Ties that bind: White supremacist money and the GOP

     Council of Conservative Citizens Logo by Source (Image via Wikipedia)

    Council of Conservative Citizens Logo by Source (Image via Wikipedia)

    Ever since the terrorist struck in Charleston, Republicans have had a particularly tough time. Ever so grudgingly, they’ve had to admit that the white kid was motivated by racist hatred of blacks. Ever so grudgingly, they’ve finally agreed that the Confederate flag should come down. And a passel of presidential candidates have rushed to distance themselves from a monetarily generous white supremacist.

    Ah yes, the white supremacist.There’s an old saying in politics: If you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas. And there’s no better illustration than the longstanding ties between the contemporary southern-based GOP and the extremist group known as the Council of Conservative Citizens.

    This is the group that runs the website that educated Dylann Roof in the ways of racial hatred; we know this because Roof reputedly said so in an online manifesto. He educated himself with some bogus crime stats on the CCC site – about how blacks supposedly kill whites in droves – and he wrote, “I have never been the same since that day.” In all likelhood, he also noticed the CCC’s so-called statement of principles, which opposes “all efforts to mix the races of mankind.”

    And now it turns out that, since 2011, group president Earl Holt III has donated lavishly and exclusively to Republican candidates: Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum. Plus a slew of Republican House and Senate candidates: Michele Bachmann, Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst, Thom Tillis, Mark Sanford, and Chris McDaniel. Plus a slew of conservative PACs on the Republican right.

    Granted, politicians can’t be held responsible for the views of their donors; they’re just happy to get money from whoever wants to give it. But the ties that bind the GOP and the CCC go a lot deeper than money. The GOP captured the South in the decades since the passage of the ’64 Civil Rights Act – largely because of white flight from the racially diverse post-LBJ Democratic party – and all too frequently, that has led all too many Republicans to bed down with the fleas.

    Conservative commentator Matt Lewis writes: “The injection of southerners into the Republican coalition – a coalition they ultimately came to dominate – couldn’t help but change the image of the GOP. There were racial, cultural, political, and even religious implications. Republicans captured the South, yes, but the South also captured the GOP. There were no doubt many salutary benefits to this arrangement – most obviously, an electoral boon that lasted for decades. But it also guaranteed we would eventually see a day of reckoning.”

    The day of reckoning has arrived. Walker, Cruz, Santorum, and Paul have suddenly decided that the donations from Earl Holt have serious cooties, so they’re giving the money away. But those gestures can’t erase the past. A very recent past.

    Nikki Haley, the South Carolina governor who now wants to lower the Confederate flag, had a CCC official on her ’13 re-election advisory committee…until the guy’s ties to the group were exposed. But there’s so much more. Mike Huckabee addressed the CCC (via video). So did Haley Barbour, a former GOP national chairman. So did Trent Lott, the former Senate Republican leader (by all accounts, he did it at least five times). So did Bob Barr, a House Republican best known for pushing the Clinton impeachment probe. Apparently none of them knew (or cared) that the group opposed “all efforts to mix the races of mankind.”

    But even if the GOP defense is, “Hey, we take money from whoever wants to give it” and “Hey, we’ll address any group that wants to have us,” the fact remains that when Earl Holt decided to donate, he chose the one party that, in his judgment, best reflected his values. Which just so happens to be the party that wants to repeal Obamacare and make it harder to vote, the party that has long demonized welfare and food stamp recipients.

    But that kind of coziness won’t sustain the GOP, not in this new century. Shedding those CCC donations is merely a first step toward sanity. I yield the floor to Matt Lewis, the conservative commentator:

    “The electorate is rapidly becoming less white, less rural, and better educated. Yet the GOP is still culturally synonymous with, well, white, rural, less-educated southern whites, who remain a major pillar of the party’s support. And so you get to the point where guys like Scott Walker and Rand Paul spend a week ducking questions about whether the Confederate flag should be flown on government property…in 2015.

    “So here’s what the GOP has to figure it out: how do they continue to get the Bubba vote while shedding appeals to the cultural symbolism of the past? How do they sell their conservative ideas about free markets, strong national defense, and conservative family values to 21st century Americans?

    “The seeds of this challenge were partly planted when the GOP became the de facto party of the South – with all the good and bad that that entails. And now the chickens have come to roost.”

    What he said.

    ——-

    Late last week, I cited stats and studies which identify home-grown right-wing terrorism as the top domestic threat. Now we’re getting even more evidence, from police and sheriff’s departments.

     

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.