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Friday, July 26, 2013

GOP rebranding and ‘Frederick Douglas [sic] Republicans’

Frederick Douglass
Josh Marshall: I was reading through David Corn’s great piece on ‘Groundswell’ which is, depending on your point of view, a working group of conservative activists and journalists working together to coordinate storylines and plan the war against RINOs and progressives or a hapless group of doofuses planning regular meetings to vent about being crapped on by more prominent Republicans. My sense is that it’s sort of a hybrid of the two.

But there’s one section that connects up with my piece yesterday about the specter of white racial panic hovering over the Republican party and how completely unprepared conservative strategists seem to be to deal with it.

Check out this passage …

Notes from a February 28 Groundswell gathering reflected both their collective sense of pessimism and desire for aggressive tactics: “We are failing the propaganda battle with minorities. Terms like, ‘GOP,’ ‘Tea Party,’ ‘Conservative’ communicate ‘racism.’” The Groundswellers proposed an alternative: “Fredrick Douglas Republican,” a phrase, the memo noted, that “changes minds.” (His name is actually spelled “Frederick Douglass.”) The meeting notes also stated that an “active radical left is dedicated to destroy [sic] those who oppose them” with “vicious and unprecedented tactics. We are in a real war; most conservatives are not prepared to fight.”
So basically perhaps the top three phrases associated with the right or the GOP or conservatism signal ‘racism’. In fact, those words themselves communicate racism. According to conservatives themselves. At least give them credit for recognizing the scope of the problem.
However, they get no credit for coming up with a solution. As with all GOP “rebranding" efforts so far, this one involves changing absolutely nothing and hoping to trick voters into thinking conservatives are on their side. The first time I can remember noticing this is when the George W. Bush campaign started putting out posters that read “The ‘W’ stands for women." What did Bush do that was so woman-friendly? Well, nothing in particular. The campaign just declared it so and hoped enough women would fall for it to make a difference.

So, are these conservatives calling for a return to Lincoln-era Republicanism, with it’s support of demand side economics and the rights of laborers and a distrust of the corporate class? Are they resetting to before the polar party shift on race that happened after Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law and all the racist “Dixiecrats" went running to the GOP, where they were welcomed with open arms?

Hardly. While they’re insisting they’re the party of civil rights, they’re still the party of Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms. They’re passing racist voter suppression laws at the state level — at least, when they aren’t lining up to go on Fox News to say that Trayvon Martin got what he deserved or that racial profiling is the best thing ever.

Conservatives fail to understand that their problem isn’t what they say — at least, not entirely. It’s what they do. It’s one thing to openly despise someone to their face. It’s quite another to pretend to be their friend, only to stab them in the back. Reframing the language without changing the ideology is only dressing up the racism. It won’t work.

[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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