You have to hand it to Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL). One of the drivers of the House GOP’s lurch into nativism on immigration, Brooks very nicely crystalized the recent conservative attitude towards race in an interview with another ultra, Laura Ingraham (per a report from HuffPost‘s Sam Levine):
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) doesn’t think that the hardline stance Republicans have taken on immigration could hurt the party’s standing with Hispanic voters. Instead, he thinks Democrats are hurting their prospects with white voters.
“This is a part of the war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party. And the way in which they’re launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else,” he said during an interview Monday with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. “It’s part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, greed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things. Well that’s not true….”
Ingraham didn’t seem to be on board with Brooks’ “war on whites” remark, telling him it was “a little out there.”
I dunno: it strikes me as entirely consistent with the twisted logic we hear all the time about the only racists being race-card-playing liberals that demonize conservative white folks who are “color-blind” in their hostility to anything black and brown folks deem highly objectionable. I mean, can’t we all just get along in the paradise that is a conservative-governed nation, where’s there’s no “racist” affirmative action or voting rights or government safety net for “looters” and “the Welfare?” Under this assault, Republicans are naturally honor-bound to defend those white folks explicitly. If that makes them the White Man’s Party, so be it.
As a southerner, I recognize Brooks’ rationalization as precisely the one many conservative white southerners used in taking up arms against the “tyranny” of Reconstruction. They were being persecuted by a corrupt alliance of ignorant benefit-seeking former slaves and cynical vote-buying Carpetbaggers, so what choice did they have but to put on the white hoods and defend their honor?
To be very clear, I am not, repeat not, saying Brooks is a covert Klansman. But the attitude of phony victimization and the effort to pull off a psychological role reversal is identical–as is the political goal of creating a White Identity Politics to offset the consequences of policies and positions that alienate people of color. And if the Republican Party writ large, in an ironic reversal of its pre-Civil Rights position, continues to tolerate and even encourage this way of thinking, it will richly deserve its self-isolation in a honkified political ghetto.
UPDATE: Jonathan Chait had pretty much the same reaction to Brooks’ outburst as I did. His best line: “The war on whites has raged continuously in the right-wing mind for more than two centuries.”