Like a has-been rock band reduced to playing county fairs, our sad spectacle of a president is cranking out his greatest hits in a bizarre, cringy effort to please his hardcore fans.
You want angry, all-caps tweets attacking ethnic minorities and women? You got it.
You came to hear boasting about his amazing response to a pandemic that has killed 225,000 Americans? It’s on the set list.
You’re stomping your feet and whistling for a semi-coherent, furious lashing out at liberals and the fake-news media? Dude, we’re talking encore.
All that’s missing is a drunk guy holding up his cigarette lighter and screaming, “Free Bird!”
With less than a week remaining in his haphazard campaign of trying to convince Americans that everything is just fine, our self-pitying president is embracing the philosophies of the past. And none of those tactics is more old school than the infamous Southern Strategy, which originated in the 1960s.
You see, the Southern Strategy represented “the GOP’s concerted effort to appeal to white voters by focusing on racial issues.” This approach “worked very well for the Republican Party” by persuading “white working-class voters that the Democratic Party didn’t care about them.”
Nixon, Reagan, and Bush Sr. all ran some variation of the Southern Strategy, and all of them won. Indeed, some experts contend that by convincing white voters that ethnic minorities are a direct threat, the GOP created “the most successful strategy in the history of modern politics.”
But today, the Republican Party is beyond being merely indifferent to ethnic minorities. It is actively hostile. The GOP’s membership, which is nearly 90 percent white, can only “envision carnage and extinction as it looks upon a rights-based, religious, racial, and ideologically diverse America.”
Even while ditching all their supposed principles and so-called conservative values, “the one thing that the party has stayed true to is its reliance on the politics of race and racism.” Indeed, Republicans have become experts at addressing their “core members’ desire to maintain a white-centric American society,” and in so doing, they have guaranteed that “white fear has become the unalloyed rallying cry of Trump’s bid for a second term.”
Hey, you can’t blame Trump and the GOP for going with a formula that has worked for half a century. But it’s possible, just maybe, that the Southern Strategy is at last dying a slow, miserable death.
Witness the fact that “instead of ushering in a golden age of prosperity and a return to the cultural conservatism of the 1950s, Trump’s presidency has radicalized millions of white Americans who were previously inclined to dismiss systemic racism as a myth.” In other words, ranting and raving about scary dark-skinned people is actually backfiring for Trump.
This is potentially historic, because “there has never been an anti-racist majority in American history.” However, we may be witnessing the origin of such a culture “in the racially and socioeconomically diverse coalition of voters radicalized by the abrupt transition from the hope of the Obama era to the cruelty of the Trump age.”
So why is this happening now? What has changed since 2016?
First, the country is becoming younger and more racially diverse each year. You see, there are very few 25-year-old Latinos who are eager to disenfranchise themselves and demonize their friends just so rural white people can feel better about themselves. Younger, multiethnic people are disgusted with the Republican Party, and who can blame them?
Second, the continued rampage of COVID-19 has convinced many Americans that re-electing a bragging huckster who doesn’t understand basic science may not be the best way to, you know, actually stay alive. So they’re taking a hard pass on his promises to save the suburbs from imaginary threats, when real danger is just a sneeze away.
Third, although many white Americans historically “didn’t see how racism hurt them” and were willing to look the other way if Republicans cut their taxes, that ploy doesn’t work when citizens are petrified that the country is coming apart. Lots of white people aren’t so much woke as pleading for the protests to just stop already. And if it means getting rid of a fire-bombing chief executive who makes every situation ten times worse, so be it.
Fourth, it’s become clear that for many Americans, overt racism is just too much. Yes, conservatives could deny bigotry in their party when it was coded and subtle. But “Trump is practically forcing voters to take sides on racism,” and many of them are unable to justify their unjustifiable behavior anymore.
Because of all these factors, and no doubt many more, we now we have a situation where a tired old man is bellowing about the good old days to a bunch of deluded Baby Boomers. Meanwhile, the rest of the country is thinking, “That’s so 1978.”
If the polls are correct, Americans will reject this malignant philosophy next week. And perhaps we can bury the Southern Strategy at last.
Featured image: Ariana Drehsler/AFP