Hershel Walker’s abortion hypocrisy is a hot mess, but that’s only the smallest part of the story: the GOP actually has a template for what they’re attempting to pull off in the election this fall and “morality” has nothing to do with it.
Instead, it’s all about white power and wealth, in a context that once ruled the southern states. This campaign anecdote pretty much explains it all:
Back in 2020 when the economy was sinking like a stone the Senate voted 96-0 to send a $1,200 check to every adult American with a social security number. It was explicitly for every American, including people then held in prisons: everybody in, nobody out.
Every Republican voted for it, as did every Democrat.
But now, as Judd Legum points out in his brilliant popular.info newsletter, Republicans ran over 50,000 advertisements just in the first three weeks of last month arguing that in that and subsequent votes (the later $600 checks) that Black Democrats, in particular, “chose felons over Georgia families” and sent “$1 billion in stimulus to criminals and illegal immigrants.”
This is, of course, not a new strategy.
Back in 1988 Vice President George HW Bush was floundering in his race for the presidency; his tax increase blew up his base, and he was looking for an issue to use against Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. On the advice of Lee Atwater, he settled on a Black criminal named William Horton.
The Bush campaign renamed Horton as “Willie,” a name he’d never used but sounded “blacker” than William, and smeared his mug shot all over the media. And it worked: Bush trounced Dukakis and voters told pollsters it was because they were afraid that Dukakis would release more Black criminals onto the streets.
Republicans are doubling down on the Willie Horton strategy in 2022 with tens of thousands of television commercials every week, most paid for with untraceable dark money that appears to be coming from rightwing billionaires and giant corporations.
So, what’s the GOP’s goal here? What’s their end game?
It’s actually nothing new; they’re working to take us back to a time they remember fondly, when women and nonwhite men “knew their place” and working people cowered in fear before their employers.
Most Americans don’t know that by the time of the Civil War, the South had ceased altogether to be a democracy. Instead, it was a brutal race-based oligarchy, and elections, like today in Russia and Hungary, were mere formalities.
This is the vision today’s GOP is trying to impose on the entire nation.
The cotton gin — which enabled the few plantations able to afford one to do the work of fifty enslaved people with one single machine and a horse or waterwheel — had made the largest plantations rich beyond measure and, by cutting cotton prices, impoverished small subsistence farmers.
The owners of the largest plantations ran their smaller competitors out of business and then bought up their best land for a song, so that by the 1850s a few thousand families owned virtually all the wealth of the South.
Those families also ran the political machinery of the South. Polling places were policed by Slave Patrollers employed by the largest plantation owners and when poor whites showed up to vote they were either intimidated or bribed into voting for the oligarchs’ preferred candidates.
Those voters who refused and agitated for democracy in the South — white men, because only whites could vote there then — were beaten, shot, or hung. (You can find the entire grim story in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy.)
While that system was more nakedly violent than Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp’s new voter purges, its effect was the same: maintaining a strict racial hierarchy in service of the state’s oligarchic families and businesses.
In his new documentary, Vigilante, investigative reporter Greg Palast exposes how it’s working in today’s South, including Kemp‘s family’s role as being among the first white families to import enslaved people into the state over the objections of President Thomas Jefferson who was trying to stop the spread of slavery:
So here we are today:
The GOP claims to be all about “family values” but ever since Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” the only families they’ve worked on behalf of are white families. Reagan kicked off his presidential bid just down the road from the place in Mississippi where three civil rights workers were murdered, putting forward a speech about “states’ rights,” an effort repeated with Donald Trump Jr’s first political speech.
The GOP claims to care about working-class people but has fought the minimum wage, the right to unionize, and even unemployment benefits ever since all three were put into place in the 1930s by Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The GOP claims to champion the rights of women, but the only rights they want women to have are to remain barefoot, pregnant, and subservient to men.
The GOP claims they do better than Democrats on the economy, but ten of the last eleven recessions happened under Republican presidents.
The GOP claims they’re “tough on crime” yet they fought like hell to prevent the IRS from auditing white collar criminals who make off every year with billions more than do street criminals, while helping the NRA wash America in the blood of our children, who are now more often killed by guns than any other single cause.
The GOP claims to be a “big tent” and “inclusive” party while winking at terror operations against queer people, racial minorities, and Democrats.
The GOP claims to be the party of faith and morals, but they put up candidates like Hershel Walker, Donald Trump, and Mehmet Oz who make a mockery of their faux rectitude.
The GOP claims to believe in democracy in our republic, but Republicans openly smear and terrorize election workers while putting up candidates from coast-to-coast who are committed to handing future elections to their party regardless of the voters’ wishes.
The GOP claims to want to help the average person, but fights efforts to reduce drug prices, student debt, and to expand healthcare to low-income working people. They voted 100% against $35/month insulin for diabetics and are suing the Biden administration to stop the student debt reduction program. A dozen Republican-controlled states still deny their own working people access to Medicaid.
The Republican Party has, in fact, reinvented the old Confederacy. This is their goal, their target, the end-point of their efforts.
They even use that treasonous oligarchy’s iconography, waving the battle flag and fighting to preserve statues and place names of traitor Confederate generals.
Today’s GOP fights for two things and two things only: white supremacy and the wealth of its oligarchs, just like Robert E. Lee did in his day.
Everything else is just show.
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