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Senator Macaca: The Fruit of Nixon's Loins

......and I mean that in the nice way...

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, September 20, 2006.

If you hate all football coaches, as I hate all football coaches absent reason, then you have to take some diverted joy in the problems of George Allen, son of a famous professional football coach and running for re-election as a U.S. Senator in Virginia. Allen is the perfect result of the Nixon Southern Strategy from forty years ago.

One of the great conundrums of the South through the Korean War was that it was entirely Democratic. Utterly, without respite. This was because Lincoln was a Republican, and staying Democratic with their Copperhead northern brethren was and had been a symbol of Southern defiance since Appomattox. As a result, virtually all the demonic and racist incidents of the last century were by the good ole white boys below the Mason Dixon. Lynchings, segregation, Sunday school bombings, the Ku Klux Klan itself were all seen as variants of the Democratic Party, and not without reason.

The Democratic Party up north, though, was liberal, populist, and progressive, and best exemplified by FDR, who essentially bought off the chronically poor and depressed South with New Deal programs that were put in place to employ and do something positive during a Depression that was both real and spiritual in the 1930’s. It was an unholy binding, and when the nation was prosperous again, the Republicans knew that the way to fight and retain socially conservative values and come to power absent a huge war hero like Eisenhower was to bring reactionary conservative bigots into the fold.

In a generation, the South was Republican and the same sorts of always seemingly fat, white, good old boys were back in power paying lip service to advances in civil rights but letting the bigot class know where their heart lay.

George Allen played to that demographic when he was elected to the Senate from Virginia, his transplanted home since he was born and raised in that hotbed of Traditional American values, southern California. Allen had Confederate flags everywhere, and had a noose hanging in his office. A noose. Gee, said the voters. We wonder what he’s trying to tell us?

Allen’s world came undone recently when, in front of his targeted Virginia demographic of white, suburban, potential reactionary bigots, his gaze fell upon the one non-white person in the room. It was the young man Allen’s opponent for the Senate, James Webb, employed to video all the Allen public appearances, just as Allen and every politician has someone to tail their opponent. Allen, holding a microphone, loudly asked the kid where he was from, and in the condescending way of the true lynch mob enabler, tried to align himself with the crowd against this foreign looking kid, who was of East Indian genetics. Feeling safe and feeling his oats, Allen indicated the young man’s name, which he knew since the kid had been around a while, was “macaca,” followed by the smirk and glare familiar to those of us recalling all white juries announcing not guilty verdicts to murderers from the fifties and sixties.

It apparently came as a shock to George Allen that the kid he tried to intimidate was everything George Allen is not. To wit, an actual Virginian, born and raised, and when this was drawn to the attention of the Great Senator, who then had Presidential ambitions, Allen and his staff produced some of the most stupid and obviously untrue excuses for Allen’s use of a word that, in some obscure parts of the world, is the equivalent of calling someone a nigger here. Obscure parts of the world like French Tunisia where his mother was born and raised. No connection, said Allen, he was really saying ‘Mohawk’ about the kid’s haircut, which wasn’t remotely a Mohawk and in any case, that wasn’t what the tape shows he said. He eventually apologized, in essence admitting he had lied.

But it got even worse for Allen. As people investigated his remark and family, it turns out his Mom’s family was – er – Jewish. Not the genetic ideal for a wannabe Southern bigot to which he tries to appeal. His grandfather, in fact, had escaped Nazi Germany. Previously, the great Senator had said vaguely Grampa Lumbroso was an “Allied sympathizer,” during the war, as if the choice were academic and had nothing to do with the fact Nazis wanted to gas him. But Allen is ashamed of his Jewish ancestors, just as he’s proud but cowardly about his racial bigotry, and insisted his mother was raised a Christian. Apparently that’s important for us to understand. His parents, however, weren’t married in a Christian church, but at a Jewish friend’s home. Allan was forced yesterday to announce how proud he was of his Jewish ancestry, although he never even admitted it before. Ever.

Allen may well now lose his election to – Irony! Won’t somebody think of the irony? – a former Republican, now a Democrat, who served in Vietnam as a Marine, is a novelist, a military authority, a former member of Reagan’s administration, and who now sees his concerns for national security and competence rooted in the new Democratic Party. A party that owes his presence and those of many former soldiers to the sleazy, hypocritical machinations of Nixon forty years ago. So, here’s the seedling of Nixon’s Southern Strategy bearing fruit, and it smells sweet to the Democrats today.