Last month, John Raterink, the leader of the Michigan chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (a white supremacist group), discussed the role that he believes the Council of Conservative Citizens played in the passage of the anti-affirmative action Proposal 2 (or the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative) on a racist radio program broadcast out of Memphis on AM radio and the internet. While Media Mouse reported last week that the racist right in Michigan has been emboldened by the passage of Proposal 2, Raterink’s comments are worth considering for what they say about the Council of Conservative Citizens’ political strategy, the strategy of the racist right in Michigan, and the entities that supported Proposal 2.
John Raterink discussed the passage of Proposal 2 on a radio program called The Political Cesspool, a show that is heavily promoted by the national Council of Conservative Citizens and Stormfront (one of the largest online white supremacist websites). The Political Cesspool, which broadcasts seven nights per week on WLRM 1380 AM out of Memphis, Tennessee, regularly features representatives of a variety of groups from the racist right. Among those who have appeared on the show include Canadian fascist Paul Fromm, Jared Taylor of the American Renaissance, numerous members of the Council of Conservative Citizens, Chris Simcox and Jim Gilchrist of the Minuteman Project, Dr. Michael Hill of the League of the South, and prominent anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald. The show has also featured former presidential candidate and prominent conservative Pat Buchanan, who has himself become an increasingly strong advocate of racism and white nationalism. The Political Cesspool’s mission promotes the concept of “America first,” English as the official language, and “cultural and national integrity” – a statement that is very much akin to the “European heritage” code words that the more discrete segments of the racist right use to describe their politics. Indeed, on the day that Raterink appeared on the show, its hosts were decrying “illegal” immigrants who “want to commit genocide against American culture” while also heavily promoting an upcoming two-part interview with the racist teenage musical duo, Prussian Blue.
In the interview with John Raterink, the hosts played up the role that the Michigan Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC) played in the passage of Proposal 2 and described it as a “big victory” for their version of the conservative movement. Raterink explained that the Michigan CofCC began organizing early on and was initially excited that the Initiative was coming to Michigan, as his group “saw it as an opportunity to make things better for our children.” He went on to say that they were not sure how it would fair at the polls, especially in light of the opposition of One United Michigan and the group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), whom Raterink claimed is a domestic terrorist organization according to the FBI. He also explained that almost everyone–politicians, churches, and businesses were against the initiative so it put the Council of Conservative Citizens in a unique position to be the main public advocate of it. Of course, Raterink neglected to mention the fact that the other organized entity supporting Proposal 2 was the Ku Klux Klan, another prominent racist group in Michigan. In response to a query about where the ban was at, Raterink told the hosts that it was still being litigated but that he had confidence that it would not be struck down as it has the support of Republican Attorney General Mike Cox, who was one of the only politicians to support the measure. Raterink said that while the left used intimidation to scare people and cited unsubstantiated incidents such as the alleged ransacking of the capital “by communists,” a knife being pulled or implied on Jennifer Gratz of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative Jennifer Gratz, and the ransacking of the Board of Canvassers, the left ultimately assisted the organization by driving supporters to the CofCC. Raterink, who at one point described the Civil War as “the war of northern aggression,” said that the Council became “somewhat of a household name” during the struggle and that they successfully used letters to the editors as a means of building support for the Proposal 2. Of course, this was not quantified in any meaningful way.
Much was also made of an editorial written by John Raterink that appeared in the Kalamazoo Gazette on December 6, 2006, an editorial that originally appeared on the Michigan Council of Conservative Citizens’ website and later in the Citizen Informer, the newspaper of the Council of Conservative Citizens. Raterink explained to his radio audience that the purpose of the article was to present an analysis of “why the Republicans got their tale whipped.” In the editorial, Raterink praises his group’s work and articulates a theory that the Republican Party’s loss in November was a failure to listen to the values of “Middle America,” which Raterink sees as being a grassroots sort of conservative populism opposed to the “neocon agenda.” Raterink’s editorial argued that those conservatives have been sold out by the Republican Party and that the passage of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative shows what they can accomplish if they organize outside of the Republican Party. Raterink expanded on these comments on the Political Cesspool, asserting that there is not a clear line between Democrats and Republicans and that the Republican support of outsourcing and global empire has hit workers in Michigan particularly hard. He asserted that Dick DeVos, the former CEO of Amway (Alticor), could not relate to “Joe Six Pack, blue collar” and that the Republican Party is no longer speaking to them.
In a sense, Raterink provided a fairly astute analysis of the potential for racist movements to achieve successes in the United States. The majority of those living in the United States have been left behind by the Democratic and Republican parties. Indeed, many theorists have argued that the racist and fascist right has an advantage in the current political climate, as those groups articulate a clear vision of what they want, and while rarely accurate, assign blame to specific entities. By contrast, the left in the United States has no clear vision, and more troubling, makes no serious appeal to those displaced by the current system. The racist right, including groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, have been successful in taking issues such as immigration and affirmative action, over which there is widespread confusion, and using them as a tool for building a grassroots infrastructure to support organized racism. Groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens have been particularly adept at this strategy, as they eschew the more overtly racist practices such as wearing Klan costumes or Nazi uniforms, and instead articulate a more subtle form of racism that talks about “heritage” and “identity.” Of course, at their core, these groups are quite racist and must be confronted and exposed by the left. While their current influence is always debatable, left unchallenged these groups will grow.