The 13,000-pound elephant has come home to roost.
From Goldwater's "hunting where the ducks are" to Nixon's demagoguery on school bussing to Reagan's braying about welfare queens, not a word about race was ever articulated by their party at large. Did it need to be? Everyone understood the GOP was the party of, the party for, white people. Donald Trump has merely been blatant about it. The bigoted elephant in the room has now thumped its ass down hard, but conservative intellectuals of vestigial conscience are behaving as though Republican racism is of rather recent development.
David Brooks' symptomatology is the most staggeringly conspicuous and pathetically proffered. "[The GOP has] become more of a white party in recent years … but it was still possible to be a Republican without feeling like you were violating basic decency on matters of race," he writes. Brooks also recently wrote that he was getting out and about, getting in touch with the little people so as to shut down any touches of Big Apple elitism. He should have undertaken the journey sooner. I recall asking, in the late '90s, an elderly white gentleman who willingly conceded he knew nothing of politics but always voted Republican just why, then, he voted Republican. "I can't really say," he answered with a peculiar authenticity. But I could say for him. He was a racist to the core and he well comprehended what the Republican Party kept muted. He understood what a NY Times Republican commentator claims to have known little of.
The Washington Post's Michael Gerson has also been struck by belated enlightenment: "[C]ongressional hearings demanding an account of [Joe Arpaio's pardon] would demonstrate seriousness in the only task … left to Republican leaders: attempting to salvage a party identity separate from racism…. Resistance is required. Any party that swallows the Trump/Arpaio ethic will be poisoned. And gagging, in this case, is a sign of health."
However overdue, I suppose it is.
Don't mistake. Although I'm critical when it comes to Brooks, Gerson et al's decades-long contributions to the horror of modern Republicanism, I welcome their present opposition to it. Conservative intellectuals' tolerance of Republicanism's persistent racism was a testament to blind partisanship in the service of some higher ideology — and the left is equally vulnerable to such tolerance. We shouldn't be too cocky in condemning eleventh-hour epiphanies (however questionable as true epiphanies they are), for the next one could be our own.