American Extremists

The South will rise again, and again and again. There is no end in sight to the effort to redeem the Confederacy and promote white racism and supremacy. Our late and now endlessly lamented 40th president, Ronald Reagan, began his campaign for president in Philadelphia, Mississippi by calling for "states rights." He then gave a sheepish "Did I offend anyone?" when he was called on the carpet for using this blatantly racist language at the scene of the murders of civil rights workers Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman.

Despite this very obvious appeal to the worst instincts in Americans, the GOP faces a quandary when admiring white supremacists take them at their word and run for office as Republicans. The latest to cause embarrassment is Ron Wilson, national commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who is running for a seat in the South Carolina State Senate. The Southern Poverty Law Center has given Wilson the dubious distinction of being named one of the top 40 white supremacists in need of constant monitoring.

If history is any indication, Wilson's candidacy will have an all too predictable response. Republican pundits will demand that the bum be thrown out of their ranks. Black Republicans will whine that their brethren's hearts and minds will never be won over if the commander of Sons of the Confederacy is a Republican elected official.

The GOP's southern ascendance coincided with both overt and covert appeals to white racism. Unfortunately the unspoken bargain that says racists must stay in the closet is sometimes broken. Louisiana's David Duke was the first such troublemaker for Republicans. The former Klansman must have been just a little confused by all the fuss. The Republicans make racist appeals and then grow anxious when the less subtle want to come along for the ride.

The poor Republicans cry and scream that they do not have a racist bone in their collective body and that it is slander to think otherwise. Poor Senator Trent Lott got the boot as Majority Leader when he went over the top in praising the nearly moribund Strom Thurmond (who had been literally propped up for yet another Republican love fest). We can feel Lott's pain. He hadn't said anything he hadn't said before and neither Democrats, nor the press, nor other Republicans had ever said a word against his racist diatribes. Lott may have gotten the last laugh, however. He is now free to say that prison abuse is a fine idea and remain in synch with his party.

Not only is Ron Wilson destined to become the GOP pariah, but he has managed to alienate the southern cultural heritage crowd to such an extent that some were forced to form a counter organization, Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Let's call them Confederate light. They want to remember southern heritage, but take great pains to disassociate themselves from the white power group. Recalling that great-great-grandpa's regiment took a hill at Gettysburg is acceptable, but membership in the KKK is not. The distinction is probably without a difference. We are talking about people who exalt the effort to preserve slavery. If some are racists with smiling faces the rest of us should not be impressed but the amusement factor is too good to resist.

Are white supremacists getting an undeserved bad rap? The facts are as follows. America wouldn't exist if it weren't for white racism. Black people wouldn't be here instead of in Africa if white racism had not been sanctioned and institutionalized from the very beginnings of this country's history. America would not have the world's highest rate of incarceration if there were no white racism. But alas, if an overly exuberant Confederate re-enactor has the nerve to give a salute a la Hitler and yell "white power" then he is cast out, forced to live with the Aryan Nation in Idaho alongside others who thought that the nation was serious about putting one group on top and all others at the bottom. It is little wonder they are so angry.

The ascendancy of David Duke, Ron Wilson and their ilk is inevitable, particularly when the appeal to domination and supremacy get the proverbial thumbs up from the powerful. Republicans may moan that these people have nothing in common with them, but how is it that white supremacists continue to emerge from Republican ranks? Do they get the wrong idea about the GOP over and over again?

The answer is that they do not. Republicans are very extreme. What else would one call a group that allies itself with a chemical weapons terrorist? Yes, Saddam Hussein was once a friend of current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other administration officials. When Rumsfeld was Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East he met Hussein in Baghdad in 1983. At that time a search for Weapons of Mass Destruction would have been successful. Saddam Hussein not only had WMDs but he was using them against Iranians and Kurds. These atrocities didn't stop Rumsfeld and the Republican party from shaking hands with the devil.

The Republicans even put in writing that torture is not so bad after all and maintain that if a pesky Congress asks for the information they are just out of luck. Perhaps they will begin advocating torture for Senators who ask too many questions.

The Republicans should welcome Ron Wilson with open arms. He is one of their own and it would all be so much easier if they would just admit the mutual affection. Extremism is as American as apple pie and everyone knows that Republicans are the best Americans of all.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.