Friday, February 04, 2011

St. Reagan and white racism

Paul Krugman reviewed the record succinctly a few years ago in Republicans and Race New York Times 11/19/2007.

St. Reagan pursued the Southern Strategy of Richard Nixon eagerly, which included using race-baiting. The episode mentioned most often is his speech in Mississippi expressing his support for "state rights", which in the Deep South's political jargon meant support for segregationist ideas and attitudes. He also reminds us of this:

There are many other examples of Reagan's tacit race-baiting in the historical record. ... During the 1976 campaign Reagan often talked about how upset workers must be to see an able-bodied man using food stamps at the grocery store. In the South — but not in the North — the food-stamp user became a "strapping young buck" buying T-bone steaks.
In a more recent assessment, The divisive underbelly of Reagan's sunny optimism Salon 02/03/2011, historian Matthew Dallek describes how St. Reagan used race and other culture-war issues to polarize voters in his favor:

Throughout his three decades in political life, he repeatedly seized on people's hopes, but also found their anger and played on their fears. In Reagan's lexicon, optimism competed with anger.

For instance, while he spoke of unleashing Californians' individual initiative during his first 1966 gubernatorial campaign, he also tapped voters' fears that the social order was beginning to crumble and that liberals and their allies had caused the crumbling. He campaigned by charging that "a small minority of beatniks, radicals and filthy speech advocates" had "brought shame" to the University of California at Berkeley, an elite, publicly funded school in the state's higher education system. Describing California's city streets as "jungle paths after dark" and college campuses as hotbeds of sexual licentiousness and immoral behavior, Reagan rode to power by depicting California as an overly liberal, permissive society. He vowed to crack down as one of his first priorities in the governor's mansion. Appropriately, he had a sign in his capitol office that said: "Obey the rules, or get out."

Nor was Reagan above using the hot-button social issue of race to further his political agenda by tacking rightward. At one news conference during his campaign for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination, Reagan refused to criticize Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who had become a leading symbol of segregation and white Southern resistance to the civil rights revolution of the mid-1960s.

As president, Reagan mocked "welfare queens," implying that African-American women on public assistance habitually cheated taxpayers out of their hard-earned money. President Reagan also defended segregation academies such as Bob Jones University (where interracial dating wasn't allowed)... [my emphasis]

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