Hayes: If Race Isn’t Central To U.S. History, Why Is CRT Fueling The GOP?
Good evening from New York. I’m Chris Hayes. You know, so far governing policy. The things that government does hasn’t really been the focus of the opposition of conservatives and Trump World and Republican party since President Biden was elected. We have seen of course this up implacable rage, right? This radicalizing against democracy, the continued spreading the big lie. The election was stolen the covering for the January 6, insurrectionist and all the stuff that goes with that we have not seen is that non-stop level of anti job Invective like there was under President Barack Obama. Instead, what we’ve seen is this kind of fascinating bifurcation between the things, the by demonstration and Congressional Democrats are doing. And the culture War, the right is waging this kind of churning you see looking for the right target, a reporter named Chase A Woodruff share this incredibly telling Google Trends chart. The other day, that caught my eye showing the different issues that have trended this year that yellow bump early on. That first one all the way there to the left of your screen. Early in the year that was when the right push transphobia and the threat of trans kids playing sports that was running 24/7. Then next, they tried cancel culture when they went on the offensive because remember the Doctor Seuss, publisher, Stop Printing some dr. Seuss books. Because some of them contain defensive caricatures of folks from different cultures, then there was a brief moment and this is interesting, there’s a brief moment when governance and culture war did come together around the Border. That’s when there was a significant rise in apprehensions of unaccompanied minors, First, the border was a real thing, like there was actually data, it was an actual thing that was happening and, you know, in some ways that was kind of the sweet spot because it had that culture were fear of other were being invaded, their bringing God knows what hero we have to get rid of them, but there was an actual hook to something the government was or was not doing there was policy. You can criticize then the by demonstration mobilized to move those kids into proper facilities and then the actual apprehensions of the boarders went back down massively. So most recent culture War, right? And many ways the most successful is this backlash against so-called critical race Theory a term. The right has appropriated to mean things that more or less make them uncomfortable. We confront the legacy of race in America. You can see on this chart that same one how all in they are on that, to coin a term, how effective this particular line of attack has been. So, the one they’re going with is, you know, everywhere you look in the right-wing media, particularly Fox News has been running different issues up the flagpole to see what catches wind and this caught wind. So much so, that it is now the subject of grillings in Congress where Republicans like, Florida Congressman, Matt Gaetz are going after the Pentagon of all places for being excessively woke. Now Politico reported this week that former Trump aids have begun aggressively pushing this backlash against so-called critical race theory. Confident they can ride that anger back into power. Donald Trump’s former top adviser the indicted and then subsequently pardoned. Steve Bannon said, quote, I look at this and say, hey, this is how we’re going to win, I see 50 house, Republican seats in 2020 to keep this up. I think you’re going to see a lot more emphasis from Trump on it and Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, and other people who are serious in 2024 and beyond are going to focus on it. Okay, so just to summarize right? They think the key to taking back control of Congress, right? In a year when we’re getting on the pandemic or the economy’s coming back and there’s a million issues Americans face, right? They think the key to getting back control of Congress is the backlash against critical race theory. And there is just something so perfect about that intention. Because here’s the thing. Okay, look. The vast majority of this backlash is bad faith. Obviously it’s like a moral panic but to the extent, there is some real intellectual debate about critical race theory or about the New York Times 1619 project, right? Which looks at the history of race and slavery in America and its enduring effect is often associated with critical race theory in the right-wing imagination, right? To the extent that there’s an actual serious debate on this topic, it boils down to this. It’s a debate over, I think, this question. Here’s how we think of it: Is race, racial hierarchy, racial oppression, the central or during conflict of American society and politics, his politics and history or not. He’s at the central one if you could pick one. Now, I think that’s an interesting intellectual question for my part, from my perch. For my reading, I tend to think the answer is yes, but also I’m not dogmatic on that. I mean, you know it’s a big complicated country. Some of the scholarly critiques of critical race theory and the 1619 project has to do with just how central race really is. And are we over determining the vast complexity of American life and politics and history by excessively focusing on race as the central ordering conflict. Okay? So there’s different ways, you can argue it, but here’s the thing. If you are a political advisor to Donald Trump or Republicans, and you survey the American populace at this moment in the 21st century and you look out at all the issues, all the things going on in you decide that indeed white backlash and moral panic over critical race theory. If you think that backlash is so powerful that it provides such a nuclear furnace of rage that it will be the key to taking over Congress in the midterms. Well then, you are conceding the central premise of critical race theory itself, which is that indeed racial resentment the preservation of racial hierarchy, particularly for white people, is in fact, the central or her in conflict in American society, right? Because, if you think that’s the key to winning the elections, not, whatever, jobs or, I don’t know, inflation, right? If the key to winning elections is mobilizing white backlash along these lines. Then you’re really saying, yes, yes, American politics is inescapably, about race. If Bannon and the like are, right? They had ascertained accurately, right? What the central dividing line is in American politics, that central dividing line and the history of that conflict is one about power, who gets to have it, right? Particularly the history of whether America will be truly a multiracial democracy, if we will share power with each other right together as equals, that has been, well, if not the central drama, certainly one of the central dramas and history of this country. And, of course, the place that has been fought over most brutally is at the ballot box, right? Starting with the Three-Fifths Compromise in the Constitution, giving Southern slaveholding states the ability to count some portion of their slaves towards their population for their own representational purposes, right? To go to Congress even though obviously the slaves couldn’t vote. To the 15th amendment in the wake of the Union’s victory in the Civil War, that declare the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. That 15th amendment was then followed by the revanchist success of southern white terrorism and apartheid that basically extinguished black suffrage for all intents and purposes for a little less than a century until the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and all. That brings us to the fight we are having now in America, the maybe multiracial democracy, we want to have finally in the 21st century. In which one side, the same side whipping up the critical race theory panic. The same side that openly says that white backlash is the rocket fuel for their own political success. That side is also working in state after state, along party lines, to make it harder to vote. To restrict the franchise in ways they think will help them. And they know that making it harder for black people to vote will help them, so today, this morning, another plot point in again that central story the Department of Justice, which was first constituted in 1877 amidst reconstruction and whose first task was to bring to heel the white terrorists of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, right? Who were stopping black people from voting. The same Department of Justice that had been tasked with pre-clearing changes to voting laws under the Voting Rights Act, right? The same voting departure just is that had that power then taken away by Chief Justice John Roberts Supreme Court eight years ago today. When he said famously, the South has changed. That Department of Justice announced today that they are suing the State of Georgia. It’s one of the first states of many to pass one of these restrictive voting laws where more than 270 million Georgians do not have on file. The kind requiring identification to vote, where more than 55% of them are black. While black voters make up only about a third of the voting age population in Georgia. And so the Department of Justice is suing Georgia over its new voting laws because what kind of crazy person would think that race is the central story of American politics?!