Michael Tomasky wrote a very funny article over at The Daily Beast, Republicans Are Racists? No, It’s Just All a Big Coincidence. Actually, it would have been a lot funnier, but I think he is genuinely angry. And so am I.
The article is divided into two parts. First he catalogs all the ways that conservatives so often just happen to be unmasked as bigots. “Those rancidly racist T-shirts and posters one sometimes sees at Tea Party rallies? They’re just a coincidence, too. I mean, Tea Party people might not be Republican, strictly speaking, and it’s totally unfair to assume that! OK, Tea Party candidates run in Republican primaries, not Democratic ones, and the Tea Party caucus in the House doesn’t include one Democrat. But still. Guilt by association!” It goes on that way at some length talking about many things you probably know about: racist Republican comedian, racist Republican judge’s email, all the racists that the Paul family hires to write for them. Of course, even all that only scratches the surface of a very racist organization.
The second part of the article goes through the typical Republican counter, “I know you are, but what am I?” You see, a long time ago, the Democrats were the racists. Similarly, the Republicans were not. And Tomasky’s favorite example (which he uses several times to good effect), “Robert Byrd was in the KKK! That it was 60 years ago and that he recanted 40 years ago and that he hasn’t been a truly leading Democrat since 30 years ago and that he’s dead now, well, none of those things matter. Robert Byrd was in the KKK!”
It is well worth reading the whole thing because it is pretty typical of how conservatives generally try to keep attention away from a very clear reality. But what it made me think of was how my arguments with libertarians (which are getting far less civil these days) so often degenerate into claims that we should move most things the federal government does down to the states. It’s a strange request because it doesn’t make much sense. Medicare and Social Security are highly successful because they are run at the federal level. Attempts to give more local control have been mixed at best.
I’ve long believed that when libertarians request local control it is only a tactical request. After all, California is huge—it’s bigger than most nations. So if control went to California, the libertarians would then ask for county control. And so on until they had destroyed all government, which is their stated desire anyway. But I now think that is only true of some libertarians.
Today on Majority Report, Cliff Schecter and Sam Seder brought up the idea that most libertarians really aren’t keen on the whole theoretical basis of the movement. Their interest is practical. They are actually just neo-confederates. Ultimately they are for libertarianism because it is the only relatively major political philosophy that tells them what they want to hear: the states should be able to keep their darkies in check however they want.
I am not saying that this means that all libertarians are racists. I am saying that as much as libertarianism is popular, it is popular because of racists who like some of its practical policy prescriptions. So Cliven Bundy can talk all he wants about the overreach of the federal government; ultimately, he has a vision of how the world ought to look. That vision is shockingly racist. And that vision, with all of its racism, is what makes him libertarian leaning and Republican voting. And he is hardly alone.
Allow me a coarse analogy. If you find that you are farting a lot accidentally, it is because you have a lot of gas. So many conservatives turn out to be racists because such a large part of the conservative movement is racist. As I’ve argued here again and again: the greatest racism comes from the movement’s leaders. And they don’t necessarily feel the racism themselves. But they are happy to use it and encourage it in the name of their goals. And that is the worst kind of racism.
I haven’t seem much commentary on what Bundy said. I think it is because everyone is just so shocked. But to me, the worst thing is not the suggestion that slavery might be good for blacks. He clearly has some kind of Gone With the Wind idea of slavery where people were not mercilessly beaten and even killed, and couples and children weren’t ripped away from each other in the name of commerce. The worst thing to me is the belief that blacks are just sitting on porches waiting for their welfare checks. That is probably the most pernicious lie in American politics. And it is widely believed in the Republican Party.
I’m no fan of Ayn Rand, but she was onto this problem. This is one of the reasons she was against the Libertarian Party. She understood that freedom without a moral core of belief was just chaos. This is why you will often hear libertarians like Rand Paul grousing about the Voting Rights Act or the Civil War itself. Note the argument: white power to keep slaves trumps black power to be free. It really is a mess. Of course, Ayn Rand was a racist herself.