A piece in Vox includes an interview with Avik Roy, a Republican, health care wonk and editor at Forbes, who has worked for three Republican presidential hopefuls. The focus is on how the Republican Party has finally shown the world its true gravitational center: white nationalism. The piece traces the descent of the GOP into a openly white racist party from the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964, through Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" to the rise of Donald Trump. The one failing, in my view, is that it fails to factor in the role of white Christian denominations, especially the Southern Baptist Convention, in driving the GOP toward the embrace of racism and its current hostility to anyone that isn't a conservative white Christian. From my own years of experience as an activist in the GOP, the rise of the Christofascists is inseparable from the GOP's increased embrace of white supremacy. Here are article highlights:
“Goldwater’s nomination in 1964 was a historical disaster for the conservative movement,” Roy tells me, “because for the ensuing decades, it identified Democrats as the party of civil rights and Republicans as the party opposed to civil rights.”
Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He himself was not especially racist — he believed it was wrong, on free market grounds, for the federal government to force private businesses to desegregate. But this “principled” stance identified the GOP with the pro-segregation camp in everyone’s eyes, while the Democrats under Lyndon Johnson became the champions of anti-racism.
This had a double effect, Roy says. First, it forced black voters out of the GOP. Second, it invited in white racists who had previously been Democrats. Even though many Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act in Congress, the post-Goldwater party became the party of aggrieved whites.
“The fact is, today, the Republican coalition has inherited the people who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — the Southern Democrats who are now Republicans,” Roy says. “Conservatives and Republicans have not come to terms with that problem.”
The available evidence compiled by historians and political scientists suggests that 1964 really was a pivotal political moment, in exactly the way Roy describes.
Yet Republican intellectuals have long denied this, fabricating a revisionist history in which Republicans were and always have been the party of civil rights. In 2012, National Review ran a lengthy cover story arguing that the standard history recounted by Roy was “popular but indefensible.”
This revisionism, according to Roy, points to a much bigger conservative delusion: They cannot admit that their party’s voters are motivated far more by white identity politics than by conservative ideals.
[T]hey deny the party’s racist history, that its post-1964 success was a direct result of attracting whites disillusioned by the Democrats’ embrace of civil rights. And they deny that to this day, Republican voters are driven more by white resentment than by a principled commitment to the free market and individual liberty.
This, Roy believes, is where the conservative intellectual class went astray. By refusing to admit the truth about their own party, they were powerless to stop the forces that led to Donald Trump’s rise. They told themselves, over and over again, that Goldwater’s victory was a triumph.
But in reality, it created the conditions under which Trump could thrive. Trump’s politics of aggrieved white nationalism — labeling black people criminals, Latinos rapists, and Muslims terrorists — succeeded because the party’s voting base was made up of the people who once opposed civil rights.
This soul-searching led Roy to an uncomfortable conclusion: The Republican Party, and the conservative movement that propped it up, is doomed.
Both are too wedded to the politics of white nationalism to change how they act, but that just isn’t a winning formula in a nation that’s increasingly black and brown. Either the Republican Party will eat itself or a new party will rise and overtake its voting share.
For the entire history of modern conservatism, its ideals have been wedded to and marred by white supremacism. That’s Roy’s own diagnosis, and I think it’s correct. As a result, we have literally no experience in America of a politically viable conservative movement unmoored from white supremacy.
The fact is that limited government conservatism is not especially appealing to nonwhite Americans, whereas liberalism and social democracy are. The only ones for whom conservatism is a natural fit are Roy’s “cranky old white people” — and they’re dying off.
Facing the truth - and objective reality - is the last thing that the Christofascists and white supremacists who now control the GOP base want to face or admit.