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February 12, 2013 - Harry Eagar
I agree with every word of Sam Tanenhaus's New Republic piece about how the Republican Party changed from a party of civil rights to one against civil rights. His history is precisely what I observed in the South.
I have never read a piece of political journalism before that I didn't disagree with at least part of.
I would add just three points:
Although Tanenhaus is no doubt correct as he traces the intellectual history of the transformation in ideology in the national Republican Party, Southerners didn't need any Eastern pointy-head intellectuals to revive the political thought of John Calhoun. We took that in with our mother's milk. My grandfather, born in 1890, was named John Calhoun Eagar.
Second, though Tanenhaus does not mention it, his history explains the desperate GOP opposition to the Voting Rights Act (and exposes the libertarians as just rightwingers who won't admit to it).
Three, the reason the Republicans were not concerned as they lost the Latino vote was that they were certain, for ideological reasons, that Latin immigrants, as they became citizens, or their children grew old enough to vote, would vote their social conservative views and not their economic interests or their desire for self-respect. This was obtuse when contemplating a social group that puts so much emphasis on respect.
The more or less simultaneous disappearance of the Republican black vote was a feature, not a bug, and the party was happy to see them go.
"But that history, with its repeated instances of racialist political strategy dating back many decades, only partially accounts for the party's electoral woes. The true problem, as yet unaddressed by any Republican standard-bearer, originates in the ideology of modern conservatism. When the intellectual authors of the modern right created its doctrines in the 1950s, they drew on nineteenth-century political thought, borrowing explicitly from the great apologists for slavery, above all, the intellectually fierce South Carolinian John C. Calhoun. This is not to say conservatives today share Calhoun's ideas about race. It is to say instead that the Calhoun revival, based on his complex theories of constitutional democracy, became the justification for conservative politicians to resist, ignore, or even overturn the will of the electoral majority."
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