With the next Presidential election a long way off, it doesnt mean much that Rudy Giuliani appears, at the moment, to be the most popular candidate from either party. (Lets remember that Hillary Clinton was kicking his butt in the New York Senate race a few years back till he dropped out for health reasons.) But the New Yorkbased media know him well and, for that reason alone, his candidacy has been a favorite topic of journos and bloggers alike.
Rudys marriage to the actress Donna Hanover didnt just break upit exploded. He roomed with a gay couple while completing a divorce that left him estranged from his son. He has vocally supported abortion rights. Hes a friggin Yankee as well as a family-values disaster. So whythe pundits want to knoware his poll numbers so high among the GOP base, Southern fundamentalists?
Early speculation ran that folks far from Gotham simply didnt know his history and, once they found out about his sympathy for gay and abortion rights, along with his own disreputable personal life, they would abandon him for, say, Sam Brownback (or at least Mitt Romney). But those topics have now been aired often enough to reach even dwellers of the South Carolina swamps, and Giulianis numbers havent budged. Pundit wisdom says the GOP base wants to hold on to the White House even if it means ignoring those values issues Rudy cant please them on. Further, his performance at the time of the 9/11 attackswhich really only seemed heroic in comparison to that of Bush, who remembered his Guard training and went AWOLhas given Rudy the stature of the latest macho swaggerer in a supposed new age of terrorism. Americas mayor, they dubbed him.
All that may be true, and what Im going to suggest is pure speculation. But living in Dixie leads one to adopt a darker, more cynical take on politics than youll get from the national media in their coastal power centers. So Id like to suggest another, nastier reason for Giulianis continued popularity among the GOP base.
Giuliani is by far the most anti-black serious candidate in the race.
Just as Kerry couldnt position himself as the fiery warrior guy when Bush could point to a heap of Arabs hed slaughtered, Giuliani gets props from Southern racists (and apparently, a lot of New York racists) for vicious police tactics that left a lot of African-Americans bleeding in the streets. Just as Abu Ghraib only increased Bushs reputation as one mean son of a bitch among his base, incidents such as the Amadou Diallo shooting and the police torture of Abner Louima (which horrified more civilized Americans) can only serve to enhance Rudys reputation as a good ol boy, even if he is a damn Yankee. There appears to be a good-sized cohort of Southern Republicans that gets off on the torture and killing of dark-skinned victims, whether sand niggers or the good old American kind. (Sorry, if youre in New York, youre not allowed to read that last sentence, even if you think your security depends on lots of those people being shot.)
Giulianis distaste for African-Americans went beyond having his cops gun em down. For two years he refused to speak to the Manhattan borough president, a black woman. His entire tenure as mayor was marked by poor relations with minority groups. Even his meddling in an art exhibit with an African madonna painting that included elephant dung was racially tinged, a Catholic vs. black smackdown. Such actions horrify many in the South just as in New York but there is also an element, the heirs of segregationists and the backbone of todays right-wing, militarist, Baptist theocracy, that loves to see nonwhites kept down by any means necessary.
Lets be clear here. Today the South as a whole is not the vicious bastion of white supremacy familiar from the Jim Crow days. Heck, here in central Texas, most people (like me) are from somewhere else, usually some place where it snows a lot. But this is also a region of sham democracy, vast inequality, and a hereditary caste system, where the scions of the old Confederate families still control the wealth and the legislatures. Within the strongholds of the GOP base, old-fashioned racism is still very much in vogue.
Just today the news reported an incident involving racist flyers attributed to a frat at the University of Texas. At UT (as elsewhere in Dixie), prejudice and frats go together like fried eggs and grits, and frats are where rich white boys make the crony connections they can cash in on later when they need a sympathetic legislator (or when, as legislators, they need campaign money). Next door to left-leaning Austin is suburban Round Rock, where affluent Baptists build their social life around megachurches, Bush stickers abound on giant SUVs, and if you see an African-American its probably the cleaning lady. Its also a place where white supremacist leaflets keep showing up. (If Michael Dells name had been more obviously Jewish, I wonder if he would have been allowed to build his headquarters there.)
Again, its just speculation, but I suspect theres an ugly reason for Giulianis continued popularity among a certain sector of the white South. It isnt because they dont know his record. Its because they see him as another guy who will keep the boot firmly planted atop the neck of black America. If it has to be a Mussolini-style jackboot rather than a CSA cavalry boot, no matter.
Leaves of Oak © MMVII Lindsey D. Eck. All rights reserved.
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