the opposite. It's an undoing of change -- a dismantling of progress. And so, in their contrary and reactionary little hearts, a call to rebrand became a call to dig in. And a call to reach out to minority voters became a call to let their racist flag fly.


The first outbreak to catch the media's attention occurred at the wingnut Mecca of CPAC. A Conservative Political Action Conference panel titled "Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?" got noticed for an outbreak of undeniable, incredibly backward, change-undoing racism, as the  discussion was hijacked by actual segregationists who defended slavery. Ironically, these were people who are called racist because they so are racists. To their credit, plenty of people on the right distanced themselves from the racist crew, but the positions of the right belied their outrage. They still portrayed Trayvon Martin as a thug. They still worshipped at the altar of St. Joe Arpaio. They still bought the "welfare queen" myth. Racism had become an integral part of the Republican Party and the CPAC supremacists were different only in that they'd traded in the dog whistle for the bullhorn.

Which brings us to today.

Raw Story: An aide to the re-election campaign of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has resigned from his position over connections to a white supremacist group. According to Mediaite, Cuban-American conservative activist Roan Garcia-Quintana stepped down after days of intense pressure on the campaign.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation league revealed last week that Garcia-Quintana is a longtime director of the Council for Conservative Citizens, an anti-immigration, pro-white group that has taken a stand against “all efforts to mix the races of mankind.”

In an interview on Friday with South Carolina’s The State, Garcia-Quintana addressed the controversy by saying that he is not anti-black or anti-Asian, but rather pro-Caucasian.

“Is it racist to be proud of your own heritage? Is it racist to want to keep your own heritage pure?” Garcia-Quintana said to The State. “Racist is when you hate somebody so much that you want to destroy them.”
It's awfully easy to get away with racism when you define the word incorrectly. Is it racist to "be proud of your own heritage"? I suppose it depends on what you've inherited. But is it racist "to want to keep your own heritage pure"?

Yes. Yes, it is.

And while it's certainly racist to "hate somebody so much that you want to destroy them," that's also not all that racism is. Racism runs the gamut from full-fledged slavery to getting pulled over for "driving while black." Neither is meant as a method of eliminating another race. When your definition of racism is so narrow that only genocidal motives qualify, it's awfully easy to say you're not a racist -- which, of course, is why Garcia-Quintana used that definition and not the more accurate "someone who doesn't like other races" one.

And here's where Garcia-Quintana racism starts to get shared around in the Republican Party:

Over the weekend, the Haley campaign stood by Garcia-Quintana. Campaign spokesperson Tim Pearson erroneously likened the scrutiny of the white supremacist’s record to the IRS investigations of Tea Party “social welfare” groups.

“The IRS thinks conservatives should be targeted for abuse, but Gov. Haley does not,” said Pearson.
They not only actually thought they could save this white supremacist, they thought it was worth doing. In the end, the pressure was too much and they finally cut him loose, but the fact that they didn't cut him loose immediately shows they're way too tolerant of ugly, blatant, about-as-bad-as-it-gets racism in their midst. And the predictable rush to play the victim card is just too much. You really don't say that it's terribly unfair that someone would single out a white supremacist for criticism. You just don't.

In the end, this is what becomes of the rebranding effort -- it gets dumped by the wayside in a return to victimhood. The minority outreach effort is dead.


[photo via Lisa Pampuch]

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