Are old white men genuinely nuts, or are they just throwing a collective tantrum? What is it about the Barack Obama Presidency that pushes so many of them over the edge? In this past election, white codgers—joined by some younger men who are dumb beyond their years—were exposed as the only major demographic group in the nation that felt deeply threatened by a well-spoken, moderate-to-a-fault, mixed-race President who was clearly brainier, more informed and far better intentioned than his intellectually unhinged and morally adrift Republican opponent.
Were he white, Obama would have been embraced as the dream candidate of the moderates who used to make up the base of the Republican Party from Abraham Lincoln through Dwight D. Eisenhower. That base consisted of largely modest and tolerant folks who supported racial integration even in the Deep South, where white Republicans stood for civil rights and opposed the racist Dixiecrats who, back then, controlled the Southern states’ Democratic Party. When Lincoln freed the slaves and Eisenhower sent federal troops to the South to complete the job of guaranteeing equal rights for all Americans, Republicans from coast to coast rallied in support.
But Eisenhower’s Vice President, Richard Nixon, was already hatching a plan to betray the proud Republican record of commitment to full racial equality. What came to be known as Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” involved an about-face on civil rights.
When Lyndon B. Johnson—a Democrat who had represented Texas in the U.S. Senate—became President, he betrayed the Dixiecrats by getting the Voting Rights Act passed. Suddenly, this was not your granddaddy’s South anymore because the descendants of former slaves finally were fully emancipated with a federally guaranteed right to vote. When LBJ signed the historic legislation in 1965, he threw the switch that turned the Deep South from blue to red, thus ensuring that whites below the Mason-Dixon Line would become the last bastion of racist idiocy.