This white backlash gave impetus to the elections of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, all of whom appealed to white voters with coded racially tinged language. The Republican strategy also included putting like-minded justices on the Supreme Court with an eye toward rolling back the civil rights gains of the 1960s.
To make its appeals to racism less offensive, the Right also began cloaking itself in the nation's founding mythology, dressing up renewed appeals for "states' rights" in a fabricated historical narrative that the key Framers of the Constitution -- the likes of George Washington and James Madison -- despised the idea of a strong central government when nearly the opposite was true. [See Consortiumnews.com's "The Right's Dubious Claim to Madison."]
Re-branding the Racists
What the Right actually was doing with its bogus history was enabling today's neo-Confederates to rebrand themselves, from the overt appeals to racism symbolized by the Stars and Bars by substituting the Revolutionary War banner of a coiled snake and "Don't Tread on Me" motto. Yet, despite the more popular imagery of 1776 over 1860, the philosophy remained the same.
This cosmetic transformation of the Right -- from its crude allusions to the Old Confederacy to its more palatable references to the Revolutionary War -- surfaced most clearly after the election of Barack Obama in 2008. The Right recognized that the demographic shifts that made his election possible were also dooming the future of white supremacy.
So, the Tea Party -- invoking the Right's carefully constructed founding myth -- rallied to "take our country back," aided immensely by massive funding from the Koch Brothers and other right-wing billionaires.
The Right's current message remains wrapped in the word "liberty" -- much as that word was used by some American slaveholders in the nation's early years and by the Confederates during the Civil War. But the Right's message is really all about the "liberty" of white Americans to reign over non-white Americans.
It is not even clear that many right-wing white Americans believe that blacks and other non-whites deserve citizenship, a position that many in the Tea Party appear to share with their forebears -- some of the slaveholding Founders, the "nullificationists" of the pre-Civil War South, the Confederates, and the Ku Klux Klan.
That sentiment remained at the heart of the Jim Crow laws during Southern segregation denying citizenship rights to blacks despite the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments; it can be seen in the Right's longstanding refusal to grant congressional voting rights to District of Columbia residents, many of whom are black and who face "taxation without representation"; it is reflected in the Right's obsession with the conspiracy theory about Obama being born in Kenya; and it fires up Republican opposition to immigration reform since it would permit some 11 million Hispanics to eventually gain citizenship.
It is this fear of real democracy -- with its genuine promise of one person, one vote -- that has now motivated the Supreme Court's right-wing majority to give America's neo-Confederates one more shot at reversing the nation's acceptance of racial equality at the ballot box.
If the civil rights era starting in the 1960s was a kind of Second Reconstruction -- forcing fairness and decency down the throats of resentful Southern whites -- then what Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito have done could be viewed as the start of a Second Jim Crow era.
After the Voting Rights Act was gutted on Tuesday, some officials from the Old Confederacy immediately rubbed their hands with glee, anticipating how they could minimize the number of black and brown voters in future elections and maximize the number of white Republican members of Congress.
"With today's decision," said Greg Abbott, the attorney general of Texas, "the state's voter ID law will take effect immediately. Redistricting maps passed by the Legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government."