Friday, July 4, 2008

The Good Old Days

Barack Obama is crafting a 21st Century version of the political alliance that enacted the Civil Rights Movement: overwhelming but far from unanimous black support combined with white middle and upper-middle classes and youthful vigor to affect the political process.

Rick Perlstein's Nixonland describes how Strom Thurmond brokered his support for Richard M. Nixon's candidacy in 1968 in exchange for not just concessions on federal enforcement of civil rights legislation but also for protectionist policies to favor South Carolina's textile industry.

Needless to say, economic liberalization has removed such items from consideration. Furthermore, the conservative backlash has effectively dismantled programs to promote advancement and protection of blacks. And the crowning achievement of welfare reform and a massive carceral state has subdued and pacified urban dwellers.

All the above plus the economic uncertainty of the ostensibly entrenched white middle and upper-middle classes has markedly diminished the power of appeals to racial solidarity. White ethnonationalists on the air may persist in attempting to make Latino immigrants the source of pecuniary woes but illegal residents aren't displacing laid off airline pilots and bank executives. They aren't purchasing foreclosed homes. Their kids aren't overrepresented in high priced private colleges. They aren't purchasing baubles from upscale specialty stores in quaint historic towns. In other words they aren't to blame for any of the perturbations of affluent society.

That's the aftermath of Hurricane Bush. Whites who occupy the higher social strata and gaze upon John McCain must ask themselves the same rhetorical question posed by Harry Callahan.

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