Thursday, April 22, 2004

Blogging Gerard Alexander

Old Post: My last post on this was here.

The Gerard Alexander talk was tonight at 8 pm. I took notes during the talk, of which these are a copy. Since they were taken as I listened, there may be some typos and such:

I can't speak for the audience as a whole, but the people directly in front of me are definitely hostile to the speaker. One guy says: "They’re not racist--they’re homophobic and racist...I’m here for a laugh. Maybe some of the individuals aren’t racist, but the party as a whole..." One girl says she's writing a paper about how the Republican party is inherently racist, and this is part of her research. I wonder if she has a clue what the talk is about. It doesn't sound like any of the people here have read the article.

I do intend to ask Ramesh's question if I get a chance. It's possible someone will beat me to it.

They're running late... it's already ten after and it hasn't started. Of course, I'm pretty sure Ralph Nader started late as well.

Okay, the MC is speaking--Noah, the chairman of CR.

Gerard Alexander is starting. He feels the need to defend himself against racism. He grew up in the US Virgin Islands, which is only 5-10% white. He found the way mainlanders dealt with race to be very different. While in the US, he and his friends from the Virgin Islands did their best to ignore race entirely.

He was surprised to find himself considered racist by association.

There is a strain of thought that the Republicans came to power by winning over the South, and they won it by becoming party of white solidarity, by pandering to white racists. The thinking is that the Republicans are defined by racism.

Many Republicans fear that there is some truth to this belief.

Dr. Alexander thinks the evidence for this is very poor. He thinks it relies on two kinds of evidence: the voting history of the South, and Republican policies on race issues.

The elections in the South. Basic history: South is not the only region with a history of racism, but it does have the strongest history of it, from slavery to segregation. For all of that time, voted solidly Democrat, including for progressive Democrats, who turned a blind eye to the racism of the Southern Democrats. During that time, Republicans most solidly supported civil rights, and had no voice in the South. After WW2, national Democrats broke with segregation, and Southern racists broke with Democrat party, looked for someone else. Voted for Thurmond, Goldwater, and Wallace. Thurmond and Wallace ran on states' rights, a codeword for segregation, and Goldwater did pander to Deep South, using the states' rights codeword. Winning the South is not chump change, and in the story, this is the sort of thing worth selling your soul for.

A couple of problems with that story. If the GOP did sell itself as party of white solidarity, should be able to make four predictions:
1. GOP should have made biggest inroads when and where the racial issue was strongest.
2. GOP should have a different voter profile in the South than its usual profile (educated, upper middle class), instead the Southern GOP profile should be that of the Wallace voters: lower middle class, less educated.
3. GOP should have been more popular among native Southerners than those who moved South.
4. GOP should, over time, have an older voter population, among those who were raised in more racist times.

None of these are true.

1. This is not the case. Republican party grew faster in Outer South rather than Deep South. Republican party started making progress in the South during Eisenhower’s time, when Republicans were the main supporters of civil rights laws. Eisenhower won the Outer South. The story looks much the same with Congressional elections. Goldwater is the exception, not the rule. [It looks like he answered Ramesh's question by conceding it.]
2. The Electoral Demographic of Republican voters in the South during this time are middle class, suburban, educated, the same as elsewhere.
3. Native Southerners vs. Immigrants -- In '60s, '70s, and '80s, the migrants self-identify as Republicans more than the native Southerners.
4. Into the 90s, the younger generations of Southerners identify themselves as Republicans more than the older ones.

Still, didn’t George Wallace's younger voters vote for Ronald Reagan? Does the fact that some of FDR's younger voters later vote for Wallace mean that FDR, and his policies, were racist?

They voted for Wallace in '68, and they didn't get anything. Nixon won without the segregationists in '68, by getting the Outer South--the Republicans demonstrated that they didn't need them. The segregationists had to settle, the same way the Naderites might have to settle for Kerry. Republicans didn't have to offer them much to get it.

The Emerging Republican Majority Kevin Phillips says that Republicans don't need to appeal to segregationists.

What about Republican Party's policies today? Does their policy use codewords? Goldwater used codewords. A policy is only a codeword if there's a legitimate position it also represents. If you think someone's using a code word, you have to discern between the legitimate and illegitimate.

If you don’t think opposing affirmative action is legitimate, then it's not a codeword--it's not hiding anything.

There's a difference between opposing a result (Blacks in good jobs), and between opposing the means (affirmative action). Difference between opposing Jews, and opposing Israel's policies.

Anti-welfare vs. anti-poor. We got welfare reform, didn't we? Many Democrats came around to the conservative view, that welfare was more harmful than not.

Anti-death penalty vs. pro-crime. Have to separate means from results

1. Were the whites who moved to the South from the North more racists than those who stayed behind?
No evidence of that.

2. Is there so much accusation of Republicans for being racist?
Read The New York Times.

3. Now the Deep South is more Republican than the Outer South.
Now that it’s less segregationist, they’re more Republican. Why is this a problem?

4. Industrial-prison complex is racist.
Don’t know enough.

5. Republicans may look racist because they tend to go for upper middle class vote, not where Blacks are. So they tend not to be responsive to the Black vote. Need an alternative to affirmative action rather than just getting rid of it.
True enough. [At a later point he says that's what's necessary to improve the lot of Blacks--the alternative of Affirmative Action--is (1) Improving K-12 schools, (2) Making it possible for them to go to college, etc. There was more, but I don't remember the specifics.]

6. Why did Reagan start in South? Why do Republicans still use the codewords, if they’re not racist? Have the segregationists had an influence on Republicans, like they did on FDR in the New Deal?
Had to take the South, from Jimmy Carter. Because they are good words. Yes, racists have had an influence on the Republicans, and on the Democrats.

7. Why did Blacks move toward the Democratic party? Why do southerners locally vote for Democrats and nationally for Republicans?
Democrats spoke better for civil rights, but more than that, spoke better for the economic desires of Blacks. Many Blacks voted for Wallace when he dropped his segregationist platform. Southern Democrats are more conservative than national Democrats, so Southern voters are more promiscuous with their votes.

8. Why is there still racism? How does popular culture foster racism?
Don't think it's indigenous to human beings. Reflect on human history and realize how far we’ve come. Slavery and racism have a really long history. Look after September 11th, and how little violence happened. Popular culture has done more to lessen racism than to increase it.

9. But there’s still racism. Those who don’t grow up around Blacks are more racist, so the Northerners are really more racist than the Southerners.
[This sounds more like an argument that the Democrats are the racists.]

10. Republican policies are not intentionally racist, but are they that way in effect?
Certainly possible, but need to discuss specifics.

11. Why did George Bush speak at Bob Jones University?
He shouldn’t have. Many politicians flirt with people they shouldn’t. Democrats and anti-Semitism [Farrakhan?].

12. Covert racism better than overt. As long as we aren't acting it out, is it really better?
Deal with problems individually. We’re underestimating how far we’ve come, most of it not by state regulation, but by cultural development. Of course there's more to do, but we need to take a hard look at the best way to do it.

13. When Democrats supported civil rights, did segregationists go Republican?
First went for the segregationist party. In '64, went for Goldwater, who was more segregationist than the Republicans as a whole (one of only 2? Republicans to vote against the civil rights act). Threw in the towel by '72, and went for Nixon.

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