Mary Grabar

Where to begin with the screed in The New Republic, “Original Sin: Why the GOP is and will continue to be the party of white people,” mislabeled “an historical investigation”?

In his claim that racism is the original and irredeemable sin of Republicans, Tanenhaus sets up the contrast to “the civil rights pageantry of the [Obama second] inauguration—Abraham Lincoln’s Bible and Martin Luther King’s, Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s swearing in of Joe Biden, Beyoncé’s slinky glamor [sic], the verses read by the gay Cuban poet Richard Blanco.”

In his enthusiasm, Tanenhaus missed the irony of using the word “pageantry,” which the dictionary defines as “mere show” or “an ostentatious display,” even as he indicts the GOP for its “history of long-standing indifference, at times outright hostility, to the nation’s diverse constituencies—blacks, women, Latinos, Asians, gays.”

Perhaps it was the lilting lines of Blanco’s inaugural poem, “All of us as vital as the one light we move through / the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day: equations to solve. . . .” that to Tanenaus conveyed “an assertion of Democratic solidarity.”

Like many other white liberals, he lectures the blacks, women, Latinos, Asians, and gays who vote Republican by presumably giving them a history lesson on John C. Calhoun, vice president under Andrew Jackson.

To Calhoun’s ideas of nullification (code for the right to own slaves) Tanenhaus links today’s “resisters—most glaringly Tea Partiers.” Today’s “most recent immigrants,” according to Tanenhaus, sense the “’hidden hand’ of Calhoun’s style of dissent, the extended lineage of rearguard politics, with its aggrieved call, heard so often today, ‘to take back America.’” This is all part of the lingering infatuation with the ‘lost cause.” Even “a new cast of GOP leaders—Ted Cruz, Nikki Haley, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio” have become “tethered to movement ideology.” Cruz, especially because he urged a “partial government shutdown” at the recent National Review Institute conference, cannot understand how his participation harkens back to the segregationist policies of Calhoun, George Wallace, and Barry Goldwater, who resisted the inevitable ushering in of the “egalitarian” one-party system of big government and majority rule.

Mary Grabar

Mary Grabar earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Georgia and teaches in Atlanta. She is organizing the Resistance to the Re-Education of America at Her writing can be found at