There sure seems to be a lot of this going around, isn't there? Rachel Maddow and Eugene Robinson do some fact checking on Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's recent bit of revisionist history, attempting to sanitize the racism and rewrite the Civil Rights movement in the South and how the Republicans have been taking advantage of the racial divide in America for decades. Eugene Robinson did an especially good job of following up Rachel Maddow's critique of Barbour's interview with the right wing Human Events and explaining why Barbour is frankly just full of it when he tries to pretend he didn't experience segregation himself growing up and at the schools he attended. As they noted it looks like he's trying to shine up his image with white voters who might not want to vote for someone they consider a bigot in the 2012 presidential elections.
Salon's War Room has a great article on Barbour's interview here:
The GOP's new fake racial history: A Southern Republican with designs on challenging Barack Obama in 2012 offers a phony version of history. Go read the whole thing but here's a portion of it.
Almost 50 years ago, the Republican Party made a decision to embrace the backlash generated by civil rights among white Southerners.
Traditionally, they had been staunch Democrats, but they were also culturally conservative, and as Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Party embraced civil rights once and for all, they were up for grabs. The Republican Party offered them a home, a steady, decades-long realignment ensued, and today conservative Southern whites comprise the heart of the GOP -- just as culturally liberal Northerners, who called the GOP home before civil rights, have migrated to the Democratic Party.
There's nothing new about this story. In fact, it's the story LBJ himself predicted when he signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and supposedly mused, "There goes the South for a generation."
But it's an inconvenient story for today's Republican Party, which still relies on cultural, racial and ethnic wedge issues to keep its base in line -- but which also needs to win over less conservative suburbanites across the country to compete in national elections. And it's a particularly inconvenient story for Haley Barbour, the 62-year-old Mississippi governor who aspires to run as the Republican nominee against the nation's first black president.
So Barbour has invented his own sanitized, suburb-friendly version of history -- an account that paints the South's shift to the GOP as the product of young, racially inclusive conservatives who had reasons completely separate and apart from racial politics for abandoning their forebears' partisan allegiances. In an interview with Human Events that was posted on Wednesday, Barbour insists that "the people who led the change of parties in the South ... was my generation. My generation who went to integrated schools. I went to integrated college -- never thought twice about it." Segregationists in the South, in his telling, were "old Democrats," but "by my time, people realized that was the past, it was indefensible, it wasn't gonna be that way anymore. So the people who really changed the South from Democrat to Republican was a different generation from those who fought integration."
This is utter nonsense.
For a century after the Civil War, the South was deeply and overwhelmingly Democratic, a consequence of the "humiliation" visited upon white Southerners by the Republican-initiated Reconstruction that followed the Civil War. The level of support enjoyed by Democratic candidates in the region is almost too astronomical to fathom now. In 1912, Woodrow Wilson took 42 percent of the vote nationally in a four-way presidential contest. But in South Carolina, he snared 95 percent. In Mississippi, 88 percent. While he was grabbing 60 percent nationally in 1936, Franklin Roosevelt scored 97 percent in Mississippi and nearly 99 percent in South Carolina. The region's congressional delegation was uniformly Democratic -- and, thanks to the South's one-party status, disproportionately influential, with lifelong incumbents taking advantage of the congressional seniority system to secure the most powerful committee gavels.
Video of Rachel's follow up with Eugene Robinson below the fold. h/t Steve Benen