RSS 2.0 Follow Us!

Related Posts

Joe Klein and the Myth of Republican Racists

John on September 11, 2008 at 10:27 am

In today’s Time Joe Klein does his best to raise the specter of racism in America and its role in Republican mythology. It’s a creaky piece full of acrobatic twists. Here’s his opening theme:

The Palin surge illuminates the mythic power of the Republican Party’s message since the advent of Ronald Reagan.


Palin’s embrace of small-town values is where her hold on the national imagination begins. She embodies the most basic American myth — Jefferson’s yeoman farmer, the fantasia of rural righteousness — updated in a crucial way: now Mom works too. Palin’s story stands with one foot squarely in the nostalgia for small-town America and the other in the new middle-class reality.

Here we get the first dramatic lurch in Klein’s story. We go from the myth of small town America to:

Nearly 50 years ago, in The Burden of Southern History, the historian C. Vann Woodward argued that the South was profoundly different from the rest of America because it was the only part of the country that had lost a war…

Yes, that’s right. We’re jumping back to the Civil War now. If you guessed that Klein is about to trot out the Democrats old meme about Republicans having nostalgia for a racist 1950s America…yeah, that’s where he’s going:

the patina of cultural homogeneity that camouflaged 1950s suburbia has vanished. We have become more obviously multiracial. There are lifestyle choices that were nearly unimaginable in 1960 — the widespread use of the birth control pill, the legalization of abortion, the feminist and gay-rights revolutions, the breakdown of the two-parent family. With the advent of television, these changes became inescapable. They intruded upon the most traditional families in the smallest towns. The political impact was a conservative reaction of enormous vehemence.

Speaking of small town mythology in the service of politics, does anyone remember a town called Hope? Seems to me Joe was on board with that one. So how is this a “Republican myth?”

Anyway, having raised the specter of racism, we just need to lurch back to where we started. Something short, pithy and, oh yeah, totally unsubstantiated:

Enter Reagan. His vision of the future was the past…The blinding whiteness and fervent religiosity of the party he created are an enduring testament to the power of the myth of an America that existed before we had all these problems.

Of course that only gets us halfway. He still needs to connect all this clap-trap to Palin:

The power of Sarah Palin is that she is the latest, freshest iteration of that myth.

Wow. That was easy. It’s almost like he didn’t do any work at all there. He just says it. Boom. Joe declares it is so. And in case you missed his point in making the connection, he restates it with less subtlety:

The Republican Party’s subliminal message seems stronger than ever this year because of the nature of the Democratic nominee for President.

In other words, subliminal Republican racism is a big deal this year because Obama’s black. But hold on. Is being black really a nature or is it more of an incidental feature? I thought the whole “race/nature” argument was the kind of thinking we were trying to get away from.

Barack Obama could not exist in the small-town America that Reagan fantasized.

More accurately, Barack Obama can not exist in the small-town America that liberals fantasize that Reagan fantasized. Klein has constructed a Potemkin village of the mind for Time’s readers. Actually, he’s merely taken them on a tour of one that’s been in existence for decades. More on that in a moment.

He’s the product of what used to be called miscegenation, a scenario that may still be more terrifying than a teen daughter’s pregnancy in many American households.

In other words, Republican racists are terrified by black virility. Which Republicans? Well, surely you caught that teen daughter reference? Draw your own conclusions.

The Democrats have no myth to counter this powerful Republican fantasy.

This has to be my favorite line in this whole tortured piece. Democrats are powerless against the subliminal mind-memes of Ming McCain and his legions of blindingly white minions! Oh, the humanity!

Of course, as I suggested above, Joe has just trotted out two of the most overused Democratic myths in the playbook. Just to prove they’re myths, I’ll point to their appearance in the mythic story of our time, film. First, that Republicans long for a segregated 1950′s America where blacks are at the back of the bus. You can see that one immortalized in a film called Pleasantville, which I believe is a decade old now. Second, the supposed fear whites have of black virility. You can see this one crop up in every juvenile teen comedy made in the last 20 years. I think Joe owes Porky’s a footnote when he makes this argument.

So Obama faces an uphill struggle between now and Nov. 4. He has no personal anecdotes to match Palin’s mooseburgers.

Perhaps that’s because he spent his youth as a “community organizer” rather than a hunter. Here’s the truth Joe is artfully concealing with all this mythology talk. Obama has plenty of stories to tell. He doesn’t want to tell them because they might bring to mind another myth, the one from the film Motorcycle Diaries. Obama’s smart enough to know that portrait of the socialist as a young man isn’t what the electorate is looking for.

Do you think Sarah Palin has rattled Joe Klein? I think so.

Post to Twitter

Category: MSM & Bias |

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.