With all of the crazy and violent events going on in the world right now, it's easy to forget the news that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise once spoke to a meeting of out and out white supremacists. Despite the calls for "minority outreach" by the likes of Rand Paul, it appears that Scalise will retain his position after the bigwigs rushed to his defense. In the aftermath of it all David Duke even declared that he isn't a racist, thus proving the observation many archly have made that there are no longer any "racists" left in 21st century America, even among Klansmen. And yet racism still persists. Hmm.
Scalise's real crime in all of this was that he was stupid enough to try to appeal to white racists directly instead of cloaking his appeals in thick rhetoric and deploying dog whistles rather than trumpets. Since the days of Nixon's "Southern Strategy" in 1968, the Republican Party has masterfully deployed white racial resentment in order to garner the votes of conservative Dixiecrats in the South and the denizens of white flight suburbs in the North. Fifty years later, the former Solid South stronghold for the Democrats has become the Republican heartland, and with the defeat of Mary Landrieu, no white Democrats from the South remain in Congress.
The effects of all of this are obvious in Scalise's home state of Louisiana. According to one report, the ideas put forward by David Duke in his infamous 1991 campaign are now broadly accepted in that state. Duke himself even understood that he could go far by chucking the white sheets and assailing welfare recipients and affirmative action. It is hardly a mistake or coincidence that such policies slashing social funding and building prisons are disproportionately harmful to people of color. These policies do the work of white supremacy under the cover of "smaller government" and "law and order."
I am not surprised that the Republicans refused to dump Scalise, mostly since they have profited from a policy of never admitting that they are wrong. Our compliant media turns it into a case of "he said-she said" and forgets about it the next week. Trent Lott's political demise is an exception, but his enemies in the party had been sharpening their knives before his gaffe. Speaking of Lott, he committed much the same crime as Scalise by openly praising Thurmond's segregationist campaign of 1948 when to that point he had been subtly advancing its ideals under the cover of the usual conservative slogans. He paid for his stupidity with his job, but his party kept hitting the bong of white racial resentment.
Low level Republican officials typically lack the discretion and care of their Capitol Hill counterparts when it comes to advancing a white supremacist agenda without making it too explicit. These bush leaguers often get caught sending racist cartoons of the president and watermelon-themed emails about the White House. Scalise's scandal is proof that their more sophisticated and powerful counterparts in the party are pretty much cut from the same cloth. Don't worry though, the Scalise affair is already forgotten, and the game of promoting white supremacy and profiting from it at the polls by Republicans will continue on unabated. With all of the white fear, backlash, and reaction against the protests in Ferguson and New York, conservatives will have plenty to work with.