Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the New York Times Book Review, penned a 5,000-plus excavation of the history of the GOP for the liberal magazine The New Republic (and its all-white staff): "Why Republicans Are the Party of White People -- An historical investigation," including racism accusations absent of evidence, like this: "It is not a coincidence that the resurgence of nullification is happening while our first African American president is in office."
Tanenhaus also predicted "The Death of Conservatism" in a 2009 book that was outdated as soon as it arrived, coming out during the Tea Party revival, the year before Republicans recaptured the House. Strangely, Tanenhaus is still considered by some left-wingers (like Paul Krugman, yesterday) to be a conservative, an opinion yet to be borne out by an iota of Tanenhaus's actual writing.
His latest history lesson is informative, but the closer to the present it gets, the more slanted and unreasonable the narrative becomes. His eagerness to consign the GOP to the historical dustbin reveals he didn't learn the lessons from the premature "The Death of Conservatism." Too timid to directly call the Republican Party racist, Tanenhaus says it through convoluted historical analogy with dark hints of conservatives embracing a "Lost Cause" or Jim Crow.
With Barack Obama sworn in for a second term – the first president in either party since Ronald Reagan to be elected twice with popular majorities – the GOP is in jeopardy, the gravest since 1964, of ceasing to be a national party. The civil rights pageantry of the inauguration – Abraham Lincoln's Bible and Martin Luther King's, Justice Sonia Sotomayor's swearing in of Joe Biden, Beyoncé's slinky glamor, the verses read by the gay Cuban poet Richard Blanco – seemed not just an assertion of Democratic solidarity, but also a reminder of the GOP's ever-narrowing identity and of how long it has been in the making.
This is the politics of nullification, the doctrine, nearly as old as the republic itself, which holds that the states, singly or in concert, can defy federal actions by declaring them invalid or simply ignoring them. We hear the echoes of nullification in the venting of anti-government passions and also in campaigns to "starve government," curtail voter registration, repeal legislation, delegitimize presidents. There is a strong sectionalist bias in these efforts. They flourish in just the places Kevin Phillips identified as Republican strongholds --Plains, Mountain, but mainly Southern states, where change invites suspicion, especially when it seems invasive, and government is seen as an intrusive force. Yet those same resisters – most glaringly, Tea Partiers – cherish the entitlements and benefits provided by "Big Government." Their objections come when outsider groups ask for consideration, too. Even recent immigrants to this country sense the "hidden hand" of Calhoun's style of dissent, the extended lineage of rearguard politics, with its aggrieved call, heard so often today, "to take back America" – that is, to take America back to the "better" place it used to be. Today's conservatives have fully embraced this tradition, enshrining it as their own "Lost cause," redolent with the moral consolations of noble defeat.
[William] Rusher proposed a third party, suggesting as its tribune Ronald Reagan, who had a history of sympathy for Southern nullifiers. Early in his career, he had shared the stage with Faubus and other segregationists, and in 1980, he flew directly from the nominating convention to Philadelphia, Mississippi – where three civil rights workers had been slain in 1964. Reagan dismissed the sitting chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights,Arthur Flemming, who warned that the Reagan administration's handling of school desegregation cases reflected the doctrine of "separate but equal." There was a protest as well from state agencies. The chairmen of 33 of them signed a letter warning that Reagan had created a "dangerous deterioration in the Federal enforcement of civil rights."
As MRC's Brent Bozell has written: "the day after the supposedly racist-encouraging Mississippi speech, Reagan traveled to New York for a speech to the Urban League, where the Washington Post reported on August 5, 1980 that Reagan declared, 'I am committed to the protection of the civil rights of black Americans. That commitment is interwoven into every phase of the programs I will propose.' Adviser Martin Anderson explained Reagan would uphold ongoing 'affirmative action' programs. Do those sound like code words for Southern racists? That might explain why the story didn't become much of a left-wing legend back in the 1980s."
Tanenahaus hysterically compared Florida's voter-ID laws to Jim Crow and hinted that Romney was repeating "the dogma of an earlier time," another blunt hint about racism.
Character, he presumably meant, like that exhibited by Republican delegates in Tampa, who thrilled to the refrain "We built it" – with the identity of the "we" all too visible to TV audiences – just as the inimical "they" were being targeted by a spurious campaign to pass voter-identification laws, a throwback to Jim Crow. Romney's disparagements of the "47 percent" and his postmortem assessment that Obama won because of the "gifts" he had lavished on blacks, young people, and women also repeat the dogma of an earlier time.
Tanenhaus even saw the principles of fiscal conservatism and limited government as a return to a racist past, though Tanenhaus won't use those terms, claiming in cowardly fashion:
And we see it as well in Senator Rand Paul's promise to "nullify anything the president does" to impose new gun controls. Each is presented not as a practical attempt to find a better answer, but as a "Constitutional" demand for restoration of the nation to its hallowed prior self. It is not a coincidence that the resurgence of nullification is happening while our first African American president is in office....All this, moreover, seemed to reflect, or at least parallel, extremism in the wider culture often saturated in racism: Let's not forget Minutemen and Aryan Nation militias, nor the "anti-government" terrorist Timothy McVeigh, whom the FBI linked to white supremacists. The war on government – and against agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives – had become a metaphor for the broader "culture wars," one reason that the GOP's dwindling base is now at odds with the "absolute majority" on issues like gun control and same-sex marriage.
Amusingly, Tanenhaus's byline states that he "is working on a biography about William F. Buckley Jr." In fact, he's been "working on" this biography for at least 13 years, according to a May 19, 2000 Times article.