Posted August 1, 2016on:
Back in the day, way back in the day, there were Burlesque fan dancers. Mind you, I’ve only seen reenactments. An original “fan boy” I was not. There were huge feathered fans and the performers would dance behind gauzy skenes. It was all very racy for the time, but acceptable entertainment that didn’t offend genteel sensibilities.
Audiences relished the performances without considering what happened when the feathers and skenes went away. What you had left was a naked lady dancing. Feathers and skenes – okay. No feathers and skenes – not okay. Eventually, Burlesque died a slow, ignominious death and was replaced by other forms of entertainment.
There, in a nutshell, is my simple-minded analogy to the Republican Party. For six decades now, the Republican dance has been one with feathers and skenes disguising what was actually happening. Now featherless, everyone seems shocked there’s a naked performer on stage. No pretense, no artifice, no empathy, and no nuance – what was happening all along is now shocking when draped in the visage and embodiment of one Donald J. Trump. It shouldn’t be.
Nixon’s southern strategy, Reagan’s speech at Philadelphia, Mississippi, Bush’s Willie Horton, and Dubya’s same-sex marriage crisis are no longer camouflaged by feathers or softened by a gauzy skene. Is there any question that the naked bigotry of banning Muslims or immigrants was far behind?
The list of the “others” just expands as the bigotry is wrung out of groups who have served their usefulness as the music for the prejudicial dances of the Republican Party. It is not often in political science we are fortunate enough to find clear-cut evidence of such prejudicial theories, but in this instance we are. In fact, just last week we had two instances of such evidence.
The first is from the Tar Heel State. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said there was no doubt about the legislature’s goal by changing voting laws. The goal was to solve a non-existent problem:
One of the most comprehensive studies on the subject found only 31 individual cases of voter impersonation out of more than 1 billion votes cast in the United States since the year 2000. Researchers have found that reports of voter fraud are roughly as common as reports of alien abduction.
Here are the actions of the ever-responsive bigots of the North Carolina legislature. First, they asked who used what type of voter identification? When they found out, they outlawed the types used by the African American community. Next, the legislature asked how the seventeen days of early voting were used and by whom? When they found out minorities were most likely to use the first seven days, they promptly abolished them.
Leaving no stone unturned, these legislators then asked, “Who uses Sunday voting? Who uses same day registration?” Check and check. African Americans in both cases and both were outlawed.
The Court found:
Thus, in what comes as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times, the State’s very justification for a challenged statute hinges explicitly on race — specifically its concern that African Americans, who had overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, had too much access to the franchise.
Get that? Not only was the smoking gun still smoldering, but the specific finding was that the Republican legislators of North Carolina thought, in their miniscule and discriminatory finite wisdom, African Americans had too much access to voting. So with “almost surgical precision” they targeted African American voters who dared exercise their rights.
In Wisconsin, the land of cheese where people follow the guy with the ever-expanding bald spot because it is easy to spot him in a crowd, the court found “the cure was worse than the disease.” The Wisconsin legislature wanted to demonstrate their even-handedness by discriminating against both African Americans and Hispanics. Congratulations Wisconsin, you are equally discriminatory.
The feathers are gone and what is left is a party of exclusion. It’s a party on a death watch no longer disguised by a gauzy skene. Even its most popular cable news celebrity decided it was imperative to fact check the First Lady on whether or not slaves were on the Continental or European plan while building the White House.
A featherless Republican Party reveals the ugliness of a time where disguises once protected the shameful practices of bias and prejudice. The disguises are no longer effective so why even go to the trouble? The disease plaguing the Republican Party is a chronic problem for which there is no cure outside of Whig-like euthanasia. It is unlikely to be painless, but fortunately, discarded skenes can be repurposed as burial shrouds.
What’s on your mind?
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