It's not really news. It's just Newt being Newt again:
There have been plenty of tremendous and troubling leaps made when trying to express outrage over the Islamic Center proposed near Ground Zero (this weekend with Sarah Palin, who called it the "9/11 mosque" on Twitter, for example), but Newt Gingrich may win the award for most offensive analogy.
Building the mosque near Ground Zero, says the former Speaker, is like putting a Nazi sign near the Holocaust Museum.
Gingrich has made this comparison for a couple days now, including this morning on Fox & Friends, when he said:
The folks who want to build this mosque, who are really radical Islamists, who want to triumphfully (sic) prove they can build a mosque next to a place where 3,000 Americans were killed by radical Islamists. Those folks don't have any interest in reaching out to the community. They're trying to make a case about supremacy... This happens all the time in America. Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor.
Of course the folks behind the Cordoba House Cultural Center aren't radical Islamists. They're exactly the opposite. As Wikipedia notes about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the spiritual leader and driving force:
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, (born in 1948, in Kuwait) is an Arab-American Muslim imam, author, and activist whose stated goal is to improve relations between the Muslim World and the West.He has been Imam of Masjid al-Farah, a New York City mosque, since 1983.
He has written three books on Islam and its place in contemporary Western society, including What's Right with Islam is What's Right with America, and founded two non-profit organizations whose stated missions are to enhance the discourse on Islam in society. He has condemned the 9/11 attacks as un-Islamic and called on the U.S. government to reduce the threat of terrorism by altering its Middle Eastern foreign policy. Author Karen Armstrong, among others, has praised him for his attempts to build bridges between the West and the Muslim world.
His congregation is Sufi, the mystical branch of Islam, about as far away from fundamentalists as its possible to be.
But in Gingrich's bigoted mind, all Moslems are radical Islamists. That is the very essence of his bigotry: "They" are all the same: evil. For no reason. Just because they are. And he's not just some guy. He's the former Speaker of the House, and a serious potential candidate for President in 2012. In the GOP world, he's as heavyweight as it gets.
Newt is a bigot and he is the face of the GOP.
And not just the clown face of Sarah Palin, but the "serious intellectual" face, as has been for nearly 20 years now.
What's more, at the same time that Newt's spouting his bigoted hatred, other conservatives are busy trying to whitewash themselves and their movment, in a continuing effort to deny their racist past, as well their present. For example, the pseudo-intellectual James Taranto at the WSJ:
In Defense of Joe Conason
Many readers took issue with our item Friday on Joe Conason's nostalgia for racism because we did not take issue with the following statement of Conason's: "Most conservatives were late in taking responsibility for their movement's immoral opposition to civil rights."
In response, our readers make the point that more Democrats than Republicans opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is true but irrelevant. On this point, Conason is more right than wrong.
Let's begin with the numbers. As Jake Tapper noted in a 2000 Salon piece:
According to Congressional Quarterly, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed the House 290-130, and Republican support for the bill was much stronger than Democratic: 61 percent (152-96) of the Democrats supported the legislation while 80 percent (138-34) of the Republicans backed it. These numbers were similar in the Senate--69 percent of Democrats (46-21), backed the bill along with 82 percent of Republicans (27-6).
Conason's disputed statement, however, was about conservatives, not Republicans. In 1964, both parties were more ideologically diverse than they are today; a lot of the Republicans who voted for the Civil Rights Act are what conservative activists today would call RINOs. (We would call them liberals, and liberal journalists would call them moderates.)
The real key to Conason's statement, though, is the word "movement." There were two main sources of opposition to the Civil Rights Act: segregationists, almost all of whom were Democrats, and "movement conservatives," who were relatively small in number but were ascendant in the GOP.
Later that year, Barry Goldwater became the first movement conservative presidential nominee. Sixteen years later, America elected another movement conservative, Ronald Regan, president. Goldwater and Reagan both opposed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, as did William F. Buckley, the conservative movement's intellectual leader.
Movement conservatives were not racists or segregationists; they opposed the Civil Rights Act because they saw it as a violation of the principles of states' rights and individual rights. By contrast, men like Strom Thurmond, Robert Byrd and George Wallace--Democrats all, until Thurmond's September 1964 switch--asserted those principles opportunistically in defense of segregation, which they supported.
Conason is imprecise in referring to the conservative movement's "opposition to civil rights." Goldwater, Reagan and Buckley were anti-civil-rights only in the sense that a pacifist or noninterventionist who opposed U.S. entry into World War II or the liberation of Iraq was pro-Nazi or pro-Saddam: Their adherence to principle led them to a position of indifference toward a great evil.
This was a moral error. Conason and today's liberals commit another moral error in casting today's conservatives as racists because yesteryear's conservatives were briefly allied with racists. It's guilt by association at two levels of remove.
So, soooo much bullshit, so very, very little time! That's why it's so helpful to have Newtie spewing his vile bigotry in real time even as Taranto pisses all over us and tells us its raining.
So let's set a few things straight, shall we? Before even considering the narrative Taranto advances, we have to remember that more then 50 years of empirical research shows that conservatives tend to be more authoritarian, bigoted, prejudiced, and hostile to those who are members of other social groups--be they ethnic, racial, religious or gender-based. (See, for example, The Authoritarians by Robert Altemeyer. and Social dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression by Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto.) It's not that all conservatives are bigots or that no liberals are--that's clearly not the case. But as a group it is the case that conservatives are more authoritarian and bigoted, and that this difference is stronger amongst those who are more deeply involved in politics. This background understanding individual psychology in turn leads into an understanding of how conservative political organizations function to exploit and perpetuate hostile, hierarchical, and sometimes even violent relations between groups. With that in mind, let's now turn to some problems with Taranto's narrative:
(1) The very first fact to note about America's relatively recent racist past is that the Democrats--lead by their liberal wing, and pushed on by even more radical elements, real socialists, anarchists, communists and other leftists--put an end to legal segregation in our country, at the cost of losing almost unbroken political dominance.
As a matter of particulars,
(A) LBJ, a Southern progressive Democrat, was responsible for passing the 1957 Civil Rights Act, the first such federal legislation to be passed since Reconstruction. As Senate Majority Leader, he was the chief architect of the both the legislation and the legislative battle that got it passed through the Senate.
(B) LBJ, as President, got the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed, capitalizing on sentiment for the slain President Kennedy.
(C) A year later, propelled by the Selma voter registration campaign, culminating in the Selma to Montgomery March, LBJ got the 1965 Voting Rights Act passed as well.
Although Republicans provided a larger percentage of votes in the House and Senate for these bills,
(i) They did not control the leadership of either House, and thus could not pass anything on their own.
(ii) They did not provide a larger margin of votes in either the North or the South.
Here's the final (June 19) 1964 Civil Rights Act breakdown from Wikipedia:
The original House version:
The Senate version:
Southern Democrats: 7-87 (7%-93%)
Southern Republicans: 0-10 (0%-100%)
Northern Democrats: 145-9 (94%-6%)
Northern Republicans: 138-24 (85%-15%)
Southern Democrats: 1-20 (5%-95%)
Southern Republicans: 0-1 (0%-100%)
Northern Democrats: 45-1 (98%-2%)
Northern Republicans: 27-5 (84%-16%)
(2) The direct consequence of this courageous action by the Democratic Party was that millions of Southern racists--as well racists elsewhere in the country--abandoned the Democrats at the national level, electing Republican presidents in 7 of the next 10 elections, after Democrats had won 7 of the previous 9 elections.
(3) In short, the racist elements of the Democratic Party whom Taranto seeks to ignore were essential elements of the movement conservative base that rose to power in a racial backlash against the advancement of civil rights.
(4) The rising conservative movement already within the GOP was equally characterized by racism.
(a) Although it's true that Goldwater himself was not a racist, his campaign was a haven for them. Indeed, the only states he won in 1964 aside from his native Arizona was the Deep South core that Stevenson had managed to carry just 8 years before.
(b) Buckley might later claim to be free from racism, but when it counted he and the National Review enthusiastically supported white supremacy on numerous occasions.
On Buckley's death, I wrote a diary that quoted from an infamous unsigned editorial from the National Review, commonly assumed to be written by Buckley himself, and certainly reflecting his views at the time. It said, in part:
The central question that emerges--and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by merely consulting a catalog of the rights of American citizens, born Equal--is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes--the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced ace. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the median cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists. The question, as far as the White community is concerned, is whether the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage. The British believe they do, and acted accordingly, in Kenya, where the choice was dramatically one between civilization and barbarism, and elsewhere; the South, where the conflict is by no means dramatic, as in Kenya, nevertheless perceives important qualitative differences between its culture and the Negroes', and intends to assert its own.
National Review believes that the South's premises are correct. If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority. Sometimes it becomes impossible to assert the will of a minority, in which case it must give way, and the society will regress; sometimes the numerical minority cannot prevail except by violence: then it must determine whether the prevalence of its will is worth the terrible price of violence.
Now, if that isn't racism, it will just have to do, until the real thing comes along.
(c) Reagan rode to the governor's mansion in California based on a racial backlash. Between Governor Pat Brown's defeat of Richard Nixon in 1964 and Reagan's defeat of Brown in 1968 came the watershed anti-fair-housing initiative, Propositon 14, which passed by a 2-1 margin. The campaign organization for that racist proposition was the foundation for Reagan's 1968 campaign. Furthermore, to maintain popularity, Reagan repeatedly picked fights with blacks as well as students, even calling the Black Panthers "N*gger fascists" at one point. Then, when he ran for President in 1980, he kicked off his general election campaign in Philadelphia Mississippi, cite of the "Mississippi Burning" KKK murders of Civil Rights activists Shwerner, Goodman and Cheney.
There are a wealth of additional details one might add to this record. Racist campaign ads, such as the 1988 "Willie Horton" ads that sunk Michael Dukakis' run for President, or repeated efforts to illegally suppress minority voters at the polls, from William Rhenquist's role as a young GOP lawyer in Arizona in the 1950s, to Bush DOJ trying to gin up phoney voter fraud charges in New Mexico, Missouri and elsewhere.
"Yesteryear's conservatives" were not "briefly allied with racists", they wooed them away and married them--except to the extent that they already were them.
In short, the bigotry of Newt Gingrich has a very, very long pedigree in the modern Republican Party and the conservative movement that is its backbone.
One cannot help but wonder what America might be like today if the conservative movement had not so eagerly and enthusiastically picked up the torch of racial bigotry and resentment in the mid-60s and and made that flame of hatred its own.