By Randolph D. Brandt
Jimmy Carter’s right.
Recent attacks on President Barack Obama for his supposed freewheeling, wasteful government spending echo all the old arguments of Southern redeemers, who after the Civil War labeled all integrated state governments “carpetbaggers and scallywags.”
“Wasteful,” they cried, as the new black-white political coalitions introduced the first public education in the South.
Worse, it was supposed to be integrated education, open to all, whites and blacks.
“Corrupt,” they said, of the new governments, as the former Rebels sought to reinstitute the rightful (white) leadership back into state legislatures, governorships and Congress.
The very thought that black representatives could administer the public weal was simply reprehensible.
Thus, we wound up instead with disenfranchisement of black voters, segregation, black codes, the convict labor system and Jim Crow.
Now, the country faces the same dilemma. Somehow this very clever black man has tricked America into giving him a majority of the country’s votes, even though, deep down, all good, white Americans know he is a usurper who’s somehow managed to steal the country from its rightful political heirs.
Why, it’s the world turned upside down.
These instincts run deep in America’s psyche, North and South, though as a southerner, Jimmy Carter is particularly attuned to the old code words and their insidious innuendo.
“You lie,” says the gentleman from South Carolina.
He could think nothing else of an uppity black man, a pretender as president, when everyone knows only a white man’s really qualified for that position.
"That racism inclination still exists, and I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of belief among many white people -- not just in the South but around the country -- that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country,” Carter said. “It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply."
So, many will chose to reject better health care, economic recovery, peace abroad, prosperity at home, rational immigration policy … and they’ll sit on their hands, maybe even shout out, because they just don’t like the color of the man’s skin.
(Randolph Brandt is a retired newspaper editor in Racine, Wis.)