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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mehlman, Mexicans, and Mosques

It is a matter of historical record that the Republican Party exploited white-racism in the South in the aftermath of civil rights legislation to maintain any kind of presence in the post-New Deal Congress.

It pays to remember, the Republicans only managed to control both houses of Congress twice from WWII all the way to the present and both times found themselves kicked out by the voters within two years of the voters seeing what such a state of affairs means.

This exploitation of racism was, of course, their notorious "Southern Strategy."

Now, however, shifting demographics (the welcome ongoing "browning" of America) and changing attitudes (after the left won the Culture Wars), symbolized, whether rightly or wrongly, by the election of President Obama, have rendered this Strategy ineffective at last.

Again, the growing irrelevance of white-racism as a prop to the specifically electoral advantage of Republicans (which, I must quickly add, is far from the claim that white-racism is no longer a structural force in the lives of Americans, when it palpably, ubiquitously, catastrophically still is) needs to be understood in the context of the larger irrelevance of Republicanism in the aftermath of the New Deal, an irrelevance for which the Southern Strategy provided never more than a limited compensation.

The current anti-Muslim hysteria is not just ugly, it is truly weird to contemplate. It seems to take the form of declarations that Muslims have the Constitutional right to exist, but that this right is somehow trumped by an unspecifiable sense that their existence is nonetheless "not the right thing for them to do." This curiously self-consuming having of a right that does not confer a "being-right" seems to follow in most declarations to this strange effect in respect to the extent to which this having-right-not-being-right stands in a zone of narrative-spatial proximity to "Ground Zero."

I think it bears note that this portentous moniker once upon a time used to denote the nuclear flash-point that marked the probable end of the world, and now clearly marks a different sort of end of the world to some people.

I think we need to read this bizarre episode of anti-Muslim hate-speech in the context of my story of the now-failing but long-time politically legitimating work of white-racism for a movement Republicanism whose anti-governmentality hasn't been in touch with the secularizing social democratizing trajectory of America in the entire post-New Deal period. And note, we now begin to realize that this failure signals as well the Reagan era's finally unsuccessful though pointlessly painful and costly generational effort to dismantle the institutions and norms of that New Deal.

As white racism has increasingly failed to provide for Movement Republican's anti-governmentality a real purchase on the institutions of governance the christianist-talibanist Moral Minority sought to replicate the white-racist Southern Strategy (or, more to the point, supplement it as it increasingly failed to work its evil magick) with "God, guns, and gays," with a special emphasis on the gay bashing as a nice analogue to ugly pleasures of racist fulminating. It's not an accident that there are neither any Black people nor openly gay people among any elected Republican Congresspeople or Governors in the whole country.

You have likely already heard that Ken Mehlman, the campaign manager for the 2004 re-election campaign of George W. Bush and chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2005 to 2007 has recently come out as an openly gay man.

That he is gay comes as no surprise, since he has been serially outed by activists for ages. Also beyond question is that his closeted helming of the Republican Party marked him as especially despicable given his role in opportunistically bringing extraordinarily divisive bigoted anti-gay initiatives to the ballots of countless state elections in an effort to get more scared scarred socially conservative voters to the polls to get his candidates elected.

This means that he was a gay man gay-bashing so that anti-gay bigots would put other anti-gay bigots in power because he liked the money they paid him for doing this, not to put too fine a point on it.

I don't find any of that particularly interesting. Also, it makes me want to ralph and I don't like feeling that way.

What I do find enormously interesting, however -- especially in light of the recent very public role of the influential Republican Ted Olson in challenging California's Prop 8, which briefly made it illegal again for gay people to get married in my State -- is that Mehlman came out as a gay man as part of an announcement that he means to champion gay marriage in the months and years ahead himself.

What this signals is that Republicans have lost "the gay" already in the Unforgiveable Spell of "God, guns, and gays" that was to replace the Unforgiveable Spell of the white-racist "Southern Strategy" they have also lost in their effort to keep their heads above water in a secular multicultural America on the road to sustainable social democracy in the aftermath of the New Deal and the Great Society.

Karl Rove, who was never the Brain he got the billing as but merely a person more willing to be unscrupulous and deceptive and disgusting than most people in the pursuit of power and who was rewarded for this willingness with the power he craved (he has also paid for what he has done, as James Baldwin pointed out we all of us pay for what we do, by becoming the person he is and living the life he is living, not to mention being reviled by every decent thoughtful person as well as by the verdict of history, although one still hopes there might also be a jail cell in his future), was nonetheless intelligent enough to grasp that these failures portended catastrophe for a Republican Party that had any ambition to be a going national party rather than, say, a regional neo-confederate marginal rump party.

This is why he sought for a time to woo Latin Americans to Republicanism, to bolster Republican ranks with newcomers rather than merely holding on to dwindling ignorant or bigoted whites panicked at the prospect of the loss of their unearned privileges, such as they are.

That Republicans were unable to set aside their racism and embrace Rove's strategy is well known and the spectacle of that failure is everywhere now to be seen by all.

The present anti-Muslim hysteria is clearly mystifying to most public commentators. Even those who propose to link it to broadly disseminated bigotry or to anxieties occasioned by a person of color in the White House find it a bit puzzling that this level of hate is appearing just now, rather than countless times before now. It is also coming fully a decade after 9-11, raw sensitivity to which presumably justifies it according to its apologists.

I can't resist pointing out, if only quickly and briefly -- given that Muslims were among the victims of 9-11, given that the billion and a half Muslims in the world are not represented by terrorist ideologuies, given that the hijackers actually were Saudis and Saudi Arabia is championed by conservatives as an ally, given that none of those loudly demanding this bigotry-enabling sensitivity at the moment seem to care much about the sensitivities of people who happen not to be bigots and who are assaulted and appalled by this whole crass festival of cynical opportunistic bigotry and hate -- this justification is clearly nonsensical.

Be that as it may, in my view, the community center controversy was the occasion for this hysterical outpouring of hate, not because of its geographical location in respect to the ruin of the World Trade Center. Considering the noncontroversial existence of a Mosque two blocks away from the proposed Cordoba House coupled with consideration of the suddenly enormously controversial proposed location of a Mosque many hundred of miles away in another State, it seems clear that geography here is functioning as a placeholder for something else.

I propose that the community center controversy derives its hurricane gale force, to the contrary, through its temporal location in respect to the collective Movement Republican recognition of the ruin of the Southern Strategy. This recognition exacerbated both by the failure of anti-gay bigotry (announced in the role of Republicans in the fight for gay marriage and the palpable proximity of the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell in the military) as well as by the failure of anti-Latino anti-immigrant bigotry (announced not so much in polling numbers as in the gathering storm of very familiar controversies provoked by the Arizona police-statist anti-immigration stance, and the dangerous stink of crazy beginning to attach in the eyes of Independent voters to candidates who rode this anti-Latino train into candidacy) to supplement the ruin of that Southern Strategy transformed a local issue into a historical symptom.

Movement Republicans are screaming about Mosques, because screaming about Mexicans was a loser and Mehlman's announcement now indicates screaming about "the gay" is a loser too.

In the largest sense, the Movement Republican Base are screaming about Mosques because anti-governmentality failed to kill the New Deal and they are never going to "get their America back" because within the lifetimes of many of them America is going to embrace the secular multiculture it actually is and the sustainable social democracy it has to be if it is to survive let alone flourish as a power in the world.

In the shorter, more proximate sense, that they are shouting about Mosques means that we should stop paying attention to them screaming about Mosques and re-focus the nation's attention on anti-Latin anti-immigration bigotry which was threatening to alienate necessary Independents and re-focus the nation's attention on civil rights accomplishments for gay folks because it will energize our base without exacting the costs it has done in even the recent past.

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