The world again watches events in South Carolina. All eyes are riveted on whether the Trump tsunami will dissipate on Carolinian shores or gain momentum as it surges west. For now, the polls say that the smart money is on the tsunami.
We are watching “again” not because of past primary battles, but recent cultural ones. It is hard to believe that it is already over six months since South Carolina gave into public ridicule and removed the Confederate Battle Flag from their state capitol. Many breathed a sigh of relief: finally, the culture of racism is starting to visibly die. Maybe.
It is putting up a ferocious fight.
The word “racism” gets thrown around a little bit too much, so I hesitate to use it to classify all Trump and Cruz supporters. But after that hesitation, I remember the flag imbroglio and quickly lose my trepidation. Some days a Curmudgeon just has to call it what it is.
Today I just can’t get Strange Fruit to quit playing in my head.
I acknowledge that a bare majority of voters are not old enough to have known people who experienced the race riots and unrepentant lynch mobs. While old school racism is as real as it is ugly, the better descriptor for most of them is xenophobic. I suppose too that there is often a fine line between racism and primal survival instincts: the fear that someone is going to steal your coconuts, or worse, is deeply embedded in our DNA.
Xenophobia, like its more evil sounding twin, is an old school tradition too. The political exploitation of the fear of the other is as American as baseball. Native savages, slave insurgents, Irish immigrants, and Japanese saboteurs are but a few of the historic tools of fear. Trump and Cruz are merely playing out of a very old playbook.
An old and disgusting playbook.
Call me crazy, but it would be amazing if South Carolina Republicans rebuked the old playbook. I know the racists and xenophobes are in the minority. It must be true. Perhaps the time has come for enlightened Republicans to leverage their disgust and send these two vestiges of reconstruction packing.
Recently on the David Axelrod podcast, former Mitt Romney political strategist Stuart Stevens called Trump a “zeppelin” adding,
This large slow-moving hydrogen-filled thing just waiting for people to start poking. And he is incredibly thin-skinned.
Only in my fantasy could I be the one who poked holes in the bloviating billionaire hot airship. You will not find my name in Who’s Who, but rather Who’s He? Fortunately, voters do have the power—if they will use it.
And if you are reading along South Carolina Republicans, when you exit, tell the pollsters of your anti-racist vote. Tell them that South Carolina is busy with the business of exterminating the culture of racism. Tell America this is about more than an old flag retired to a museum.
If the tsunami continues to gather its cowering minions, I fear that Millennials will remember my generation as old museum pieces who just wouldn’t die quickly enough. And they would be justified: racism should have relegated to history by our hand.
And truthfully, we are just about out of time.