Haley Barbour and The GOP’s Old South Problem

Well, at least Mississippi Governor and potential 2012 presidential candidate Haley Barbour is comfortable enough in his racism to speak openly about it.  In a new profile in The Weekly Standard, Barbour reminisces about the good times growing up in Yazoo, City, a city that steadfastly refused to integrate its schools until 1970 and who proudly and openly resisted all forms of integration.  Barbour also praises the local branch of the Citizens Council movement, an organization founded to promote white supremacy.

Barbour admits that the rest of the country would view the Citizens Council as the KKK but where he came from it was simply an “organization of town leaders.”  But like most confederate apologists, Barbour fails (or flat out refuses) to acknowledge the history of this group of town leaders.

Founded in 1954 shortly after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the White Citizens Council movement dedicated itself to political activities that opposed civil rights.  Some of the group’s most notable activities included boycotts of pro-civil rights individuals.  The group eventually got itself barred from the annual CPAC conference because the conservative movement viewed the group as simply a bunch of racists.

In fact, the single distinguishing factor between the Klan and the Citizens Council was the fact that members of the Citizens Council publicly self-identified as members and wore suits and ties in lieu of the Klan’s white robes.

Overall the profile paints Barbour as a traditionalist in the true sense of the Old South.  Race permeates every aspect of memory re-told by Barbour’s acquaintances and constituents, and the men interviewed are proud of their segregationist past. 

There also seems to be little acknowledgement that to the rest of the country embracing the vestiges of racism is a normal, let alone commendable feat.  This of course poses an interesting challenge for the Republicans as Barbour’s dominance in the party reinforces the rift between establishment Republicans and those “Jacksonian” Republicans like Barbour whose values align what can only be described as the new Confederacy.  And while the party made some electoral gains this past November, even party leaders admit that national prospects dim if Latinos and other minorities continue to flee the party because of its open embrace of racist rhetoric and policy positions like opposition to immigration reform and the DREAM Act, for example.

But what might be the most upsetting in the Barbour profile is just how little has changed in the way these confederate values are communicated to the public at large.  The piece is littered with references to “resisting the reach of the federal government” and “traditional values” uttered in the same breath as descriptions of entrenched racial divides.  Which means of course for Barbour and many of his Republican supporters, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

photo courtesy of IowaPolitics.com via Flickr


Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle6 years ago

I'm sure HIS memories were good about "the good old days." Not so much for those living there with more pigmentation. These racists continue to try to get their point across by talking about "states" rights, so as to get the pride up for people who love their state -- but it's racism, pure and simple. All for me, none for you.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal7 years ago

If we want to grow as human beings, we must acknowledge that racism still exists. It doesn't work to keep the good old white boy image alive and well in the South.

John B.
John B7 years ago

A CC and a KKK - America really does have the world cornered on the use of initials to describe hate groups.
Does Barbour have a chance at being at the head of the Republican ticket? I'd say it is a bit of long shot at present due to the fact that only the absolutely insane amongst any colored community is going to vote for the guy and I don't think there are that many insane white Americans (politicians and their pundits excluded) for the fellow to have a worthwhile shot at the White House. This is the goal of the Republicans to be back in charge. They know what is right for America because they crap red, white and blue and anyone who doesn't isn't really an American. They are Hispanic, Black, Gay or some other type of low life who are trying to undermine the country for the "real" Americans.

So far on the potential Republican ticket we have a confirmed racist and an idiot - this should make for some interesting debates.

Harbour - We should adopt slavery into the Constitution for blacks.
Palin - Are they the dark colored ones? But they look so close to being Mama Bears - can't we just shoot them from a helicopter?
Harbour - No too much strain on the white pilot.

Perhaps the next potential candidate will be a sandwich - on white bread, of course.

I hope I have not offended anyone but I get so fed up with all this racist crap. This good old boy is definitely not any smarter because he was born white; it is merely a new way to pile up crap.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L7 years ago

In Profiles of Courage there is a section about on Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, Senator from Mississippi after the Civil War, 1874. He was loved then villified and love again by the South. But what made him unique was his willingness to serve not only the South but his country. His willing to pleas for amity and justice between North and South. When in 1878 he was under bitter attack again by the South he said, " The liberty of this country and its great interests will never be secure if its public men become mere menials to do the biddings of their constituents instead of being representatives in the true sense of the word, looking to the lasting properity and future interest of the whole country." These words should be read by every politician today. He was a stateman. I mention him because he was once villified by the Yazoo City Herald.

Mr. Haley Barbour, as many Southerners, hasn't forgotten the old bitterness. They couldn't keep slaves after the Civil War but they made the African American's lives a pure hell with their hate, anger over the loss, and their segragationist ways.

It hasn't change much, especially in the deep South, you can still find black folk that move off the sidewalk and look away from you. There is still a deep fear there.

Sometimes, I think we would have been better off to let them go. The hatred in this section of our country is a problem one we can't afford to ignore.

Edward Craig
Edward Craig7 years ago

Odd that the Republican Party gets its main strength in the old Confederacy and almost none in the old Union. Makes a Yankee wonder why we fought the Civil War.

Rob and Jay B.
Jay S7 years ago

And these airhead 'pundits' have been wondering over the rapid turning of the Dixiecrat South into a Republican haven (coven?)! Ever since the Kennedys & Johnson & the Democratic Congress (oh how we miss the real, Old Democrats, not these wimpy, sell-out, neo-con Clinton New Democrats) passed laws & worked to make sure blacks got the right to vote & be treated with equality, the South has fled to the Republican Party which opposed all of those laws, as they oppose the Constitutional protections for all other minorities & women - gays, Latinos, immigrants & working people - all except the rich & the ugly, bigoted & strong in the ignorance of the South right wing fundamentalist, so-called 'Christians', & as they have always opposed every benefit/protection of the middle class & workers from Social Security to child labor laws, to workplace safety to minimum wages etc. The South has turned Republican because it is the party of division & prejudice that most represents the sinister "values" of bigotry the Old South has always honored.

The country waits for a real Democrat to rise up & claim true Democratic ideals, fight for them & not pander to the far right radicals in the GOP. How long has it been? No wonder the US is in such a steep decline.

Ralph R Sutton
Ralph R Sutton7 years ago

Bigotry and racism is alive and well, but thankfully it is NOT wide spread anymore. If there were a "hell" this guy would have about as much chance as a snowball of winning a national election.

Tom Edgar
Tom Edgar7 years ago

On another site I wrote.
U S A Number 25 in education ratings.
U S A " " 1 in Creationism
No further comment required.
I was wrong. I forgot about this lot, and those who vote for them. But the correlation between education and the lack of ability to actually think clearly is just the same.

Marie W.
Marie W7 years ago

For these kind, the South aka the KKK will rise again.

Lyn F.
Lyn F.7 years ago

uh ok just for the record (as readers scroll down)...first off..there has been a president from Mississippi, his name was Jeffereson 'Davis. He was just not the Union President and the
GOP did win the Civil War...the "fire eating" Democrats lost. Things really changed during those
Reagan years...pay attention!