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Posted at 11:51 AM ET, 02/28/2011

Will Haley Barbour's race strategy work?

By Adam Serwer

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, whose rather selective memories of racial turmoil in the South during the Civil Rights Movement have drawn unflattering attention to his possible presidential bid, has settled on a defense strategy:

Barbour said the controversies over race overlook his support, starting several years ago, for a civil rights museum in Mississippi and the upcoming events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders. But he recognizes that he might carry an extra burden if he runs.

"I have reconciled myself to the fact that some people on the left who don't like me or don't like conservative Christian Republicans from the Deep South are going to criticize anything I do," he said.

Unlike Jonathan Chait, I don't think this is a "particularly clever" formation -- it's an expected one. What's interesting is that Barbour waited so long to portray himself as a victim of prejudice for being white and Christian, given that the conservative political discourse of the past few years is rife with these sorts of arguments. The idea that white people are under siege from a black president has been at the heart of the conservative critique of the Obama administration in the conservative media. I suspect Barbour only waited because he was genuinely unaware of how his remarks would play nationally and believed that he could simply weather the controversy without needing to provoke reactionary racial sentiments among the conservative base.

For what its worth, I think that some of the controversy over Barbour has to do with Americans' complicated relationship with our own racial history. The fact that Barbour seems to have been a bystander in the nation's racial struggle makes him more average than evil. Most Americans were not civil rights activists or active supporters of white supremacy, most Americans, white and black, were bystanders like Haley Barbour. Knowing that makes us want to judge him more harshly than he really deserves, perhaps as a way of convincing ourselves that we would have acted differently.

Still, I think there are some real limits to this kind of strategy. Whatever lip service Republicans pay to the necessities of "political correctness," the party is acutely aware of how it is perceived and deeply sensitive to accusations of racism, which is part of why conservative black Republicans can find an easy route to temporary stardom through reassuring white Republicans that liberals are "the real racists."

The party's hard shift right over the last few years non-withstanding, the base is more practical when it comes to politics than they're often portrayed, which is why Sarah Palin's star is already starting to dim in the key presidential primary states. Simply angering liberals only gets you so far. What that means though, is that Barbour's ability to stir up the party's racial resentments is limited because they're ultimately going to be concerned about nominating someone who can be portrayed as a caricature of the typical Republican.

By Adam Serwer  | February 28, 2011; 11:51 AM ET
Categories:  2012, race  
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Next: Wisconsin GOPers angered by Republican official's efforts to reach compromise with labor, Dems


With KKK sympathizers, splendidly, yes.

Posted by: ronnieandrush | February 28, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

RUK, in some circles of thought there are classifications of mitzvot [pl].

Anonymous giving when it was needed is at the top.

The donor who gave $100M to MIT for cancer research did a mitzvah, but it would have been qualitatively somehow better if he remained unknown. As a practical matter, all mitzvot are "good".

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 28, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

RUK, in TX Valero [a TX indy refiner] is selling $.15 cheaper than the internationals. As you and 12BB and others have noted, the fear factor in the futures market has overtaken the daily logic of supply and demand. The reality of lower demand wil have the effect of making prices come back down to reality, because there is no supply shortage.
It may take a week, or a month. I do not think the spike will last beyond March.

Just thought I would try to cheer you up.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 28, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

@mark in austin

Thanks for the "cheer"! I needed that! I'm thinking along your lines as well. Soon somebody..probably an insider will kill Qaddaffi and hopefully the "fear" about oil supply will diminish.

Also Mark thanks for your take on mitzvahs'
"Don't Remember" posted a wonderful response on the last thread that included a hierarchical list for mitzvahs. It answered my fundamental question which is whether a mitzvah is the same depending on motivation. Apparently somebody answered my question a couple thousand years ago.:-)

@Adam What an even handed post. My compliments. It would be easy to jump on Foghorn Leghorn as an unabashed racist but you wisely and correctly IMO showed restraint and pointed out Foghorn is no worse than many of the rest of us in the area of racial relations.

@All While this thread is about "racial" perceptions I wonder if I'm the only one who thinks Foghorn has to battle another "prejudice". Being fat is one of the last frontiers of prejudice. Cris Christie also suffers from this and Mike Huckabee was smart enough to lose a lot of weight..whether it be motivated by health or political aspirations.

I think a fat person has another hurdle to jump on the way to elective office. Not insurmountable, and perhaps unfair (I'll leave that for you all to decide) but never the less real.
Feel free to disagree and take me to task.

Posted by: rukidding7 | February 28, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

And since we're talking about prejudice here...let's add another log to the fire...the prejudice against "Southern Accents". It's been measured and is quantifiable in the business world...I suspect it would be tough for a national candidate to sound like Foghorn Leghorn...again perhaps unfair..but IMO real.

Posted by: rukidding7 | February 28, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

This is from 2008, when oil peaked around $150 bbl:

The CFTC, which learned about the nature of Vitol's activities (Vitol was holding 11% of the contracts) only after making an unusual request for data from the firm, now reports that financial firms speculating for their clients or for themselves account for about 81 percent of the oil contracts on NYMEX, a far bigger share than had previously been stated by the agency. That figure may rise in coming weeks as the CFTC checks the status of other big traders.

Some lawmakers have blamed these firms for the volatility of oil prices, including the tremendous run-up that peaked earlier in the summer.

CFTC documents show Vitol was one of the most active traders of oil on NYMEX as prices reached record levels. By June 6, for instance, Vitol had acquired a huge holding in oil contracts, betting prices would rise. The contracts were equal to 57.7 million barrels of oil -- about three times the amount the United States consumes daily. That day, the price of oil spiked $11 to settle at $138.54. Oil prices eventually peaked at $147.27 a barrel on July 11 before falling back to settle at $114.98 yesterday.
As far as I know, nothing has been done since to diminish the participation of speculators in the market.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | February 28, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

[Adam chirped: "Most Americans were not civil rights activists or active supporters of white supremacy."]

You betcha’! Just ask supporters of former KKK Grand Kleagle (recruiter) Senator Robert "Sheetz" Byrd (D-KKK) who famously bloviated, “There are white n!ggers. I’ve seen a lot of white n!ggers in my time. I’m going to use that word.”

Progressive Leftists referred to the Senate’s senior Democrat as the “conscience of the Senate.” They downplay his Grand Kleagle’s white-sheet-wearing days as a “brief mistake” — as if joining the Klan were like knocking over a glass of water. Oopsy!

Own it, Leftists.

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | February 28, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

[Adam dogwhistled: "reassuring white Republicans that liberals are "the real racists."]

Recall, it was SEIU union-goons (inspired by Obama's calls to "punch back twice as hard") who actually assaulted black tax protester, Ken Gladney, while screaming (neo-Confederate!) racial epithets.

The only thing "cosmetically" cleaned up was the media coverage of that hate crime.

Meanwhile, voters are still waiting for Eric Holder appear before House oversight hearings and subpoenas involving the New Black Panther case.

It’s not like there’s video of them stalking the polling place with batons or anything... oh no, wait...

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | February 28, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I think I have as much of a chance to be President as Gov. Barbour.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | February 28, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

I think it is mostly sad that there are posters here that continue to celebrate their ignorance as promoted by Fox.

Posted by: pragmaticagain | February 28, 2011 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Prejudice against southern accents???

Our last two Presidents had southern accents (albeit a fake one in GWB's case).

Posted by: Virginia7 | February 28, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

"Our last two Presidents had southern accents (albeit a fake one in GWB's case). "

Yeah, but combine it with Barbour's tendency to say stupid things in regards to race and the fact that he looks like Boss Hogg and there's little to no chance in hades he gets elected nationally.

Posted by: schrodingerscat | February 28, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

RUK, south Asian Muslims in Austin do hierarchical alms, the way "Don't Remember" describes classes of giving. The community will find interest free loans for promising college students in the community and the stipulation for the student is not that he pay it back, but that he remember to pay it forward. My most successful Muslim clients put up money for students every year, not family members, just community members, who agree that they will do the same in the future.

I do not think this hierarchy is unique, btw - my guess is that other religions hold to similar views.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 28, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

"Own it, Leftists.

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | February 28, 2011 12:37 PM"

Sir, can you tell me how anyone can be responsible for the opinions or actions of another person?

Posted by: wiccan | February 28, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse

All, pretty amazing piece of news out of Wisconsin:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | February 28, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse

[ruk drooled: "Being fat is one of the last frontiers of prejudice."]

Unions are Fat Friendly

*on the job*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | February 28, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for that insight into religious giving or charity. Muslims? You mean they're not all satan? You mean you actually have Muslim clients. Are you a terrorist Mark? Are you going to be part of the coming Caliphate?

Just a little fun snark there. It's always good to hear from somebody who actually has interacted with Muslims beyond reading some inflammatory post on a blog.

Posted by: rukidding7 | February 28, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

[wiccan drooled: "can you tell me how anyone can be responsible for the opinions or actions of another person?"]

Of course not. Being progressive means never taking responsibility for the actions of your union thug co-conspirators.

It's only Taxed Enough Already ralliers who are subject to WaPo demonization campaigns, ad nauseum.

Here's a duly elected representative of the Democrat Party in Wisconsin shrieking at a female Republican colleague, "“You are f***king dead!"

He represents your party. Own him, Leftists.

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | February 28, 2011 2:24 PM | Report abuse


The last two Presidents hardly have Southern least in the classical sense.
G.W. simply mangled the English's hard to really decipher his accent...perhaps Mark can confirm it is Texan...kind of like Sister Sarah...I can't really I.D. her accent.

As someone born literally on the Mason Dixon line I was fortunate enough to have what is referred to as a Midwestern accent, or as perceived as no accent. Since I went into Broadcasting this was beyond a simple convenience.

As someone who has spent his entire adult life in the heart of Dixie..S.C...TN..and now FL..the only President I can think of with a "genuine" southern accent was Jimmy Carter. Again I have seen studies that show the difficulties people with southern accents face in the real world..even beyond the obvious such as stage, screen, and broadcasting. Southern accents are frequently conflated with ignorance.

@S.C. Boss Hogg? That's even better than my cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn!

I see nobody decided to weigh in on the issue of obesity and it's perception either fair or unfair.

Posted by: rukidding7 | February 28, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

In 1994, GWB's drawl was less pronounced and his diction more clear. He was raised in Midland, so the drawl is natural, but not "southern". However, after he and KBH were nearly frozen out of the state R convention for not being Christian conservatives, he determined that he would never be out "countrified" again.

By 1999, GWB's diction had so slipped that some seriously suspected a neurological incident. I am sure there was not one - just the desire to sound down home.

Full disclosure - I voted for GWB for Gov. in 1998, but I did not think he was "up" for the presidency in 2000. I supported McC, and then voted for Gore.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 28, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse


As always an interesting post. It's a shame what politicians have to do these days in both parties to remain electable. I'm over flag pins on lapels and bible thumping..and now accents?

I believe actions speak louder than words and symbols...just me I guess since a large plurality of our nation apparently feels otherwise.

Posted by: rukidding7 | February 28, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Black people have never had the option of being bystanders in matters of race.

Posted by: query0 | February 28, 2011 11:05 PM | Report abuse

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