Young: Just desserts for GOP’s ‘Southern Strategy’ (column) | SummitDaily.com

Young: Just desserts for GOP’s ‘Southern Strategy’ (column)

John Young
Special to the Daily

This is going to be felt for years.”

My politically-prescient son had just watched Donald Trump toss Univision’s Jorge Ramos from his press conference, and a Trump supporter tell Ramos, “Get out of my country.” Ramos is a U.S. citizen.

And, so it goes.

You’ve heard of a charm offensive. What the GOP has waged thus far relative to the Hispanic vote in 2016 is not that.

A harm offensive?

In launching his candidacy, had Trump worn a hockey goalie mask, revved a chain saw and told Latinos, “Taste this,” his actual opening lines would have been less threatening only by degree.

Some of his rivals feigned dyspepsia at what he said. Then, it became clear that Trump had struck a chord with the GOP base. Subsequently, his rivals recalibrated their tuning forks.

Nothing else explains the cluster flub of GOP candidates assembled around amending the U.S. Constitution to prohibit “anchor babies.”

Afterwords, realizing how many Hispanics were offended, Jeb Bush — the Latin crooner — explained his own thought process by implying that Asians are the real problem. Scott Walker went back and forth and back on the matter, before talking about walling off Canada. That idea he walked back as well from the tip of his tongue to the back of his brain. Rick Perry committed truth when he called the birthright-citizenship matter “inconsequential” in the big picture of immigration.

The mortal threat to you and me incarnate in American newborns of foreign parents is reminiscent of Republicans’ claims that the nation is awash in voter fraud — mostly by brown-skinned people, of course. They say this despite exhaustive and expensive probes that show the assertion to be flatworm-thin.

But, it’s clear that GOP “ballot security” aims are driven more by partisan gains than about anything that would sanctify the ballot. As more than one federal judge has observed, the real result has been to make it harder for poor people to vote, particularly poor minorities.

As many observers have pointed out, some officials in the Republican Party may be bothered by the signals Trump sends to people of color, but these are conditions of their own making.

This all goes back to the successful race-based appeals of the so-called Southern Strategy by the Nixon administration, which sought to gain favor with Southerners angered by the civil-rights gains engineered by Lyndon Johnson.

In case anyone thinks this is empty polemics, Nixon aide John Erhlichman made GOP objectives as clear as a bell. He said that a “subliminal appeal to the anti-black voter was always present in Nixon’s statements and speeches.”

Johnson knew the power of such an appeal and said his party had “lost the South for a generation” by going up against Jim Crow.

Despite professed “big-tent” aspirations, the party of Nixon has never really changed course. Now antipathy aimed at brown people is the fuel that would make it the party of Trump.

What my son was saying about long-term ramifications of today’s Republican rhetoric was akin to what Johnson was saying about Dixie. The debacle of the Trump candidacy is going to imprint something deep in the minds of minorities regarding GOP antipathy toward them as their numbers and electoral clout grow.

“What goes around comes around.” It’s coming, thanks to the Southern Strategy. A party so inclined for so long can’t change, even as the country’s demographics change around it.

Is Trump a sensation? Not really. The support he can tout today has little that is organically different from that which won George Wallace 32 electoral votes in 1968 and Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond 39 electoral votes in 1948.

Each needed a few more votes to dictate the future of a great and diverse nation.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.


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