The Southern Strategy and the Party of Torture

File under “And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you” (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, §146). Andrew Sullivan on torture and the American way (“Torture in American History,” The Daily Dish, TheAtlantic.com, 30 November 2007):

It is, sadly, a simple fact that torture was once a deep part of the American way of life, inextricable from slavery and racism, for a very long time. It was worst in the South, but not unknown elsewhere – well into the twentieth century. The ease with which some in the new GOP reconcile themselves to it with respect to terror suspects, as long as it is directed at “the other,” cannot be fully understood outside this context.

Combine this with Joe Klein’s observation of just how deeply the pro-torture position has become among the Republican base (“Dialing the Republicans,” Swampland, 29 November 2007):

But there was worse to come: When John McCain started talking about torture — specifically, about waterboarding — the dials plummeted again. Lower even than for the illegal Children of God. Down to the low 20s, which, given the natural averaging of a focus group, is about as low as you can go. Afterwards, Luntz asked the group why they seemed to be in favor of torture. “I don’t have any problem pouring water on the face of a man who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11,” said John Shevlin, a retired federal law enforcement officer. The group applauded, appallingly.

It follows that the party that pursued the Southern Strategy, whose base is the South, that has such a lock there that the other party can have a serious debate about whether to even bother campaigning in the South, that this party would become the party of torture.

The American character is comprised not just of the nice parts of U.S. history, just the parts that we sift through our history and authorize for incorporation, but the entirety of our history. And in today’s Republican party some of the ugliest parts are rearing their head.

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