The Backlash Option for 2016

My weekly column at TPMCafe stems from the sense of deja vu that a lot of us Baby Boomers have undoubtedly experienced in reaction to the images this week from Baltimore–and earlier, from Ferguson. And it naturally led me to wonder if the toxic politics of the “Riot Era” of the 1960s–and particularly the “white backlash” that fed the careers of Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, George Wallace, and Ronald Reagan–might return as well, particularly given the fertile soil already prepared by six-plus years of conservative demonization of the country’s first African-American president.

I alluded to a particular fear earlier today: the very high risk that someone in the vast GOP presidential field seeking to establish his True Conservative street cred might see himself as the next Great White Hope and openly promote a revolt against all this bushwa about police brutality and racial profiling–and for that matter, the criminal justice reform some other GOP candidates have already been cautiously talking about. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be a white candidate; a Backlash candidacy might be better accepted in the hands of a Ben Carson or a Bobby Jindal.

To be clear, I have no evidence that either of these gents or any other proto-candidate is mulling this option. But as I suggested in the column, the market dynamics of politics will usually match supply and demand.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.