RACE AND POLITICS IN AMERICA: THE FIRING OF PAT BUCHANAN AND THE WHITE GENERATION BORN WHEN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT TOOK HOLD IN AMERICA
I remember, many years ago watching the CBS Evening News while Pat Buchanan was seeking the GOP nomination for President in 1992, a Buchanan supporter put his KKK membership card right in front of the camera for all of America to see. Buchanan has always appealed to the white nationalists in America, as if there needs to be a National Association for the Advancement of White People. As if white Americans have not had the economic, social and political E-Ticket for more than 200 years. Now with Buchanan’s firing from MSNBC in light of his new book’s [Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?] frank and vitriolic musings on “the good ole days” of segregated America, his white first base is reacting in the manner expected.
The majority of those that support Buchanan come from a terrified generation of white Americans. They are the very first to see their power and privilege as the grassroots of American society torn away by progressive legislation and court decisions. The generation born in the same year as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka [347 U.S. 483 (1954)] grew up in age of nearly unchallenged white privilege. They came to understand, especially in the South, that their “way of life” was tied to their race and their religion. Now to be reasonable all whites born in 1954 in America are not bigots, nor are they white supremacists, nor do they support the ideology that Pat Buchanan sells to his base. Many, however, as they watched in their youth wave after wave of social change in America see this change as an affront. These are the people who now are howling about Buchanan and his bigotry being booted from MSNBC.
Those whites born in 1954 are now in the late 50s. They watched, as young adults, as their parents raged against the Civil Rights movement and its threat to their unearned privilege. By the time Roe v. Wade [410 U.S. 113 (1973)] was decided and the Vietnam War was coming to a humiliating end in the spring of 1975, those whites who were drawn in to the Republican Party by way of the “Southern Strategy” now saw Liberalism, the driving force behind every great society’s success as an enemy to their comfort and station in a nation that was supposed to be the most free on Terra.
This generation of white, conservative, devoutly Christianist, twentysomethings provided the soil that the seed of the modern Far Right conservative, and white supremacist, movement would take its fertilizer. On their televisions, they could see the continued changes in American society that horrified them and their parents alike. Busing was still an issue as education segregation made the Federal Government a new enemy just as blacks and feminists had become in the 1970s. Out of this planting came the rise of the Christian Coalition and a new way to express the grief and bigotry that conservative whites felt without risking their “reputations” being tarnished by the use of politically incorrect langauge.
The very phrase politically incorrect needs to be observed here because even that phrase is code for white privilege. This code phrase allows bigots to decry a social injustice, to whites in this case, that they are not allowed to use language to abuse those over whom they once held virtually unchecked social sway. In their early lifetimes, the Brown generation of whites saw the rock solid foundation as their race and religious beliefs cracked and partially removed by the potential of being ostracized by those with money and power who cannot risk having those with antiquated opinions on race risking their corporate or professional image. In a short 25 years, the base that most vehemently supports Pat Buchanan today went from being able to call a man on the street a nigger, to risking losing everything by making such a statement.
The election of Ronald Wilson Regan as the 40th President of the United States in 1980 relieved a bit of the pressure that was building up in the angry masses of conservative whites even though Reagan was not a conservative at all by today’s standards. Were Reagan running today in the field of candidates seeking to unseat America’s first black President he would be seen as a Republican In Name Only, a RINO. The anger of the Far Right today would not be very accommodating at all to Mr Reagan’s cool manner that propelled him into power in 1980. Today the Far Right is only interested in trying to expand their base by linking President Obama, as the “Other,” to the most destructive economic crisis since the Great Depression. To do this, however, they need someone who espouses their racial and religious beliefs and to this point they have no one who fits the bill.
The disappointment in the lack of racial support within the GOP was the reason there is a TEA Party today. The TEA Party is no more about taxes than the GOP is about the values of Lincoln. The TEA Party is a direct reaction by the same whites born in and around 1954 to the social pressure they feel in 2012. They do want the nation of their parents back. They are concerned about what being white will mean in the adult lives of their grandchildren and they fear that the entire world is arrayed against them. The Courts, the Congress, and the White House to this group are in a vast and insidious conspiracy to undermine their “way of life.” The firing of Pat Buchanan to them isn’t a boss deciding that he’s done with a man that has become an advertising risk; Buchanan’s departure to the conservatives of this era and many from even more recent eras, is a breach of their 1st amendment rights.
And this brings me to the Constitution the document white conservatives love to wrap themselves in today as if it were a shield against the coming Brown storm. Like they do with their religious beliefs, these conservatives take a buffet style approach to the crowning document of American government. I have an opinion that they really don’t care about the words in the US Constitution, but rather, they wish for the time that the document was drafted. Buchanan supporters white supremacist and conservative alike would prefer blacks as slaves, women as kept and working only in the home, the landed white males as the only full citizens holding the franchise and change as something that is too far off to be considered a threat to their comfort. Fortunately for America change has been gaining in speed socially in the last 100 years. Everyone who reaches voting age has the franchise and can run for elected office. Women are powerful forces outside the home in business, science, politics and religion. And in the White House is a charismatic, intelligent black man who is the head not only the Executive Branch of government but the head of a beautiful family. It is that last fact that outrages the Buchanan Bigots the most and why Mr Buchanan and his 18th Century ideals were not fit for MSNBC. But hey, there’s always Fox.
Qu’ul cuda praedex nihil!
Diane Valencen, D.S.V.J., O.Q.H [Journ.], ArF J., M.F.
Editorial Page Editor
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