How I Went From Casablanca To Hoosiers On The Republican Party

By Mark Esposito

A fascinating trope making the rounds on the right-wing blogs this week (here‘s one from the Mothership) concerns Michigan Communications Professor Susan Douglas and her provocative article originally entitled I Hate Republicans. In it, Douglas lays out her indictment of the monolithic bandwagon of the Right and its clarion calls for a return to the good ol’ days when the “White Man’s Burden” was in full-flower and political power was the exclusive right of the rich and the Caucasian:

A brief review of Republican rhetoric and strategies since the 1980s shows an escalation of determined vilification (which has been amplified relentlessly on Fox News since 1996). From Spiro Agnew’s attack on intellectuals as an “effete corps of impudent snobs”; to Rush Limbaugh’s hate speech; to the GOP’s endless campaign
to smear the Clintons over Whitewater, then bludgeon Bill over Monica Lewinsky; to the ceaseless denigration of President Obama (“socialist,” “Muslim”), the Republicans have crafted a political identity that rests on a complete repudiation of the idea that the opposing party and its followers have any legitimacy at all.

Susan Douglas

Susan Douglas

Douglas objected to the title which bore the exact verbiage as the story’s kicker and likely because of this line from the editor’s note preceding the story:  We have also removed from the “Comments” section all threats to the author’s life and personal safety. Now unless you believe those death threats came from overjoyed Democrats hell-bent on crucifying Douglas in an misplaced attempt to deify her, you’ve got to admit of another fine reason to accept the author’s original premise.

It got me thinking about my own attitudes towards our brothers (and that’s the vast majority of them) on the Right and how my thoughts have grown. Growing up fairly conservative like most evolving beings fearful of the world, I  had the gift of a mother, father and surrounding family who refused to let me rely on ideological crutches to evaluate both people and ideas. Mom never let me be a respecter of persons reminding me that “everybody has feet of clay.” Dad was no liberal but he understood that fiscal self-interest masquerades behind all kinds of political banners especially the ones flown over the heads of businesses. My uncle, a bona-fide Korean War combat hero, was the most liberal of my kitchen cabinet. “You never know people until things get tight,” he’d say with the assurance of a man who went up a hill near Seoul with eight comrades and came back down with two — one of whom he carried.

Republicans were the “other” in the early 70s rural Virginia where I grew up. The Old Dominion was decidedly “Solid South” Democratic in those days. Conservative, segregationist but willing to eschew ideology if it meant keeping the machinery of Virginia running smoothly, the blue Old Guard ran things. And as they used to croon to themselves the did so “pretty damn well.”  Republicans were on the far periphery of power then and seemingly composed of whiners and “law and order” types to whom most folks paid little attention.

They had all the cache’ of Peter Lorre’s pathetic, trollish character, Ugarte,in the wartime cinema classic, Casablanca.  Lorre’ played the  sniveling black marketeer ready to gouge advantage from any poor refugee he could to Bogie’s noble, anti-hero, Rick, who just happens to be the most trusted man in all of North Africa. Ugarte corners Rick in his nightclub and asks the question we all wonder looking at this odd couple: “You hate me, don’t you Rick?” Came the lightning fast yet nonchalant reply, ” Well, if I gave you any thought, I probably would.”

As I grew and the Republicans gradually drove a wedge between poor blacks and poor whites using the infamous “Southern Strategy” the power see-saw began to tip purely on the counter-weight of race. As consummate politician Lyndon Johnson told an trusted aide after signing the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, “We have lost the South for a generation.” And so he had, as children of privileged white men came into adulthood resenting what many of them viewed as a national government favoring African-Americans to the detriment of their birthrights to Southern power and wealth.

Republican strides took over ancient institutions that were at once both liberal and humanitarian. Southern churches, once  the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, became enclaves of conservative ideology and what the French call Ressentiment. That philosophy of basking in the frustration of being “put upon” by others fit quite nicely in the “Lost Cause” Movement that had been ingrained in Southern Whites since the crumbling of the rebellion known south of the Mason-Dixon as the “War of Northern Aggression.” Hostility coupled with frustration born of denial of birthright is heady stuff in a largely patriarchal society convinced of its own nobility.

The Ressentment led to a revulsion of all things called rightly or wrongly national government, which translated roughly to those northerners in Washington DC who ruined our orderly and perfectly workable way of life. Beaten back by a series of Warren Court decisions hoping to blunt attitudes that belonged in a century before, Southern Republicans benefited from that omnipotent god of politics –demographics. The rise of populations in Southern cities from reverse immigration  in places like Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia and Texas gave the Republicans and their natural constituency, the monied interests, a huge influx of both cash and electoral leverage.

Interestingly, it was Southern Democrat Jimmy Carter who first benefited from the political sea change but his widely perceived failed Presidency wrought of weakness and incompetency served only to strengthen Republican chances in the wake of the disastrous Nixon Administration. Seen as crooked but capable, the Republicans trumped the idealistic but incompetent Democratic pretenders to real power. And  that perception has real staying power even today as the nation looks to even more complex challenges that induce the same fear that pushed me into a conservative mindset years ago.

That fear has had a price indeed. Government shutdowns, near misses with scary nincompoops like a Dan Quayle and  Sarah Palin, and a polarization of society can rightly be laid at the feet of those Southern conservatives. That seems to the be at least part of Douglas’ ill-received message. Douglas’ is not a call to action merely permission to call the play the way she sees it. That’s where the good Professor and I differ.

I have grave concerns about a return to the America of the 50s as William F. Buckley once characterized the agenda of some of his conservative brethren. Specifically, rolling back the clock simply fails to take into account the changes America has seen since the days of the Bunny Hop.  Demographics, once the ally of the Right, is now taking another partner as growth in the Latino and Asian sector is bringing an entirely different agenda for economic opportunity that is dead set against the status quo wealth distribution.

Simply put, this return to Republican “normalcy” is dangerous and precisely for this reason articulated in a famous scene from the movie Hoosiers.  New men’s basketball coach Norman Dale, played by the incomparable Gene Hackman, is taking the reins of power from an interim coach (played by veteran character actor Chelsie Ross) who is  steeped in  the team’s tradition. The dynamic is tense as Ross sets forth the two kinds of dumb:

So it seems my attitudes have come 180 degrees on the opposition — from overconfident neglect to direct opposition. The Republican agenda is antithetical to most things I believe foster a tolerant, inclusive society and comprise, as Chelsis Ross calls it,  “the second kind of dumb.” And being the “Stupid Party” as Bobby Jindal famously remarked surely takes nothing away from my position. That’s why I try and highlight the excesses of the ideology in the hopes we can avoid its inevitable consequences. As Professor Douglas points up for us:

[T]he two core dimensions of conservative thought are resistance to change and support for inequality. These, in turn, are core elements of social intolerance. The need for certainty, the need to manage fear of social change, lead to black-and-white thinking and an embrace of stereotypes. Which could certainly lead to a desire to deride those not like you—whether people of color, LGBT people or Democrats. And, especially since the early 1990s, Republican politicians and pundits have been feeding these needs with a single-minded, uncomplicated, good-vs.-evil worldview that vilifies Democrats.

I don’ hate the Republicans. I pity them and their fear-based ideology that always leads to a fractured and failed society.

Source: In These Times

~Mark Esposito

About mespo727272

I 'm a plaintiff's personal injury attorney with 30 years of trial experience practicing with my law school classmate in Richmond, Virginia. You can read all about me here:
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20 Responses to How I Went From Casablanca To Hoosiers On The Republican Party

  1. Inga says:

    I hate Ugarte and I loathe the Republican party platform. It’s just antithetical to everything I believe in and hold dear. So I guess I may not hate Republcans as people, because no one is all bad, but the conservative, authoritarian, tea baggerish, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, jerks that inhabit the party and the ideology are not my favorite people. Good for Professor Douglas, it needed to be said.

  2. rafflaw says:

    I like to define it as blind arrogance. As you correctly state, the demographics are against them. Why else would they push for the multiple cases of voter ID laws and the “cleansing” of the voter rolls?

  3. mespo727272 says:

    No one so keenly understands the speed of the oncoming train than the one tethered to the tracks. And none struggle so purposefully against it.


  4. pete says:


    Because they yearn for the 1950’s. They’d be for poll taxes except for that “t” word.

  5. blouise says:

    ” … crooked but capable …”

    9/11 and Katrina under the reign of Bush Jr. altered forever the image and perspicacity of capable. Crooked remained intact.

    Thus “crooked and clumsy” is the more modern-day fit.

  6. Mike Spindell says:

    As someone who heard William F. Buckley at the beginning of his career it was indeed the longing for the good old days that moved him. Of course to him the good old days were the patrician ways of his class and as Mespo so eloquently points out in the South it was a return to the White Man’s rightful place in society, with their heel on the neck of Black people.

  7. mespo727272 says:


    “They’d” ? 😀

  8. “I don’t hate the Republicans. I pity them and their fear-based ideology that always leads to a fractured and failed society.”

    Yep. To me, the traditional Eisenhower conservative has it even worse. To them it must seem as if a large percentage of their (sometimes former) party of choice has gone stark raving mad.

    But neocons and neolibs? Different story. They’re fascists wearing red or blue instead of brown or black. I make no apology about hating fascists. They are a third kind of dumb. They come into your house naked, steal your booze, eat your mate and sell your children and pets into scientific experimentation.

  9. pete says:


    You’d have to understand, it’s a southern thang.
    besides with my spelling, if a red line doesn’t appear under it then it’s good to go.

  10. Whammy.knows says:

    I chat (often) with the son of Scott Armstrong (g0dson of Bob Woodward) and Jimmy Carter,s no.1 and I tried to become partners

    Sometimes, dumb luck is the thing and naivete is too. But, always the more capable, are mostly the more twisted.

  11. Harvey says:

    Long run – I’m not counting on demographics to save Democrats. I think there are going to be a lot of conservatives among the new Americans.

  12. pete says:

    Only if they can make gay marriage or abortion wedge issues. They lose them when repubs start waving guns around and calling them names.

  13. buckaroo says:

    It is perfectly obvious that Democrats hate white men. They only mention white men to portray them as oppressors and villains. And Democrats hold a special hatred for the white men who make a living in the oil, gas, coal and pipeline industries. Democrats want to destroy the livelihoods of millions of white men who work in those industries. It is no coincidence that Democrats have lost the energy states of Texas, Alaska, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Louisiana, etc. as they pursue their anti-white man agenda.

    They decided to pursue policies that appeal to mega-billionaire environmental zealots rather than white working class men. The problem is that Tom Steyer may be able to write Democrats huge mutli-million dollar checks, but he only gets one vote. Unfortunately for Democrats, all those working class white men they hate so much who work in oil, gas, coal and pipeline industries all get a vote, too.
    — Groty 12/10/14

  14. “It is no coincidence that Democrats have lost the energy states of Texas, Alaska, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Louisiana, etc. as they pursue their anti-white man agenda.” buckaroo Some of these republican states maybe going into recession due to overproduction plus lack of demand for oil while the rest of the country profits from lower energy prices. The democrats don’t need them to win a national election. They are solid red states and I would expect them to remain so.

  15. eniobob says:

    Something a little different:

    “U.S. Department of Justice
    950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20530-0001

    Dear Attorney General Ashcroft,

    I am currently a Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where I am working on a book about abstinence programs in our public schools entitled Savin’ It!

    In this day of rampant immorality, unwanted pregnancies, and dangerous sexual diseases, Savin’ It! will document how the Bush Administration is championing abstinence programs and setting the right example for America’s youth.

    The book’s fourth chapter, “Role Modelin’ It!”, will feature the personal stories of abstinence heroes for our nation’s young people to emulate. Isn’t it about time for our young people to have a chance to look up to leaders who truly walked the walk — instead of just talking the talk — by not having sex until they were married?

    I would very much appreciate it if you could share your abstinence story. So far, I have received wonderful testimonies from HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, William J. Bennett, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, Senator Rick Santorum, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. (I’m still hoping to hear back from the President!)

    I have found the kids respond best to total honesty. Don’t be afraid to share a moment when you were tempted to have sex, but were able to overcome your urges through willpower and strength of character. Be funny! Did a young woman ever think you were homosexual just because you wouldn’t have sex with her? Be serious! Were you ever taunted and made to feel bad or “uncool” because of your choice? But most of all, be real. Kids can sense a phony a mile away.

    I can tell by your passionate advocacy of abstinence education that you will have a lot to offer this book. Thank you for considering my project. I hope you can find time to inspire the next generation of sex-free leaders.



    Al Franken
    Fellow, Shorenstein Center for Press and Politics
    Kennedy School of Government
    Harvard University”

  16. buckaroo says:

    Swarthmoremom says:
    “It is no coincidence that Democrats have lost the energy states of Texas, Alaska, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Louisiana, etc. as they pursue their anti-white man agenda.” buckaroo Some of these republican states maybe going into recession due to overproduction plus lack of demand for oil while the rest of the country profits from lower energy prices.
    maybe ( You say) ????

  17. Congress may override city/ state bans on fracking.

    And that,s just wacking

    Like the helicopter exercise over Dallas

  18. eniobob says:

    ” the Republicans have crafted a political identity that rests on a complete repudiation of the idea that the opposing party and its followers have any legitimacy at all.”
    And they also don’t have to abide by silly rules that we the American citizens have to, say being able to get a job with a felony conviction on your resume.

    “WASHINGTON — Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) may be about to plead guilty to a felony, but there’s nothing Congress can do to stop him from taking his seat in the House early next month.

    “The only time there would be a clash between his ability to serve and his conviction, if he gets one, would be if he has to leave and enter a federal facility,” said Stan Brand, a former top lawyer for the House. “If he’s not sentenced to incarceration, that issue never comes up.”

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