It is curious that in a climate when nearly 45 million Americans are in need of food stamps, unemployment stands at 8.5%, nearly 50 million people have no health insurance and tough economic times touch nearly all of the 99%, including an increasingly fragile middle class, the GOP would pin its 2012 electoral hopes on demonizing teachers and public workers and demeaning the economically strapped as lazy and shiftless. It is curioser still that the Republican base eats this rhetoric up with a spoon.
The Republican party's fealty to the Southern Strategy is as strong in 2012 as it was in 1960s. And if the crowd at last night's Republican debate are any indication, the strategy still works.
During the debate in South Carolina, Fox News correspondent Juan Williams challenged candidate Newt Gingrich about recent statements made along the campaign trail. The former House speaker had made like Ebenezer Scrooge ("Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?"), questioning the work ethic of the disenfranchised, dismissing child labor laws and suggesting that poor children be given janitorial jobs. When Williams asked whether Gingrich's remarks weren't, in fact, belittling to all Americans, but especially racial minorities who face higher rates of poverty, he was roundly booed by the audience. Gingrich retorted:
"So here's my point: I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness. And if that makes liberals unhappy, I'm going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job, and learn someday to own the job."At which, the crowd erupted in cheers that drowned out the debate moderators.
Take that Juan Williams! Why, Newt was just talking about the awesome American work ethic and the poor people who clearly need help acquiring it. Who said anything about race?