It’s Plain Whose Country the Government-Haters “Want Back”

tea party racismThe country was still stuck in the Depression when voters went to the polls in the 1934 mid-term congressional elections.

Almost always, the party that has the presidency loses House and Senate seats in mid-terms. Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House 76 years ago.

But in 1934, the president’s party grabbed headlines and made history. The Democrats added nine House seats and an equal number of Senate seats on election day.

Going on two years after Barack Obama was elected president, tough times – reflected in still high joblessness numbers – are hanging on.

But if pollsters and pundits are right, 2010 won’t be like 1934. Many number crunchers and commentators say the Democrats seemed doomed to big losses this November.

The country trusted FDR and gave him and his party the benefit of the doubt in 1934. Many voters don’t seem so inclined toward Obama and the Democrats this year.

“It’s this pervasive and corrosive anti-government feeling out there that you didn’t have in the 1930s,” said Dr. David Krueger, a retired history professor at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah . “A lot of people think government can’t do anything right.”

By “government,” the naysayers usually mean Washington.

Roosevelt believed the federal government had at least some responsibility to help the millions of Americans who needed help in the Depression, America’s worst-ever economic crisis. Most Americans were grateful for FDR and his New Deal program. They elected himto four terms and gave him sizeable Democratic congressional majorities to boot.

So what happened to sour so many people on Washington and the Democrats?

Part of it was a double-whammy from the 1970s, growing disillusionment over the war in Vietnam  followed by the Watergate scandal. But most of it stems from what was called the “white backlash” against landmark civil rights laws a Democratic-majority Congress, at the urging of President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, passed in the 1960s.

The civil rights legislation committed the federal government to ending long years of segregation and race discrimination by law in the South and de facto segregation and race discrimination elsewhere.

Many whites, especially Southerners, hated the civil rights bills. They focused their ire on LBJ and the Democrats, though many Republicans voted for the measures, too. Conservative Southern Democratic lawmakers — all of them white — opposed the laws.

The New Deal didn’t include significant civil rights legislation, so the white South stayed in the Democratic fold. But when Johnson made civil rights part of his Great Society program, the white South began abandoning the party of their forebears.

The GOP, turning ever rightward, successfully exploited the “white backlash,” flipping Southern politics on its head. The old party of “ Lincoln and Liberty ”and civil rights activism  — once an anathema in Dixie — became a reborn GOP that was anti-federal government and pro “states’ rights.” (The change dovetailed with right-wing Republicans’ disdain for the New Deal, which gave workers the right to unionize and added new federal regulations that were designed to curb the greed of business and industry that had helped lead to the Depression.)

Starting in the 1960s, the white Democratic “Solid South” crumbled. Today, the South is, by and large, Red State Republican.

It makes most Republicans and Tea Baggers hopping mad when somebody suggests that outright racism, or pandering to racism, underlies most of their anti-government rhetoric. But there is no denying the GOP is what the Democrats used to be — mostly the white folks’ party. The whole anti-government crowd is almost all white. Nowhere is the Tea Party movement more popular than in the Old Confederacy.

So when Tea Baggers and pro-Tea Bagger Republicans — including those who live up North — whoop and holler and wave “OBAMA’S PLAN WHITE SLAVERY” and “I Want My Country Back!” signs, it’s pretty obvious what kind of country they mean. Hint: It’s not one with a president whose skin is a different hue from theirs. (It must really rile them that so many white people voted for Obama.)

“…The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line,” W.E.B. DuBois wrote in The Souls of Black Folk , published in 1903, six years before he helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

I thank the Good Lord that the federal government – boosted by great Democrats like LBJ, Bobby Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey and great Republicans like Jake Javits, Ed Brooke and my fellow Kentuckian, John Sherman Cooper – helped erase a big part of that line in the latter part of the last century. Sadly, Washington’s effort to remove the color line is a big reason why more than a few white folks hate government so deeply today.

Berry Craig

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Comments

  1. in_awe says

    “@in_awe – your astounding ignorance is matched only by your confidence in your political position. You’re standing on a platform atop a mound of ignorance and manure, but you’re so proud of it.” Wow, talk about offering up reasoned dialog in reply. I congratulate you on your open-mindedness – and your confidence in your political position.

    1. The idea that Dems fostered racial tension in the 50s and 60s, and that’s the start of identity politics, is absurd. What were Jim Crow laws or slavery or immigration exclusion, if not the political manifesteation of “racial tension” and “divisiveness”? Well, let’s see what I actually said: “since the mid-1960′s”, “Starting with the Great Society”, “For 40 years”, “For 4 decades”. Perhaps you should retake elementary school math as well as history and civics. You see, I never mentioned the 1950’s – you did as a way to shift the argument.

    I also did not state that the Dems started the concept of identity politics in the 1960’s – merely that they found it a valuable political tool to exploit.

    The only challenge they presented in the 60s was a challenge to white supremacist government.

    2. There has always been a linkage between politics and benefits, going back to the early agrarian movements when farmers would riot at the capitols to demand land rights, less tax on alcohol, or whatever. Some were demanding that the government support invading Indian territory to make land available for colonists.

    What I said was: “Starting with the Great Society was a linkage for beneficiaries between getting more federal government benefits and voting for Democrats”. This is quite different dynamic when the party in power establishes a quid pro quo at the federal level than farmers rioting at state capitols as you put it. Having lived in Cleveland and Chicago during the 1950’s – 1980’s I have witnessed decades of this first hand.

    3. Distrust of the Federal government goes back to the tensions between the Federalists and the states. Some localities have tensions with their State government.

    It’s true that the Fed goes too far in using the interstate commerce clause, but they use it because the Fed is limited in their rights to regulate within states. In most other countries, the national government has power within the local provinces.

    So you essentially agree with me and reject the article’s author’s contention that it is sourced to the white backlash against affirmative action in the 1970’s and beyond. Cool, see that wasn’t so painful to admit. Congratulations, you are an apprentice Teabagger!

    4. Identity politics existed long ago. Ever hear of the Irish? Or what about the tensions between the Catholic states and Protestant states? Sure, I have heard of the Irish, Germans, Chinese, English, Romanians, Russians, Jews, Italians, Eastern Orthodox, Vietnamese, Indian, Nigerian and many more groups. Please show me where an group identity was ever exploited by a national party for decades as have blacks by the Dems. And I have no idea what you are talking about when you cite the tensions between Catholic states and Protestant states – do you mean colonies in the 1600’s and 1700’s in New England?

    I’m “in awe” of how these tea-baggers keep fighting against the shadows of the 1960s. 50 years have passed, but they want to return to some fantasy-time before MLK. No actually I think that Dr. King had it precisely right when he said unambiguously that a person should be judged not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character. And in the same speech when he intoned “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” What happened to the nuclear black family once the Great Society took hold? What happened to graduation rates and achievement scores after the mid-1960’s for young blacks? The soft racism of lowered expectations and paternalism of the Dems, and the resolve to court the teacher unions and never force them to provide equal education to the poor left the hopes of generations of poor blacks tattered in the winds.

    They say “Constitution this and that” but don’t know s— about the Constitution. They come out with some random bulls— that they call “Constitutional” when it’s not. Look at how they rail about immigration – they are basically anti-Constitutional on that issue. The same for Civil Rights. Well, there you go again. Let’s start with enumerated powers – please educate me on where the Constitution tells us that the federal government can tell us which direction can flow on streets in SF, what toilets we can use, what light bulbs we can light, or as so clearly endorsed by Kagan what amount of vegetables and fruits we eat daily if Congress so orders us. What the Constitution does quite explicitly (and the founding fathers elaborated on in extensive writings)do is limit the power of the central government and define it specific duties. One of which is to defend the nation and ensure its sovereignty and borders. (Look it up – you can see it for yourself.)You and you ilk bathe in the detritus of activist judges issuing rules at odds with the language and intent of the Constitution and self-congratulatorily think you are right. Nonsense.

    The number of people in this country upset by the wholesale abandonment of the tenets of the Constitution grows daily. People who believe that they have a right to be left alone by the central government. They also believe that the largess of the federal government comes from their labors and that the recent actions of Congress in ignoring overwhelming opposition to bills that have been written but are not read before being passed, trillions of incremental debt, budgets that that are unwritten but deemed to be passed, an administration that is inept but refuses to take responsibility for anything is fundamentally wrong. The more the Dems bask in their ability to shove things down the throats of Americans the greater peril they are in politically.

  2. Joshua says

    I am horrified that the Dems entire argument rest on the fallacy of Tea Party racism. It is intellectually lazy and downright slanderous.

    You beleive the Constitution is the Supreme law of the USA…RACIST!!!!

    You believe the 10th amendment should be followed …RACIST!!!

    You beleive that existing Immigration Law should be enforced….RACIST!!!!

    You belive that ALL Citizens are Equal in liberty AND responsibility….RACIST!!!

    You believe in the concept of private property….RACIST!!!!

    You must relize how absurd your argument is. I am so Happy that November is close…Mr. Craig, smarten up!

  3. nobody says

    @in_awe – your astounding ignorance is matched only by your confidence in your political position. You’re standing on a platform atop a mound of ignorance and manure, but you’re so proud of it.

    1. The idea that Dems fostered racial tension in the 50s and 60s, and that’s the start of identity politics, is absurd. What were Jim Crow laws or slavery or immigration exclusion, if not the political manifesteation of “racial tension” and “divisiveness”?

    The only challenge they presented in the 60s was a challenge to white supremacist government.

    2. There has always been a linkage between politics and benefits, going back to the early agrarian movements when farmers would riot at the capitols to demand land rights, less tax on alcohol, or whatever. Some were demanding that the government support invading Indian territory to make land available for colonists.

    3. Distrust of the Federal government goes back to the tensions between the Federalists and the states. Some localities have tensions with their State government.

    It’s true that the Fed goes too far in using the interstate commerce clause, but they use it because the Fed is limited in their rights to regulate within states. In most other countries, the national government has power within the local provinces.

    4. Identity politics existed long ago. Ever hear of the Irish? Or what about the tensions between the Catholic states and Protestant states?

    I’m “in awe” of how these tea-baggers keep fighting against the shadows of the 1960s. 50 years have passed, but they want to return to some fantasy-time before MLK.

    They say “Constitution this and that” but don’t know s— about the Constitution. They come out with some random bulls— that they call “Constitutional” when it’s not. Look at how they rail about immigration – they are basically anti-Constitutional on that issue. The same for Civil Rights.

  4. in_awe says

    I can easily see some factors that you ignore completely:

    1. Couldn’t it be that the cynical use of race to foster racial tension by Democrats since the mid-1960’s has a role in racial divisiveness in this country?

    2. Starting with the Great Society was a linkage for beneficiaries between getting more federal government benefits and voting for Democrats – even at the cost of personal freedom and ability to progress based on your individual talents and capabilities. Substituted were group based “rights” and demands for equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunity. Many Americans white and black saw (and see)this as a repudiation of the very principals of our nation’s founding.

    3. The left started asserting hatred for the central government during the Viet Nam war and has never let up – at least while there were Republican Presidents. Lying by the left about outcomes of proposed legislation is now a hallmark of the deceit shown daily by the left and its lapdog mainstream media. The target of all this hatred were conservatives and the Constitution.

    4. Some people actually read the Constitution and believe in the enumeration clause. I know – it is shocking that people can be so – well – backward in their thinking as to assert that the central government was not to be involved in every element of our day to day lives. Our Solicitor General this past week allowed how the federal government may in its infinite wisdom and care pass a law ordering Americans to consume a specified diet of fruits and vegetables and she as a SC justice would find that a perfectly acceptable and enforceable law under her interpretation of the Constitution.

    For 40 years activist Congress critters and judges have turned the most basic tenets of our country on their head and declared the Commerce clause trumps all and everything falls under the jurisdiction of that silly putty clause.

    5. For 4 decades the Democrats have conditioned its adherents to believe that group identity is a fair trade for personal responsibility. Hand in hand with this was a need to identify and lock in on a demon who must be the source of all evil and bad in your life. Such rancid pablum can only harm this nation and increase the rancor among us – those who believe this tripe and those targeted by it. And Heaven help any minority who dares rebel against this racist world view.

    Of course none of this matters according to you. It is solely about race. Right? Same with the any negative assessment of Obama. It is all race based – none can be founded upon his repeated demonstration of his ineptness, ineffectiveness, lying, golf playing, non-stop campaigning, responsibility avoiding, blame finding, and general American loathing…Right.

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