EDITORIALS - Archives 09.05.04
The White Party, and the rest
What a year,
1968. I watched the Republican "Coronation"
this week and was taken back to my childhood.
This is exactly what a re-nominating event would
have looked like had George Wallace won the
presidency. Growing up in the backwater swamps
of East Texas, I couldn't miss that election
as America stood on the brink of social transformation.
As a Southern "cracker",
I received an up-close look at the positions
of those who supported the segregationist Governor
of Alabama for President. Wallace was already
famous nationwide for tossing a gauntlet to
the Federal government with his famous "segregation
now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever"
speech, and for having blocked integration in
Alabama public schools by standing in the schoolhouse
door in 1963.
Using codewords for racism and
intolerance, his campaign literature focused
on three themes: Patriotism, Militarism, and
economics. Today the theme would be called "compassionate
That George W. supported a strong
police force. "We stand behind you because
you are the thin line between complete anarchy
in the streets and the physical safety of our
person," stated his campaign literature.
In talking about the Vietnam War, Wallace said,
"These college professors who are making
speeches advocating victory for the Viet Cong
Communists - I would deal with these people
as they ought to be dealt with, as traitors."
He was also proud of his economic
record in Alabama. His campaign claimed, "Alabama
enjoyed a record-breaking growth in industry,
education, highway construction and other phases
of state government."
Alabama then, as now, ranks as
one of the lowest-performing of American states
both in industry and education. Texas, where
a more recent George served as Governor, has
counties with the lowest median household incomes,
the highest poverty rates and the highest child
poverty rates in the nation, according to the
most recent U.S. Census Bureau survey.
It was in 1968 that the Democrats
began fleeing the Democratic Party of Texas
and calling themselves Independent Americans
and Republicans. It took another decade before
their numbers were significant enough to have
an impact on Texas elections, but it was clear
that the main reason they left the party was
because of its support for civil rights for
women and "colored people."
What began as a movement within
the South, with almost undisguised racism, has
become the unacknowledged core of the national
Republican Party today. One look at the events
in Madison Square Garden shows this clear divide.
In a country where people of color
- Asian, Middle Easterners, Blacks, Hispanics,
etc. - are becoming the majority, the Republican
Party still looks like the old WASP, White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant
crowd. Despite token attempts at diversity,
most of the non-white faces in the crowd at
the convention were either press, security personnel,
Now, don't get me wrong. I've
also had membership in that same old WASP club
since birth. But I'm proud to live in an America
that is finally beginning to fulfill its promise
as a multicultural melting-pot, a place where
diversity and the cultures of people throughout
the world are celebrated.
This is the real America.
By the way, Governor Wallace lost
his bid for election as an independent candidate
in 1968 but still managed to garner nearly 10
million votes, about 13 percent of the total.
Although he later recounted his racist and bigoted
past, by then his supporters were firmly fixed
in the Republican Party and many were later
counted among the "Reagan Democrats".
The election in November could
almost be called the White Party versus Everyone
Tragically, too many Americans
seem to remain mired in a segregationist past
in their opposition to people of color, immigrants,
and non-"Christian" faiths. They are
completely missing our nation's promise as inscribed
on the Statue of Liberty, "from her beacon-hand
glows world-wide welcome
This, however, is the American
harbor towards which the rest of us are sailing.
Peace - Charlie