For some years, the Republican party has tried to convince Americans that they have put their ugly legacy on issues of race behind them, that Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and Willie Horton have no relationship to the GOP of today. They call themselves the "party of Lincoln," hoping people will forget that the Republican and Democratic parties were very different in 1864 than they are today. (Consider: If the likes of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and the rest of the leading lights of the GOP had been alive 150 years ago, which side would they have been on? The answer seems pretty obvious.) Sometimes, they may even go as far as the National Review did recently, publishing an unintentionally hilarious cover article claiming that Republicans are the real civil rights heroes, because the Democratic party was once home to white Southern segregationists, so there! Never mind that those folks, like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, eventually found their rightful home in the Republican party, as part of the realignment process that gave us the parties of today.
The protestations would be a little more convincing if every election–every election, without fail–didn't see Republicans searching for new ways to exploit white racial animus and, more importantly, keep minorities from voting. This year's election will be no different; Republicans are working harder than ever to make sure that if you're not their kind of person, you will find voting as difficult as possible. That doesn't mean that deep in their hearts Republicans are racists. It isn't about hate. It's about power.