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What Is This "White" You Speak of, Kemosabe?


One way to look at Nixon's "Silent Majority" strategy was that it involved the redefinition of lots of people as "white"--people who wouldn't have been "white" even thirty years before, back when they were seen as not-quite-real-American ethnic immigrants living in ghettos and serving the corrupt Democratic political machines against which the Republicans fought--probably entangled in organized crime, too.

And of these the champion example is, of course, Mark Krikorian and his defenses of "white" American culture against the Hispanic Pizza Menace. Lots of Krikorians in colonial Massachusetts alongside my Bradford, Anderson, Lord, Winthrop, Sewall, Usher, etc. ancestors, I tell you. The Nixon "Silent Majority" strategy was, in a sense, that everyone who is not Black is white--and should join us in our crusade to deprive the welfare queens of their free booze. Which is why the form of the Republican attack on Sonia Sotomayor is very interesting indeed...

Rick Perlstein:

It comes out in the endless discussions [Richard Nixon] would have on the tapes to come up with an Italian or a Pole to slot for assistant deputy secretary for thus-and-such. As the memo from Buchanan I posted here a while back demonstrates, they were absolutely obsessed with affirmative action for non-WASP (and, implicitly, non-Hebrew) "whites." Obsessed. I mean, approaching 1972, and in talks about staffing up the second term, it was one of their top five topics for discussion. And that relates to something David Frum said in a big conference on the future of conservatism in '05, that the big question for political demography was whether ten years from then Hispanics would end up as Jews or Italians--which is to say, permanently in the Democratic or permanently in the Republican coalition.

In '05, to Frum, that seemed up in the air. I guess recent history suggests that the decision has been made easy for them, by the people who ended up in charge of the Republican Party. Bush II and Rove COULD have been like Nixon and Colson: i.e., appointing Hispanics to every other job, Tammany Hall style. Their party's politics prevented it.