The Wasichu wore so many faces, an endless sea, wave after wave, more than the stars, and each one carried the same darkness beneath his pale skin, each afraid and filled with hate. Two thousand years of hatred and slaughter, two thousand years of death and poverty, two thousand years of genocide and white man rule yet still they feared and hated.
— From The Killing Spirit by Jack Random
Given the gender gap and the extraordinary racial divide demonstrated in the recent election, it does not take a political genius to conclude that today’s Republican Party is more dependent on the white man than at any time since the civil rights movement under Lyndon Baines Johnson.
The Lakota had a name for the pale skinned invaders who came to their land, massacred their people, slaughtered the buffalo, spoiled their sacred lands and destroyed their way of life, pushing them and all native peoples to the brink of extinction. They called them the Wasichu.
The Wasichu has been translated to white eyes or pale face or the white man but its meaning goes deeper. It refers to a class of men who believe in conquering, killing, defeating all others and bending them to their will. It refers to men who are motivated by greed and power. It refers to men who would rather exploit the earth, kill its animals and rape its natural wonders rather than learning to live on the land in harmony.
More than anything else, the Wasichu represents the spirit of greed and that spirit has taken complete control of the Republican Party that was soundly rejected in the 2012 election.
The Wasichu has not changed but the nation has.
In 1876, one hundred years after the founding of the United States of America, the most infamous Indian killer in western lore foolishly attacked the largest encampment of Native Americans ever assembled in one place. The seven tribes of Lakota called it the Greasy Grass but it would be known in the annals of the nation’s history by the white man’s name: Little Bighorn.
Colonel George Armstrong Custer along with every member of his five companies in the notorious Seventh Cavalry was killed on the field of battle.
Watching Republican candidate Mitt Romney deliver his brief but gracious concession speech two hours after the issue was settled, I was reminded of Custer poised on Last Stand Hill, still believing that somehow fate would intervene, that reinforcements would arrive, that something miraculous would arise to deliver victory from certain defeat.
The miracle never happened and both Custer and Romney would suffer a crushing defeat. Custer’s Seventh Cavalry would have its revenge years later at the Wounded Knee Massacre. Romney’s Grand Old Party, the last bastion of white man rule, will have no such revenge.
History will record the 2012 presidential election as the white man’s last stand.
For two and a quarter centuries the most exclusive white man’s club in America was the executive office of the presidency. That exclusivity ended in 2008 with the election of Barrack Obama. His re-election in 2012 marked the last election in which any political party can hope to win based almost entirely on the support of white men.
Yes, Mitt Romney could have won this election by gaining two-thirds of the white male vote. The record will show a landslide victory in the Electoral College but the margin of victory in nearly all of the contested states was thin. President Obama won not only by dominating the minority vote but also by peeling off enough of the white woman vote to close the deal.
Had the Republicans not chosen to openly attack women’s rights on equal pay, abortion and contraception, their chameleon standard bearer would likely have won.
Four years from now, given the same strategy and the same policies, it will not be so close. The march of changing demography, the browning of America, continues unabated.
Custer is dead and buried and this time the only revenge will come from women and the minorities as they redefine party politics in America.
The GOP will rue the day their corporate sponsors created and financed the Tea Party, that predominantly white working class coalition who took the reins of power by preaching fiscal conservatism but governed by attacking unions and pressing forward with their radical and increasingly unpopular social agenda.
A wholesale rejection of the Tea Party was one of the underlying themes of this election. If not for census year redistricting, the House of Representatives would have gone the way of the Senate. But redistricting cannot hold back the tide of demographics.
The GOP created this beast and the GOP must now perform the delicate operation of eradicating their influence without alienating their members.
The party must now cater to those it vilified only yesterday and the transformation has already begun. Within hours of the election results, spokespersons affiliated with the Republicans made the first overtures to the Latino community and the word Amnesty, verboten for over a decade, was introduced in the debate on immigration. The first test of the party’s ability to bring the Tea Party radicals in line will be the Dream Act, a modest reform that will provide a pathway to legalization for young illegal immigrants.
Beyond immigration reform, the GOP must act to stop the erosion of support among women, particularly unmarried women. The party tried and failed to sever its ties to its candidates who spoke openly about the immorality of contraception, God’s will when rape or incest results in pregnancy and other radical right positions. The party did little to separate itself from the decree that life begins at conception or the requirement that women who chose abortion must be compelled to undergo an intra-vaginal examination. That must and will change if the party wishes to be viable in future elections. We may even see movement on equal pay for equal work and day care for women in the workforce.
The Democrats will also be forced to the left on social issues. Obama initiated the process with his embrace of gay marriage and his executive decision that effectively enacted the Dream Act as long as he remains president. The process of liberalizing what is supposed to be the liberal party will continue as they attempt to hold on to their current advantage, even as they continue their rightward migration on economic issues.
The forgotten of the electorate in this equation is also the largest: the working people. The mystery factor is the working white man who has notoriously and consistently voted against his own interest for decades. In recent years working people have witnessed their jobs exported overseas, their homes foreclosed or devalued, their wages diminished and benefits stripped down to a bare minimum largely as a result of Republican policies. Still, they are counted on to get in line and vote GOP at every opportunity.
Some have suggested that white men or indeed the entire electorate is just plain dumb. I don’t buy it. Many working class Americans may lack sufficient education and may choose to rely on a propaganda machine (Fox News, Rush Limbaugh) for political information but they are by no means dumb. Just surviving in the modern world requires moxy, know how, the ability to adapt and work with others. They may be misinformed, they may even be bamboozled but they are not dumb.
Others, including myself, have pointed to willful ignorance to explain the phenomenon of voting against one’s interest. I stand by that conclusion but there is something else operating here, something underlying willful ignorance, something most everyone knows but very few in the world of mainstream political discourse openly discuss: Today’s Democratic Party is not what it used to be.
There was a time when it could fairly be generalized that the Republicans were the party of business and Democrats were the party of labor. Today they are both the parties of big business (more specifically, large multi-national corporations). The difference is the Republicans are more so, clinging to deregulation and tax cuts for the elite even after the collapse of 2009, holding to an absolute support of Free Trade and openly attacking the very right of workers to organize in the workforce.
If the Democrats have done anything to secure the rights of labor I am not aware of it. Moreover, they have actively supported Free Trade, the single most important policy to all working people. They have won the support of organized labor by default.
Working people is the new frontier of American politics. If the Democrats restore their status as the party of labor, if they push hard for labor rights in America and embrace Fair Trade in our relations with other nations, they will become the dominant party for at least a generation to come. If they fail to take hold of labor, they will leave the door wide open to independent or third party challenge.
There are strong pro-labor and Fair Trade advocates within the Democratic Party, most notably Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. The Senator won re-election in the most critical battleground state in the nation and did so against the full force of corporate funding and every dirty trick in Karl Rove’s handbook.
Today the Democrats have a decided advantage but if they wish to secure the future, they would do well to listen to Senator Brown.
The white working man is dazed, confused, and cruising down the highway to political irrelevancy. He desperately needs a bridge to rejoin the fold. Fair trade and a strong push to protect American workers may provide that bridge.