Ta-Nehisi Coates reflects on Mitt Romney's "47%", "Gifts", and "Vote for the Other Guy", on Arthur Brooks's The Battle and The Road to Freedom, on Charles Murray's Coming Apart, and on Nicholas Eberstadt's A Nation of Takers:
We Are All Welfare Queens Now: Thinking some more on Mitt Romney's high-handed claim that one in two Americans will vote for Obama simply to better ensure their own sloth, I was reminded of Lee Atwater's famous explanation of the Southern Strategy:
You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" -- that… backfires. So you say… "forced busing", "states' rights", and all that stuff…. [Now] you're talking about cutting taxes… totally economic things… a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse…. [I]f [the Southern Strategy] is getting that abstract, and that coded, then we are doing away with the racial problem…. [S]itting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."
The process Atwater is describing really stretches back to 1790….
[W]hat's often missed in analyzing these tactics is how they, themselves, are evidence of progress…. [F]or a century after the Civil War, the South effectively erased the black vote. But there was an actual black vote that had to be [erased]…. It's worth critiquing how the machine manipulated the black vote in Chicago, but it's also worth noting there was a black vote… people exercising their own wills and prerogatives….
[A]s tactics aimed at suppressing black citizenship become more abstract, they… [begin] enveloping non-blacks. Atwater's point that the policies of the Southern Strategy hurt blacks more than whites is well taken. But some whites were hurt too…. [A]t each level what you see is more non-black people being swept into the pool of victims…. At each interval the ostensible pariah grows, until [now] one in two Americans are members of the pariah class…. [And t]he party of white populism [now] finds itself writing off half the country, we are really close.