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Ronald Reagan and "States' Rights":

It has somehow become part of conventional wisdom that Ronald Reagan launched his 1980 presidential campaign with a blatant appeal to southern racism by engaging in a vigorous defense of "states' rights" in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. I've read it myself so often I was sure that it was true.

Out of curiosity, I looked up contemporary articles on Nexis, because I wondered why I don't remember this being much more controverisal at the time (I was only 13, but I followed the election daily in the NY Times). I discovered that the convential story has a kernel of truth, but is wrong in [many of] its details. I was going to blog about this in detail, but see that James Taranto and David Brooks [and Bruce Bartlett] already beat me to it, pointing out, among other things, that Reagan mentioned "states' rights" only once in the speech, in a reference to federalism in economic policy, not race [the speech is available in MP3 here; interestingly, contrary to what I've always heard was Reagan's typical "welfare queen" speech, when he discusses welfare he suggests that people on welfare don't want to be on it, want to work and join the economic mainstream, but are stifled by the bureaucracy acting in its own interest]; that Reagan almost skipped the speech entirely; and that the speech was given at a county fair near, but not in, Philadelphia; and that he gave a speech the next day to the Urban League, which hardly suggests that this was the day his campaign intended to start a race-related controversy.

A few things Taranto doesn't mention, that Nexis reveals: Reagan gave this speech on August 3, 1980, the week after the Republican convention, but at the time, no one thought of this as the "launch" of Reagan's campaign, because the Democratic convention was yet to come. This was considered the slow season before the campaign really started on Labor Day, and the speech, according to a Times story in October 1980, received little initial coverage beyond the local newspaper [sorry, misread the Times story, which was actually referring to criticism by Andrew Young. The speech itself was covered in the inside pages of the Times and Washington Post, with the Times noting the reference to "states' rights"]. Reporters at the time reported that the audience didn't perceive that Reagan was referring to race [NY Times in October: "Although Mr. Reagan did not elaborate on that occasion, he later explained that he was referring to his proposal to shift certain taxing powers and social programs such as welfare from the Federal to the state level. Most of those at the rally apparently regarded the statement as having been made in that context"--if you listen to the speech, you can see the reference was indeed in that ocontext] and Reagan expert Lou Cannon reported that Reagan didn't usually talk about "states' rights" in his stump speech, but apparently ad-libbed the phrase that one time.

As far as the media was concerned, Reagan launched his campaign on Labor Day in Detroit, while Carter campaigned in Alabama. This itself became the subject of some controversy, when Reagan accused Carter of starting his campaign in a town that was the birthplace of the Klan. (He was wrong, though the town in question was the headquarters of one Klan branch.) "Outraged" southern Democrats said that Reagan had slurred the South and wouldn't win a single southern state (they were, of course, wrong).

The states' rights speech came up a few times in the campaign, but was hardly a major issue. Carter himself absolved Reagan of any intimations that Reagan was running a racist campaign in a nationally televised news conference [Carter, Sept. 17,1980: Reagan shouldn't have mentioned the Klan or "states' rights," but he is not "a racist in any degree."]

It was, of course, incredibly foolish and insensitive for Reagan to throw out the phrase "states rights" in Mississippi during his campaign. This is consistent with my general impression of Reagan's relationship with African Americans: he wasn't intentionally hostile, but was largely indifferent to their concerns and sensitivities, and their voting patterns gave him little reason to change once he become president.

But the prevalent idea that Reagan's campaign marked a turning point in American history because he overtly appealed to southern racists by launching his campaign with a "states' rights speech" in Philadelphia, Mississppi, just isn't right. Ironically, it was Carter, not Reagan, who launched his 1980 campaign in a town deeply associated with racism (though Carter had no discernable racist intent in doing so).

UPDATE: I did a bit more Nexis digging. Reporters did state at the time that the speech was "in Philadelphia," though it was actually just the closest town to the county fair. Lou Cannon reported that some Reagan advisors wanted Reagan to skip the speech because the proximity to Philadelphia was bad symbolism, especially since Reagan was planning a big push that week and beyond to get some of the black vote. Reagan could have done his historical legacy a big favor by skipping the speech and not mentioning "states' rights." However, the media coverage at the time still indicates that Reagan's campaign strategy at the time was to secure the Northeast and Midwest, and that his campaign hoped to get enough black votes (and allay concerns among moderates and liberals about his views on race) to help him achieve that objective. The campaign was still unsure whether the South was sufficiently promising to spend a lot of resources on (Carter had virtually swept the South in 1976).

So I still hold Reagan responsible for stupid and insensitive rhetoric, and his advisors were right to tell him to skip this event, which was in fact bad symbolism, made worse by the states' rights line. But the image of Reagan deliberately launching his campaign with a vigorous defense of states' rights in a blatant appeal to southern racism at the "launch" of his campaign still isn't right. It's more like, "in the downtime between the Republican and Democratic conventions, Reagan was desperately at this time seeking to attract some black votes in the North, while some of his advisors held out hope of winning some southern states. Some of his campaign advisors were savvy enough to realize that the Mississippi speech would create problems for the first goal. Others of his advisors, and Reagan himself, were not sufficiently attuned to African American sensibilities to recognize that giving a speech to an overwhelmingly white audience in Mississippi, and ad-libbing a reference to states' rights, would seriously undermine the campaign's main objective for the week, which was to build sufficient bridges to African Americans to undermine Carter's chances in the Northeast and Midwest." "Dog whistle politics" doesn't explain a reference to "states' rights" in Mississippi with Washington Post and N.Y. Times reporters in the audience, nor would it explain why Reagan then flew to an Urban League meeting to declare in a major speech "I am committed to the protection and enforcement of the civil rights of black Americans. This commitment is interwoven into every phase of the programs I will propose." He then "made the obligatory visit to the debris-strewn South Bronx, traveled to a black publishing company in Chicago and dropped by Jackson's Operation PUSH headquarters — all in the same day."

So Reagan wound up undermining his own efforts to court the votes of African Americans and those concerned with civil rights issues, and Blacks wound up with the impression that Reagan was largely indifferent to their concerns and sensibilities, and they were probably right. But the actual chain of events is much more nuanced than what I had been led to believe by the conventional story. Indeed, instead of "Reagan deliberately spoke in racist code to pursue a southern strategy" it's more like "Reagan stupidly undermined his own campaign strategy through an ill-conceived reference to 'states rights' just before a major speech to the Urban League."

Apodaca:
You know, this attempt at exonerating Reagan and his campaign staff would be a whole lot more persuasive if the facts supported exoneration. As it is, the ever-ham-handed David Brooks himself says
The Reaganites then had an internal debate over whether to do the Urban League speech and then go to the fair, or to do the fair first. They decided to do the fair first, believing it would send the wrong message to go straight from the Urban League to Philadelphia, Miss.
There wasn't any mystery about the import of Reagan speaking in Philadelphia; his own advisors, as conceded by Brooks, knew how racially fraught such an appearance would be.
1.18.2008 9:44pm
neurodoc:
And it was Al Gore who first alluded to Willie Horton when running against Dukakis in the '88 primaries, though it was Lee Atwater who then exploited the story and all of its racial implications to the fullest on behalf of George Bush in that presidential.
1.18.2008 9:50pm
Willie?:
"Willie" Horton? Are you going to tell us that Gore also cooked up the idea of calling the man "Willie" even though he never actually used that nickname? It's a bit like calling him a "strapping young buck", wink wink, nudge nudge.
1.18.2008 9:55pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Ap, that what Brooks says, but it doesn't make sense. Why does going from Mississippi (not actually Philadelphia) to the Urban League "look better" than going from the Urban League to Mississippi?
1.18.2008 9:59pm
TerrencePhilip:
I also recall a Newsweek story from way back on far-right racist groups which noted (without source) that such groups had grown in number "in the Reagan years."
1.18.2008 10:11pm
wasn't intentionally hostile? please:
Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, describing it as "humiliating to the South." He opposed the Fair Housing Act, stating "If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, he has a right to do so." His Justice Department supported Bob Jones University in its case seeking federal funds for institutions that discriminate on the basis of race.
1.18.2008 10:20pm
Moonage Webdream (mail) (www):
I think this segment of the race of 1980 is being parsed for no real reason. Reagan's 1980 race was the first national race I got involved in to any degree at all. And,I was way into it. At 18 years old, I was as excited as any kid jumping in for the first time. I can assure you all that the speech and events being looked at here were a complete nothing at the time. There were too many other huge issues going on for people to sit around and ponder whether Reagan or Carter was the more sensitive to minority issues. Reagan was riding a wave of popularity while Carter was showing his weakness by losing several key states to Ted Kennedy. The economy was a complete wreck, we had hostages in Iran embarassing the US world wide, terrorist bombings, and, compared to today's standards, very limited access to news. As such, Reagan's speech went largely unnoticed by the general populace. The sentiment at the time was if the Democrats nominated Carter, the race was over. The week of this speech the Democrats were dominating all media leading up to their convention. Although an interesting tidbit of history today, it was a complete non-event at the time.
1.18.2008 10:21pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Apodaca-

Given that Brooks was hardly a first party to this alleged Reagan advisers debate - why credit him with some special insight? [In particular as you are quoting him without reference.]

I'm also puzzled as to what contemporary liberal Dems think was SUPPOSED to happen to the non-liberal Southern element purged from the party in the 70s. Were they supposed to shut up and stay home? Were they all supposed to die? Or were they all expected to 'come to their senses' and turn liberal? YOU kicked them out of your party - and then you blame the Repubs for welcoming them in.
1.18.2008 10:23pm
frankcross (mail):
juris, they kicked out the racists, and yes I would blame the Republicans for welcoming them in.

Since the 60s and 70s, the Dems have rejected various aspects of Southern culture and I don't think racism determines the Southern votes today, but back in the day, the Dems lost the South on racial equality. They first went to George Wallace, but Nixon wanted to be sure he captured them for the Republicans.

The Mississippi speech is a bit of unfortunate symbolism but hardly makes Reagan a racist. Just the political pandering common to all candidates
1.18.2008 10:53pm
AlanDownunder (mail):
The current of US political history is broader than dog-whistle references to "states rights". LBJ's civil rights reforms opened the door to a southern backlash and Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes have used more than one dog whistle ever since to keep the GOP foot in the door. I'd include as dog-whistling their manner of opposition to all forms of social security which allude - at whatever sonic frequency - to the fact that the majority in need of social security are undeservingly non-white. Whether the racism is to achieve a-racist conservative ends, pure amoral political opportunism, or just simply visceral is really not the point.
1.18.2008 11:10pm
MarkField (mail):
This attempted defense of Reagan is even more pathetic than the attempted trashing of Obama.

Look, I know Reagan was your hero and I'm really sorry if you have illusions of his perfection. The truth is, though, that all heroes have moments when they behaved in ways that make us less than proud. That's true whether your hero is Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Ronald Reagan, or Gandhi or MLK. They were human beings, and they were not perfect.

Reagan was an incredibly savvy politician (as were all those I named). That speech was pitch-perfect dogwhistle politics, complete with deniability. Reagan was about as innocent as Henry II.
1.18.2008 11:11pm
Libertarian1 (mail):
Reagan opposed ... the Fair Housing Act, stating "If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, he has a right to do so." His Justice Department supported Bob Jones University in its case seeking federal funds for institutions that discriminate on the basis of race.



That is what liberty is all about. Selling or renting your private house can be on any basis you want. If Bob Jones University is private they can fire Laurence Summers because of what he said, there is no freedom of speech. Does Harvard get federal funds?
1.18.2008 11:27pm
Apodaca:
As such, Reagan's speech went largely unnoticed by the general populace.
This, of course, is the essential attribute of effective dog-whistle politics.

(juris_imprudent: as far as quoting Brooks "without reference" goes, I direct your attention to the highlighted citation to Brooks in Bernstein's post. This "hyperlink," as the kids today call it, is the sole one in the post. If you "click" your "mouse" on it, lots and lots of pretty words will magically appear on your WebTV, including the ones I excerpted.)
1.18.2008 11:31pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Sometimes I think DB measures the success of his posts by the number of nuts he pisses off...

Congrats on this one, btw.
1.18.2008 11:35pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
"This attempted defense of Reagan is even more pathetic than the attempted trashing of Obama. Look, I know Reagan was your hero and I'm really sorry if you have illusions of his perfection."

That's pretty funny. No politician is my hero, though I have a certain fondness for Warren Harding and Grover Cleveland. This isn't an "attempted defense," it's a matter of historical accuracy, which you haven't disputed. You can look it up yourself, if you care enough. But what's really odd is that you'd take a post in which I said Reagan did something "foolish and insensitive" as evidence that I think he was perfect.
1.18.2008 11:39pm
Informant (mail):
I've long defended Reagan's record on the subject of race, but after watching the non-stop VC hatchet job on Ron Paul these past two weeks, all I can say now is, "Gander, meet sauce."
1.18.2008 11:44pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Ah, these youngsters, speaking of being in their teens when Reagen ran for office!

I was at one of his inaugural balls. With a lady I was dating, later my first wife, who died in '03.

Still remember the lady who'd had a few too many and blew her cookies on the ballroom floor. Those were the days...
1.18.2008 11:51pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Yes, we know you can copy Paul Krugman.

Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, describing it as "humiliating to the South." He opposed the Fair Housing Act, stating "If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, he has a right to do so."
And that's correct. That's a simple matter of individual liberty. (The landlord may be hostile to blacks, but that's a separate issue altogether. Opposing the Fair Housing Act is no more racist than the ACLU supporting the First Amendment is "racist" because some people will take advantage of free speech to say racist things.)
His Justice Department supported Bob Jones University in its case seeking federal funds for institutions that discriminate on the basis of race.
Presumably by "federal" funds, you actually mean Bob Jones' own funds, right? The issue was whether Bob Jones was entitled to the same tax exempt status as other educational institutions.
1.19.2008 12:03am
David M. Nieporent (www):
As such, Reagan's speech went largely unnoticed by the general populace.

This, of course, is the essential attribute of effective dog-whistle politics.
Or of people making stuff up. This idea that Reagan's speech was racist is something that was invented much later on.
1.19.2008 12:05am
neurodoc:
Willie?, did I not place sufficient emphasis on "it was Lee Atwater who then exploited the story and all of its racial implications to the fullest on behalf of George Bush in that presidential (contest)"? My point was only to note how the race card came to be played by the GOP candidate 20 years ago after Gore brought up the Massachusetts prison furlough program when he and Dukakis were competing for the Democratic nomination. (Should we also mention as another play of the race card the scurrilous rumors that McCain fathered a child of color which advantaged GWB in the South Carolina primary 8 years ago?)
1.19.2008 12:08am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I don't know why Gore always gets "credit" for Horton. If you look at the Boston Globe from late 87 to Spring '88 (when I lived in Boston), it was all over the paper as Dukakis was signing a bill changing the furlough program because of Horton.
1.19.2008 12:16am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Oh, I also like Sen. Charles Sumner.
1.19.2008 12:22am
SIG357:
"Since the 60s and 70s, the Dems have rejected various aspects of Southern culture .."



They have had a very odd way of showing their "rejection". The following are the names of Democratic Senators who filibustered the Civil Rights Act, and the date they left the Senate.

Senator James Eastland (D) Mississipi. 1978

Sam Ervin (D) NC 1974

Al Gore (D) TN 1971

Robert Byrd (D) WV still serving.

Fritz Hollings (D) SC 2005

J William Fulbright (D) AR 1974

Richard Russell (D) GA 1971

These men were part of the Democratic Senate majority for many years after they filibustered the Civil Rights Act. They don't seem to have been "rejected" at all.
1.19.2008 12:23am
michael (mail) (www):
It may be in implicit in Nathaniel Hawthorne's <i>Scarlet Letter</i> and maybe Ronald Reagan learned it more deeply in honoring his alcoholic father, but, at some point, it is not good for people to wear the label of disgrace. That was all, for practical purposes, that I think Mr. Reagan was about in the South and at Bittburg, not excusing sin but unmaking a permanent scapegoating.
1.19.2008 12:35am
MarkField (mail):

This isn't an "attempted defense," it's a matter of historical accuracy, which you haven't disputed.


Please, you can't possibly be this disingenuous. In the first place, "historical accuracy" is a matter of context. The whole point of mentioning states rights in Philadelphia Co., MS was to speak in code. It was precisely the context, not the GPS location, which was significant.

Let's put it this way: if a German politician today were to give a speech in Munich offering a "final solution" to Germany's unemployment problem, do you really think we'd have any difficulty understanding what he meant? Context.

In the second place, your logic is all over the place. You begin by saying "Reagan mentioned "states' rights" only once in the speech, in a reference to economic policy, not race". The clear implication of this is that the phrase did not refer to blacks. However, at the end you undercut this entirely by saying "It was, of course, incredibly foolish and insensitive for Reagan to throw out the phrase "states rights" in Mississippi during his campaign. This is consistent with my general impression of Reagan's relationship with African Americans: he wasn't intentionally hostile, but was largely indifferent to their concerns and sensitivities...." This suggests that the phrase WAS being understood as a reference to race.

These are not the only flaws, but it's late and I'm tired, and I doubt seriously you're going to change your view.
1.19.2008 1:00am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Wow, I was going to mention Bitburg, but not in that sense.

Of course, excusing sin was exactly what happened at Bitburg. Also, it revealed -- no surprise to those of us who already knew that Reagan had sat out WW2 in every sense -- that he had no idea what went on in the '40s.

At Bitburg, Reagan did not say we should give up scapegoating. He said the guilty had never been guilty.

I don't recall being specifically aware of a speech in Philadelphia, Miss., in 1980, but I sure understood that Reagan was pitching his campaign to more or less genteel racism.

The man made my skin crawl.
1.19.2008 1:08am
JohnAnnArbor:
Actually, MarkField, Jimmy Carter has spoken of a "final solution" to the Israel-Arab dispute.

So, by your logic, Jimmy advocated Jewish extermination.
1.19.2008 1:24am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
States Rights was merely another way of referring to federalism. Only the race hate mongers on the left project onto other racist intent from those words.

The left wing moonbats whether they be commenters here or writers for the drive by media have been trying to rewrite the Reagan presidency and legacy since before he left office. They are terrified of Reagan and his legacy because the greatness and success of his presidency showed more clearly than anything else just how empty are the false promises of liberalism.

I remember it was Jimmy Carter in a desperate attempt to revive his flagging campaign went about making speeches to various organizations charging that Reagan had used code words of "states rights". Playing the false race baiting accusations that the left wingers are so accustomed to doing. When the facts don't work, just go for a false character assassination by yelling racist.

This habit of left wingers to falsely call race card and race baiting on their opponents has played to its ultimate conclusion recently with the Clinton's attempting to play the race card race baiting accusation against Obama.

I doubt that the moonbats who post above get the irony of how their tired old race baiting shtick has come back to bite establishment moonbats and america hating congresspersons right on their big fat arse.

LOL,

Says the "Dog"
1.19.2008 1:26am
MarkField (mail):

Actually, MarkField, Jimmy Carter has spoken of a "final solution" to the Israel-Arab dispute.

So, by your logic, Jimmy advocated Jewish extermination.


No, my logic depends on CONTEXT. Do I need to say it louder?
1.19.2008 1:48am
David M. Nieporent (www):
No, my logic depends on CONTEXT. Do I need to say it louder
Sure. The problem is that the context of Reagan's speech was 1980, not 1960.
1.19.2008 2:57am
Waldensian (mail):

States Rights was merely another way of referring to federalism. Only the race hate mongers on the left project onto other racist intent from those words.

You must live in a different South than I do.
1.19.2008 3:12am
Kazinski:
Reagan's first public speach was at a memorial for a Japanese-American war hero. He gave the speech to play up the patriotism of Japanese Americans to try to ease the prejudice the internees were facing as they were trying to rebuild their lives.

But of course he was a democrat then, once he became a Republican then he became a racist.
1.19.2008 3:39am
Cornellian (mail):
States Rights was merely another way of referring to federalism. Only the race hate mongers on the left project onto other racist intent from those words.


Yeah, I recall all those tumultuous demonstrations throughout the South against Wickard v. Filburn.
1.19.2008 3:49am
Kazinski:
I think it is also pretty obvious that Barrak Obama wouldn't praise someone he thought was racist:

Obama told the Reno Gazette-Journal editorial board Monday that "Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it," Obama said.

"I think it's fair to say that the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10 to 15 years in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom," Obama told the newspaper.


I think the Krugmanites don't realize that History (not the historians) has made its decision on Reagan, and it is overwhelmingly positive.
1.19.2008 4:12am
~aardvark (mail):
Sure, Kaz, overwhelmingly positive. And we are still paying--literally--for Reagan's mistakes.
1.19.2008 5:36am
Public_Defender (mail):

Reagan mentioned "states' rights" only once in the speech, in a reference to federalism in economic policy, not race. . . .

The Times itself covered the speech on page A11, quoting Reagan as saying "I believe in states' rights; I believe in people doing as much as they can at the private level,", but focusing mainly on Reagan's campaign strategy, which at this time, according to the story, was focused more on winning the Northeast and Midwest, including by trying to take some of the black vote].

. . . which hardly suggests that this was the day his campaign intended to start a race-related controversy.



He did not want to "start a race-related controversy." He wanted to get the racist message to the racists without the non-racists noticing. It worked.
1.19.2008 6:19am
Skyler (mail) (www):
Wow, such revisionism. People go to great lengths to discredit and stain the legacy of Reagan.

I don't care if the accusations made here are even true, which they aren't. After Jimmy Carter's disastrous administration, almost anyone was better. The other party supported Jimmy and his policies of telling Americans to wear sweaters instead of keeping their homes warm. The democrat party was a laughing stock, the voters made that clear, and the sweater wearing losers have been whining ever since.

Reagan wasn't perfect, but he was no racist. People are talking about dogwhistles as though the plain meaning wasn't intended. Reagan didn't have a dog whistle for racism. He had common sense and told Americans not to be ashamed. That will win every time.


Fred: Maybe you can clarify something for me. Since I've been, you know, waiting for the fleet to show up, I've read a lot, and...
Ted: Really?
Fred: And one of the things that keeps popping up is about "subtext." Plays, novels, songs - they all have a "subtext," which I take to mean a hidden message or import of some kind. So subtext we know. But what do you call the message or meaning that's right there on the surface, completely open and obvious? They never talk about that. What do you call what's above the subtext?
Ted: The text.
Fred: OK, that's right, but they never talk about that.

from the movie Barcelona
1.19.2008 7:07am
tarheel:
It takes a special set of cojones to post this immediately following a series of posts on Obama and his preacher (especially since the Reagan story has been well covered since Brooks and Krugman got in a public pissing match a few months ago).

Just so I understand, Obama is to be condemned for his supposed affiliation with racists, but Reagan is just an innocent, though "foolish," victim of people's oversensitivity to a politician using the term "state's rights" just miles from one of the worst civil rights episodes in our history.

Was Reagan an overt racist? I don't think so. Did he want their votes? Yes.
1.19.2008 7:31am
Apodaca:
David Nieporent:
This idea that Reagan's speech was racist is something that was invented much later on.
I don't think Reagan was racist, or that he was attempting to excite racial hatred in the style of a George Wallace or Lester Maddox.

No, the relevant proposition is a quite different one: that in making a trip to give a speech near Philadelphia, Miss. -- a bit off the beaten path, wouldn't you agree? -- immediately after his nomination, Reagan's campaign was deliberately playing up to the culture of white Southern racial resentment.

Bernstein himself manages to support this thesis:
Reagan didn't usually talk about "states' rights" in his stump speech, but apparently ad-libbed the phrase that one time.
Yes, what an odd coincidence, that "states rights" should be dropped into a speech where it normally wouldn't be. Nothin' meaningful about that, nosirreebob -- heck, we all know that "states rights" in the context of the Southern states is just a reference to federalism in all its glory, right?

Nothing to see here at all, provided you're determined to see nothing.
1.19.2008 7:33am
Public_Defender (mail):

[Reagan] had common sense and told Americans not to be ashamed.


Yep, don't be ashamed of your racism, be proud of it. Reagan had the common sense to hit all the right chords he needed to win.

He also taught white parents not to fear . . . that their kids might have to go to school with black kids.

He was not stupid. He was good. Really good.
1.19.2008 8:44am
liberty (mail) (www):
I could never be a politician. I just know I would accidentally say something which I mean, but which has a subtext which in that context, at the right frequency makes me a bigot.
1.19.2008 9:05am
Crimso:

When the facts don't work, just go for a false character assassination by yelling racist.

Or more generally, by asserting the use of "code words."


You must live in a different South than I do.

I know I do. The racists I know around here are staunchly Democratic. Funny how the entire notion of "state's rights" has now come to mean "racism" in the minds of so many. Now no one can espouse such a view (whether they're racist or not) without being demonized. Who benefits from this?
1.19.2008 9:23am
Skyler (mail) (www):
I'm tired of people complaining about racism in the south as if that's the only place it exists. The worst, most outspoken, and bold and pervasive racists I've ever met were from Chicago and Massachussetts.
1.19.2008 9:42am
Public_Defender (mail):

Funny how the entire notion of "state's rights" has now come to mean "racism" in the minds of so many.


It's because for so long "state's rights" was the only semi-respectable way to argue to let local racist laws stand.

Those who claim that Reagan's relative lack of overt racism proves that he was not race baiting miss the point. Of course he was not expressing overt racism. The goal was to let the racists know he would leave them along without keying in the rest of the country. And he was good. Damn good.


They have had a very odd way of showing their "rejection". The following are the names of Democratic Senators who filibustered the Civil Rights Act, and the date they left the Senate.


The Democratic and Republican parities in the South are like two tents. Starting in the 60's, the people under each tent started switching to the other tent. Attracting Democratic racists to the Republican party is what Nixon dubbed "The Southern Strategy."
1.19.2008 10:35am
DavidBernstein (mail):
"especially since the Reagan story has been well covered since Brooks and Krugman got in a public pissing match a few months ago"

I never read either of them, or Bob Herbert who also I now see weighed in, so I wasn't aware of the "public pissing match."
1.19.2008 10:56am
MarkField (mail):

Funny how the entire notion of "state's rights" has now come to mean "racism" in the minds of so many.


I'll let the old Negro Leagues star, "Cool Papa" Bell respond to this:

"In the Negro Leagues the audience was mixed but mostly colored. Even down South there were some white people at the games. When we played the Birmingham Black Barons in their park, there were always lots of whites in the crowd, but they were separated by a rope. You could be sitting right next to a white man, but that rope was always there. That was the system they had in those days. That's what they called states' rights. States' rights doesn't mean much to the Negro. You don't get justice with states' rights. Which is a bad thing to happen."

The phrase "states rights" hasn't just now come to mean segregation, it has always meant that in the South. Always, as in day one of the Constitution.
1.19.2008 11:06am
Public_Defender (mail):
David Bernstein updates:


. . . some Reagan advisors wanted Reagan to skip the speech because the proximity to Philadelphia was bad symbolism. . .

But the image of Reagan deliberately launching his campaign with a vigorous defense of states' rights in a blatant appeal to southern racism at the "launch" of his campaign still isn't right.


The point is that it wasn't "blatant." It was calculated to assuage white racists while ticking off as few others as possible.

The fact that Reagan intentionally overruled his advisors makes this look even more calculated on Reagan's behalf. The state's rights reference wasn't an accident. It was a coldly calculated rhetoric.
1.19.2008 11:10am
mariner (mail):
Waldensian:
States Rights was merely another way of referring to federalism. Only the race hate mongers on the left project onto other racist intent from those words.
You must live in a different South than I do.

I think most Southerners live in a different South than you do.

David M. Nieporent:

No, my logic depends on CONTEXT. Do I need to say it louder

Sure. The problem is that the context of Reagan's speech was 1980, not 1960.


Also not 2007. In 1980 such hysterical attempts to find racism in non-racist remarks was not as prevalent as they are today.
1.19.2008 11:27am
DavidBernstein (mail):
PD, that begs the question of why Reagan would have thought it was a good idea to do this in front of major media reporters right before a major push to woo blacks.

But even if you are right, the standard story is that the speech was "about" states' rights, that it involved the major Fall launch of his campaign, and that the appeal to southern whites' racism was blatant. If the story is modified to "Reagan gave a minor speech to a largely white audience at a state fair in Mississippi, against the advice of aides who thought it was bad symbolism when he was trying to woo the black vote, during a lull in campaign season, in which he threw out a calculated but very brief reference to states' rights" that still is a significant change from the accepted story of the Reagan campaign engaging in an overt campaign to woo southern racists by launching the campaign with a blatant appeal to southern racsim in a speech defending states rights, which is what I had previously beleived to be true.
1.19.2008 11:29am
mariner (mail):
Liberty:
I could never be a politician. I just know I would accidentally say something which I mean, but which has a subtext which in that context, at the right frequency makes me a bigot.

Don't worry. Only Dan Rather knows the frequency. And CBS won't let him tell us. ;)
1.19.2008 11:35am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Public D. and MarkField got it exactly.

I would have said, until a few weeks ago, that appeals to racism a la Pitchfork Ben Tillman were never going to be seen again in national politics, although I wouldn't have said we wouldn't see appeals to racism.

Well, Ron Paul proved me wrong about that.

Neither Reagan nor Obama were the kind to stand at the cashier's counter handing out ax handles. That doesn't mean that the one didn't and the other isn't appealing to racism, though.

This year, looks like we're going to get a poisonous political mixture of religious and racial bigotry in the presidential election like we haven't seen since 1960. Ick.
1.19.2008 11:38am
Public_Defender (mail):
DB,

I guess you and I agree that the appeal wasn't blatant, but I still think it was carefully and effectively calculated to appeal to racists. As to doing it in front of the national media, racists saw the national media, too. Reagan's goal was to give red meat to the racists while not ticking off the others too much. On the rest, I think we are splitting hairs.

As to the comparison to Obama that others, not DB, have made, check out DB's threads on Obama, and you will see posts by me saying that Obama must do a better job at denouncing the bigotry of his church's leader.
1.19.2008 12:16pm
Crimso:
So if you actually believe that some rights belong to the states, you can't say it because someone who has some sort of secret decoder ring will brand you as racist. Can we go ahead and abolish states entirely now? Because no way in Hell can anyone now argue that they should exist, since that's racist.

From now on, anyone who talks about social programs is really pining for Stalin's USSR. Because of the code.
1.19.2008 12:38pm
Truth Seeker:
The worst, most outspoken, and bold and pervasive racists I've ever met were from Chicago and Massachussetts.

When I lived in Chicago, everyone was so liberal and supportive of civil rights in the south, but if blacks wanted to move into our neighborhood it would bring the property values down so that was different.
1.19.2008 12:38pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Here is my take on this:

Reagan wanted votes, even from white racists. But, he also wanted African-American votes. So, he gives a speech, and in a place, that sends one message to the first group, but hopefully doesn't obviously piss off or offend the other group, because he can deny he had any intention of speaking in racist code.

This doesn't mean Reagan was a racist, he was just a politician looking for votes.
1.19.2008 12:40pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
It was, of course, incredibly foolish and insensitive for Reagan to throw out the phrase "states rights" in Mississippi during his campaign. This is consistent with my general impression of Reagan's relationship with African Americans: he wasn't intentionally hostile, but was largely indifferent to their concerns and sensitivities, and their voting patterns gave him little reason to change once he become president.
I don't get the last bit. Weren't black people staunch Republicans until after the '64 and '65 Acts, Nixon's "Southern Strategy", etc., just as white Southern racists had been staunch Democrats? So the idea of large numbers of blacks voting Republican shouldn't have been completely foreign the way it is today. I'd think he therefore could have gotten black votes in '84 if he hadn't been "largely indifferent to their concerns": why is the fact that black people didn't vote for him in '80 because he was "indifferent to their concerns" a reason not to court their votes by not being indifferent?

Disclaimer: I wasn't even alive in 1980, so my sense of the political realities of the era may be completely distorted. I'm mostly just running off what DB says about it.
1.19.2008 12:43pm
tarheel:
Crimso,

If you have a problem with it, blame people like George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, and Orval Faubus. The fact is, they co-opted the term "states' rights" and made it synonymous with resistance to desegregation. "Federalism" is more accurate and doesn't carry the baggage.
1.19.2008 12:47pm
Crimso:

"Federalism" is more accurate and doesn't carry the baggage.

Patience. Undoubtedly, that term will be next. It only needs to be programmed into the secret decoder rings.
1.19.2008 1:20pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
It was 1980 but the moonbats above write about it and give quotes of others rooted in the 40's and 50's. Reagan was talking about federalism. He wanted to leave ALL states and ALL people, north and south, alone and try not to further interfere with their freedom and liberty. The protections for black minorities were already well in place in 1980. Affirmative action, with and without quotas, the civil rights acts, the voting rights act, and more were all firmly in place, they were enforced by Reagon's justice department, etc. The states had no right to discriminate or be racist that was firmly established in 1980 and Reagan's reference to federalism by using the words states rights did not contradict these laws nor did his policies and government after his election.

Reagan was so NOT racist and such a GREAT president that he carried 49 out of 50 states when he ran for re-election. He carried those bastions of racist supporting southern states rights boot licking knuckle dragging states like New York, California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut.

If there were even the slightest bit of truth in the history revising race baiting moonbats above and elsewhere seeking to denigrate the Reagan legacy would such a massive victory in every liberal brie eating surrender monkey state in the Union been possible?

The real problem the liberal hate mongers and race baitors have with Reagan and his legacy is that he was always smarting than they and his legacy of greatness was firmly established in the minds of the vast majority of the people by his actions and his governance. That's why he won every state in the Union but Mondale's home state.

When a poll of over 50 million people in the country was taken about the Reagan presidency and Reagan the man, his beliefs, his hopes, and his policies the resounding answer was Reagan, Si Se Peude !!!!!!!

What is the confidence level and plus or minus accuracy of a poll of over 50 million people ? !!! LOL

At one of the most critical times in history where the world and the USA teetered on the brink of a nuclear holocaust, with a stagnant economy and run away inflation (interest rates of 17%); at a time when the moonbats and self titled superior thinking intellectuals all wanted to surrender via a nuclear freeze (an action that would have resulted in the soviet union remaining viable for many more decades to come); at a time when the liberals wanted more socialization and confiscation of liberty and property from the people for programs they didn't support and that would serve no useful purpose; Reagan came along and forced them to do that which they did not want to do.

Reagan reduced regulation, followed John Kennedy by dropping marginal tax rates, built up the military and began research and development on defense programs to help protect the people from soviet missiles, and by so doing he defeated the soviet threat without ever firing a shot, started the longest peace time economic boom in our history, squashed the hyper inflation of the Carter years and restored the country to its previous moral greatness in the world.

It is little wonder he is so hated by the left wing revisionists. He so soundly defeated their icons and their thinking, that to consider Reagan is to force them to face the fact they aren't the brilliant thinkers they always tell themselves and each other they are.

The Polls are in on the Reagan legacy and won in 49 out of 50 states. A popular vote and electoral vote landslide. A referendum on the man, his vision, his thoughts, his subtext, and his policies. All answered with a resounding yes, we love you Mr. President. Thank you for your service Mr. President. God's speed Mr. President.

Says the "Dog"
1.19.2008 1:44pm
Fub:
tarheel wrote at 1.19.2008 12:47pm:
If you have a problem with it, blame people like George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, and Orval Faubus. The fact is, they co-opted the term "states' rights" and made it synonymous with resistance to desegregation. "Federalism" is more accurate and doesn't carry the baggage.
I grew up in the south in the 1940s-50s. Anybody who says "states' rights" wasn't a political code word for segregation (or against "forced integration") at the time either wasn't there or was sound asleep. I don't recall hearing it used for any other purpose at the time. It was very common parlance immediately after Brown v. Board came down.

As to whether Reagan made a stupid ad lib gaffe or was trolling for racist votes with a "dog whistle" a quarter century later, I think it could have been both. He was sometimes remarkably naive, as Lyn Nofziger's tale of jodphurs illustrates.
1.19.2008 1:59pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'This doesn't mean Reagan was a racist, he was just a politician looking for votes.'

Ah, yes. Morning in America. It will be just like all those other mornings, wink wink.

He could, of course, have campaigned on a program of 'forget your past animosities, come on into the big tent where color doesn't matter.'

He didn't do that.

Believe me, we'uns down South got the message. Some of us'ns liked it better'n otherns did.

Dog, you are on pretty thin ice with your argument about big majorities. FDR got majorities just as big and bigger, and, according to the people you are channeling, he was at the least a Stalinist stooge if not a paid agent of the Kremlin.
1.19.2008 2:01pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Fub, again 1980 not the 40's and 50's. What was true in the 40's and 50's wasn't true in 1980.

Except for the closed minded liberals who still to this day think the south is the south of the 40's and 50's. (I'm not saying you Fub fit into this class).

Says the "Dog"
1.19.2008 2:02pm
tarheel:
Fub, I agree 100%.

JYLD, if Reagan was talking about federalism, he could have said federalism. Instead, he said states' rights, which every sentient being knows means something specific. Given that he was "always smarting" the dumb liberals, I can only assume this was deliberate, not a mistake.
1.19.2008 2:05pm
tarheel:

What was true in the 40's and 50's wasn't true in 1980.

Just so we're all clear, the murders in Philadelphia happened in 1964, just 16 years before this speech. It was far from ancient history.
1.19.2008 2:09pm
neurodoc:
I don't know why Gore always gets "credit" for Horton. If you look at the Boston Globe from late 87 to Spring '88 (when I lived in Boston), it was all over the paper as Dukakis was signing a bill changing the furlough program because of Horton.
Gore gets "credit" because he was the first to recognize its value as a club to beat Dukakis with and used it for that purpose in the presidential primaries, albeit in so limited a way compared to what Lee Atwater would do with it later. Nothing shameful in the way Gore used it, while it was very shameful the way Atwater did.
1.19.2008 2:28pm
John Doe (mail) (www):
First of all, what's with the term "dog whistle"? I had never heard it before, and suddenly everyone on all the blogs is using it, as if pretending to be sophisticated about political discourse. Anyway.

Second, what's with this?

He wanted to get the racist message to the racists without the non-racists noticing.

Huh? That one speech's reference to states' rights would never have been seen by the vast majority of voters at all, ever. The only reason that anyone talks about it now is PRECISELY because the "non-racists" have been complaining ad nauseam (which means that they certainly have managed to "notice" the phrase, and not only notice, but publicize the speech far beyond anything that would otherwise have happened).
1.19.2008 2:30pm
Public_Defender (mail):

The protections for black minorities were already well in place in 1980.


Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. If you don't remember the nasty bussing fights, you don't remember the 80's. White parents nationwide were fighting hard to keep their kids from having to rub elbows with black kids at school.

And if you think the murders 16 years earlier were ancient history, remember, they were as far back as 1992 is from us now. MLK was murdered only 12 years earlier (1996 is only 12 years before now).

Reagan was playing on raw racist nerves, and he knew it.
1.19.2008 2:38pm
Crimso:
So let me see if I have this right. Reagan (while not a racist) used supersecret code words that everybody in the South who was racist would understand, but nobody else would (or, apparently by the contemporary press accounts, did). Even though these supersecret code words were well-known for decades prior to the Civil War (Google "States Rights Gist").

Either that, or Reagan used the term to actually mean states rights.

So now the words "states rights" are racist. Are there no longer any people who believe words have plain meanings? When do I get to redefine words? Or is that the exclusive privilege of the Left?
1.19.2008 2:59pm
Waldensian (mail):

I grew up in the south in the 1940s-50s. Anybody who says "states' rights" wasn't a political code word for segregation (or against "forced integration") at the time either wasn't there or was sound asleep. I don't recall hearing it used for any other purpose at the time. It was very common parlance immediately after Brown v. Board came down.

Bingo. Obviously the phrase "states' rights" can mean different things to different people. It's roughly equivalent to the Confederate battle flag that way. There certainly are non-racist people who talk about the former or display the latter.

But if somebody thinks "states' rights" isn't currently used as a code phrase by racists (particularly in the South), or wasn't routinely used as such in the 1980s, that person is just willfully ignorant. The situation is exactly the same for the battle flag.
1.19.2008 3:01pm
Crimso:
I live in the heart of the South. Most of the extreme racists (everyone is racist to some degree or another; anyone who claims they aren't hasn't looked closely enough at themselves) I know aren't intelligent enough to use (or understand) the term "states rights."
1.19.2008 3:05pm
Micheal (mail):
Hi, First time commenter here. I usually prefer to sit in the stands and watch the theatrics from afar, but since I think I can bring some perspective in this, I'm going to join the fray.

I was born and raised in Neshoba County, Mississippi, where Philadelphia is the county seat. So, naturally, reading this, I have to comment.

Judging by what others have wrote recently, you come to one of two conclusions, that Reagan was an overt racist, or that he was a cynical politician vying for the southern white racist vote. Both are absurd.

I think the "Reagan was a racist" meme can be countered by him speaking at the Urban League a week later, as was previously discussed. The argument that he was swaying racist voters is equally absurd. The Neshoba County Fair speech was never considered a crucial part of Reagan's campaign strategy. In fact, it was a last minute event that was thrown together without much thought.

If I remember the story right, State Republican officials and fair organizers were trying to find a "big fish" to speak at the fair that year, and sent invites to every prominent Republican at the time. Initially, the Reagan campaign declined, but at the last minute, an article about the Fair in National Geographic magazine caught Nancy Reagan's attention. At her urging, the story goes, the campaign contacted the fair commission, who were overjoyed that they had the Republican nominee, of all people. In fact, the date that was published in the local paper had to be pushed back a couple of days to accommodate the planning and logistics of having a presidential candidate at a county fair.

So, clearly, Neshoba wasn't part of some grand strategy to win southern voters. It was a one off that only happened because of an article in National Geographic.

It's also absurd to believe that by injecting two words into an otherwise innocuous speech was supposed to fire up white racists. Like southerners were on the edge of their seats waiting for those magic words to be uttered.. Ridiculous... If that was the intention, it failed miserably. Everyone that I spoke with that sat in those grandstands that afternoon, took those words at face value, ... less federal government interference... more self determination by the states.. Not as some kind of call to support racist policies.

So I hope that sheds some light on the situation
1.19.2008 3:44pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
He did not want to "start a race-related controversy." He wanted to get the racist message to the racists without the non-racists noticing. It worked.
Apparently not; only the "non-racists" [sic] noticed.

It's sort of like the nuts who think Willie Horton was a racist issue; only the self-proclaimed "non-racists" think of it that way.
1.19.2008 4:00pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Sometimes I think the race baitors on the left are just projecting their own deep seeded racism onto others to assuage their guilt.

Michael's got it right. less federal government interference... more self determination by the states that is the plain meaning of states rights, the rights of the sovereign states.

Again, in 1980 all the civil rights legislation was well in place, supported by Reagan, enforced by his DOJ, and enacted ONLY with the support of REPUBLICANS over the objections of the democrats.

Again, if Reagan was the slightest bit not the President of all the people he wouldn't have won in a landslide in 1984 carrying all the homelands of the usual crew of race baitors in this country.

As for busing arguments in the 80's I'm afraid I don't remember those. Seems to me most of them happened in the 70's. Certainly with hindsight we can see that parents who were worried about their children no longer attending local (close to home) schools were racists as opposed to being concerned for the safety and well being of their most precious loved ones. Certainly they were racist for wanting them closer to home. Certainly they were wrong to think that busing would have no effect on housing segregation in the North or be the start of a race to the bottom of educational excellence for an entire couple of generations so they playing field could be leveled for all at the bottom!! Certainly they were racist for thinking their children's educations and safety were being sacrificed at an altar constructed by wealthy white liberal elites whose children would never be bused because their children went to expensive private schools. Those same liberals who oppose school choice today for those who can't afford their expensive private schools.

Says the "Dog"
1.19.2008 4:02pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
Obviously the phrase "states' rights" can mean different things to different people. It's roughly equivalent to the Confederate battle flag that way. There certainly are non-racist people who talk about the former or display the latter.
What are they then, advocates of treason? Why would you fly the flag of people who hated America so much that they decided they'd rather fight a war rather than have to be part of this country anymore? If it's not racism, "Southern pride" is a thin excuse for flying a flag of sedition.
1.19.2008 4:05pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
No, the relevant proposition is a quite different one: that in making a trip to give a speech near Philadelphia, Miss. -- a bit off the beaten path, wouldn't you agree?
I wouldn't. The Neshoba County Fair was the place where politicians in Mississippi made appearances. (Reagan was the first presidential candidate to speak there, because Mississippi hadn't been in play in presidential elections in about a century. But Dukakis spoke there a few years -- well, eight -- later.)
1.19.2008 4:08pm
Cactus Jack:
Re: subtexts

Let's say that, later this year, a democratic politician gives a campaign speech in DC and the speech includes the line "And I fully support the idea of collective rights." 20 years later, someone tries to defend the line by arguing that the politician was referring to an issue other than gun control. Would you accept that explanation?
1.19.2008 4:18pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
As to whether Reagan made a stupid ad lib gaffe or was trolling for racist votes with a "dog whistle" a quarter century later, I think it could have been both. He was sometimes remarkably naive, as Lyn Nofziger's tale of jodphurs illustrates.
What I want to know is if people think that when Reagan went to Bitburg, he was sending a coded message to American anti-semites to vote for him.
1.19.2008 4:22pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
The whole point of mentioning states rights in Philadelphia Co., MS was to speak in code.

I just love this stuff - it so reminds me of "Raising Arizona" - "we're using code names".

The funny thins is that leftists are always the ones complaining about right-wing "code". Must be a Derrida thing.

Apodaca-

My bad on missing that the link was above. Your bad on still not qualifying how Brooks knows about this supposed campaign team debate - since he sure as hell wasn't party to it.
1.19.2008 4:24pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Reagan's campaign was deliberately playing up to the culture of white Southern racial resentment.

And that of course, in the eyes of modern liberals is the ONLY aspect to the "Southern Strategy".

Someone else mentioned that Dems essentially wrote off the South, ostensibly for the very reason that they assumed all whites there to be racists. The Dems didn't just purge the racists from their ranks - they purged the non-racist conservatives too. That is the opening the Repubs exploited. Yes they took in the racists along with the conservative former Dems. The Dems had made clear that NONE of them were welcome in the party.

Seriously, libs - what did you expect would happen? That racists should not seek to be part of the political process? Should they have been branded and disenfranchised? Maybe their children marked too?
1.19.2008 4:38pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
So if you actually believe that some rights belong to the states

I'd be more inclined to say you are poorly informed. Rights belong to individuals - powers are delegated to govt (at whatever level).
1.19.2008 4:41pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Anybody who says "states' rights" wasn't a political code word for segregation

That's funny, did George Wallace deliver a "states' rights" now, "states' rights" forever speech?

No, by golly he said "segregation". I guess he wasn't in on the code.
1.19.2008 4:51pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
If you don't remember the nasty bussing fights, you don't remember the 80's.

Let's see, was that somewhere in Mississippi, or was that in Massachussets? And the fights were really more in the 70s. By the 90s, busing was on the way out.

Ok, I get it now. Reagan ad-libbed the code-word, IN Mississippi to signal all the racists in South Boston.
1.19.2008 5:04pm
John Herbison (mail):

The Polls are in on the Reagan legacy and won in 49 out of 50 states. A popular vote and electoral vote landslide. A referendum on the man, his vision, his thoughts, his subtext, and his policies.

Let's see, now. The first presidential candidate to win 49 states resigned during the second year of his second term, if I remember correctly. He is probably now running for re-election as President of Hell.
1.19.2008 5:25pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
You know, all this hoopla about Reagan is amazing. Here was a man who was elected by a huge margin of the popular and electoral votes, yet still the losers feel obliged to smear him at every opportunity.

This is why I get upset about an aircraft carrier being named after politicians, even after they're dead, and they're not even waiting for them to die anymore. Nowadays, it's just bound to make half the people get their noses bent out of joint. If such a popular president with such a dramatic impact on history can't be remembered decently, no one will be anymore.

Reagan was not a racist, and did not need to court racists. The racists were not going to vote for Jimmy Carter for Pete's sake.
1.19.2008 6:01pm
Proud to be a liberal :
Let us remember James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman who were murdered in Neshoba County in June 1964 because they were registering African-Americans to vote. They gave their life in the battle for civil rights in America. Only a handful of African-Americans were able to vote in Mississippi at the time. It was only after their sacrifice that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.

In 1980, when Reagan spoke, their murderers were living in freedom. It would have taken courage for Reagan to speak about bringing their murderers to justice.
1.19.2008 6:21pm
Apodaca:
juris_imprudent:
That's funny, did George Wallace deliver a "states' rights" now, "states' rights" forever speech?

No, by golly he said "segregation". I guess he wasn't in on the code.
If you think George Wallace wasn't in on, or didn't use, that particular code, it's plain you've never bothered to look at his infamous "schoolhouse door" speech. Just about every sentence has a pointed mention of the states' powers, rights, or sovereignty (all in service, of course, of keeping black students from enrolling at the state university).
1.19.2008 6:43pm
David Warner (mail):
"Reagan was not a racist, and did not need to court racists. The racists were not going to vote for Jimmy Carter for Pete's sake."

Most that I know did. And do (vote for dems). The Dem (national) leadership may have been (eventually) purged of (overt) racists. Not so much the rank and file and local leadership. The appeal to resentment is so sweet they can overlook a few uncomfortable planks in the platform.
1.19.2008 6:44pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'Certainly with hindsight we can see that parents who were worried about their children no longer attending local (close to home) schools were racists as opposed to being concerned for the safety and well being of their most precious loved ones.

Dog, you really did sit out the civil rights movement, didn't you?

I was a newspaperman during the height of what should be called the Second Busing Controversy. And I can remember getting into raging arguments with my editors who were pushing 'local schools.'

Fact is, just two years before, nobody -- and I mean nobody -- was objecting when buses carried black kids miles and miles, passing as many as half a dozen white schools on the way, to get them into an all-black school.

Yes, say it loud and proud: Everybody who objected to busing in the '70s and '80s was a racist, unless they had also objected during what should have been (but wasn't) the First Busing Controversy in the '60s and earlier.

I never met such a person.

I guess you could say I was against busing before I was for it.
1.19.2008 6:47pm
Apodaca:
juris_imprudent:
Your bad on still not qualifying how Brooks knows about this supposed campaign team debate - since he sure as hell wasn't party to it.
I think you need to take that up with Bernstein -- he's the one who led off by citing approvingly to Brooks.
1.19.2008 6:52pm
Fub:
juris_imprudent wrote at 1.19.2008 4:51pm:
[quoting me at 1.19.2008 1:59pm]
Anybody who says "states' rights" wasn't a political code word for segregation
That's funny, did George Wallace deliver a "states' rights" now, "states' rights" forever speech?

No, by golly he said "segregation". I guess he wasn't in on the code.
You've omitted a critical qualifier from my original statement: "at the time", meaning the 1950s, around the time of Brown v. Board.

Wallace didn't make his "segregation forever" speech until 1962 at his first inauguration. Rhetoric had heated up a mite by then.
1.19.2008 7:14pm
Roach (mail) (www):
No matter what you do, liberals will call you racist. So who cares? Plus, he won that election by a big margin. If the goal of election campaigns is to win, then it sounds to me like he has nothing to apologize for.
1.19.2008 7:46pm
mariner (mail):
Public_Defender:
If you don't remember the nasty bussing fights, you don't remember the 80's. White parents nationwide were fighting hard to keep their kids from having to rub elbows with black kids at school.


Bull****. I was there and I DO remember, quite well. In fact, I attended one of those anti-bussing rallies.

I rubbed elbows with black kids in school, and I didn't have any problem with that. Neither did my parents.

What I and they had a problem with was the possibility that I could, at some bureaucrat's whim, be bussed to a school all the way across town, when my parents had bought a house from which I and both my brothers could (and did) walk to school.
1.19.2008 7:47pm
mariner (mail):
Michael:
So I hope that sheds some light on the situation

Thank you for trying. Unfortunately, those who really need the light prefer to stay in the dark, bleating about the secret hatreds of others.

I've lived in the South all my life. I've never seen in Southerners the malignant, bigoted prejudices preening leftists are so fond of attributing to us.

I remember a little bit of the 60s, too. I can remember reading of race riots in Chicago, Detroit, Newark, and Los Angeles. Funny, I can't remember any in the supposedly-benighted South. And the busing controversy began IIRC in Boston. Hmmm....
1.19.2008 7:56pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Harry, really! Anyone who disagrees with a government action is a racist? That's a bit over the top.
1.19.2008 7:57pm
Houston Lawyer:
It is an article of faith among liberals that all who disagree with them with respect to matters of race are racists. This faith is what allows them to get that warm morally superior feeling. Meanwhile, they endorse racial quotas against whites and Asians whenever the racial numbers don't add up they way they like. We know who the true racists are.
1.19.2008 8:10pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
You've omitted a critical qualifier from my original statement: "at the time", meaning the 1950s, around the time of Brown v. Board.

All the more amusing then Fub, that it was code, then plain language, then back to code - if we follow the 50s, then 60s then 1980 timeline. There is no justifiable apologia for segregation. It was wrong, plain and simple. But this twisting language back and forth, in service of an unworthy meme, is just a bit silly.

The Dems tossed out virtually all Southern whites as racists, when in reality, only a fraction were. Reagan's appeal to them was the same as to Pennsylvania and Michigan "Reagan" Democrats. In which case, the "Southern Strategy" is a bit of a misnomer.
1.19.2008 8:12pm
mariner (mail):
Elliot Reed:
Why would you fly the flag of people who hated America so much that they decided they'd rather fight a war rather than have to be part of this country anymore?

For someone who admits not knowing much about the 1980s, you seem astonishingly well-informed about the sentiments of people in the 1860s. (Not really. ;) )

Here's a clue: A war was begun by Northerners who couldn't abide the departure from the Union of the substantial tax revenues collected in southern ports, and would kill hundreds of thousands of people to keep that money.

The so-called "Civil War" wasn't about slavery -- it was about money, and about the determination of some people to rule the lives of others hundreds of miles away. It was a repudiation of the very idea of self-determination that was once the foundation of this country.
1.19.2008 8:14pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
Everybody who objected to busing in the '70s and '80s was a racist, unless they had also objected during what should have been (but wasn't) the First Busing Controversy in the '60s and earlier.

Well Harry, how many blacks were first being bussed OUT of South Boston or the Minneapolis suburbs, before they were bussed IN?

And to think that people accused Reagan of over-simplifying.
1.19.2008 8:26pm
MDJD2B (mail):

Fact is, just two years before, nobody -- and I mean nobody -- was objecting when buses carried black kids miles and miles, passing as many as half a dozen white schools on the way, to get them into an all-black school.

Right. They nevere thought about it until it was their kids. Not very altruistic, but not necessarily racist.
1.19.2008 8:40pm
MDJD2B (mail):

Fact is, just two years before, nobody — and I mean nobody — was objecting when buses carried black kids miles and miles, passing as many as half a dozen white schools on the way, to get them into an all-black school.

Right. They never thought about it until it was their kids. Not very altruistic, but not necessarily racist.
1.19.2008 8:40pm
Proud to be a liberal :
Reply to Mariner:
The first shots were fired at Fort Sumter by the Confederacy. It was the Confederacy that greeted the election of President Lincoln by seceding from the union. And if you read the articles of secession, you will see that the reason for seceeding was to preserve slavery.
1.19.2008 8:45pm
TJIT (mail):
Folks complaining about Reagan's speech

1. Have a pretty low opinion of the South

2. Need to reacquaint themselves with Occam's razor

Do you really think that Reagan would make a one time speech, using super secret code words, in order to bring in the racist vote?

How do you square that with his later speech at the urban league? Do you think the racist vote would not notice that?

If your theory requires simultaneous mutually exclusive items

1. Reagan wanted the racist vote and used code words in one speech to get it.

2. Reagan wanted the black vote and spoke in front of black groups to ask for it.

It is probably time to give up on your theory.
1.19.2008 9:34pm
TJIT (mail):
Because of things like the federally mandated 55 MPH speed limit states right were a big issue in a lot of non southern states.

By and large states rights issues had nothing to do with race and everything to do with the aggravation caused by having to drive across Wyoming at 55 MPH when the roads, traffic, distances and common sense all pointed to the wisdom of a 75 MPH speed limit.
1.19.2008 9:41pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'Harry, really! Anyone who disagrees with a government action is a racist? That's a bit over the top.'

No, but anybody who objects to busing white kids to black schools who didn't also object to busing black kids to keep them out of white schools is.

'I've never seen in Southerners the malignant, bigoted prejudices preening leftists are so fond of attributing to 'us.'

Well, I have. When I entered college in 1964, the football coach (a family friend) had, somewhat nervously, recruited his first black player, a tackle. I knew him slightly.

The frosh team went down to play the U. of So. Carolina. On one play, the Carolinians agreed to 'get the nigger.' The State halfback run unopposed for a touchdown, while the tackle was ganged up on and had his knee wrecked.

It was a long time before another black athlete was recruited at State.

I could go one like that for hours from personal experience.

'Funny, I can't remember any (race riots) in the supposedly-benighted South.'

I can. April 5, 1963. Got caught in one in Raleigh, N.C., as I was driving my fiancee back from the hospital. Peaceful march of Shaw and St. Augustine students commemorating Dr. King's death the day before. Redneck in a 396 Chevelle raced ahead of the parade, threw it into reverse and backed into the crowd at around 35-40 miles an hour, tires smoking. Crowd broke. One used his umbrella to smash the windshield of the pickup in front of me. The driver of the pickup got out his 12-gauge.

There were plenty of others.

'The Dems tossed out virtually all Southern whites as racists, when in reality, only a fraction were.'

As it happens, I can give you a pretty precise idea what the percentage was, juris imprudent.

For example, in April 1963, the first integrationist march in Raleigh, N.C., was held. I marched. Afterward we adjourned to the fieldhouse at St. Augustine U. for hymns and freedom songs. About 5,000 were there. I can tell you precisely how many white Southerners were in that hall -- 1.
1.19.2008 11:37pm
MarkField (mail):

'Funny, I can't remember any (race riots) in the supposedly-benighted South.'


This is, of course, laughable. What do you call the attack on the Freedom Riders? Bull Connor? Any one of a hundred other assaults by white defenders of segregation?
1.19.2008 11:46pm
byomtov (mail):
States Rights was merely another way of referring to federalism.

This is total BS. You have no clue what you're talking about. Go bark at the moon.

David Nieporent:

I can understand how it is possible to oppose the 1964 Civil Rights Act on libertarian grounds, though I think the argument is dead wrong. I do not understand how you can defend opposition to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Believe me, it was necessary.
1.19.2008 11:46pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Fact is, just two years before, nobody -- and I mean nobody -- was objecting when buses carried black kids miles and miles, passing as many as half a dozen white schools on the way, to get them into an all-black school.
I don't see why you think this supports your point. They weren't objecting, because their concern wasn't some larger racial issue. It was their own kids.
1.20.2008 12:35am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Byomtov: I don't defend opposition to the VRA. (That having been said, looking at it as a piece of legislation rather than as a symbol, there are some parts that need modification.)
1.20.2008 12:39am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Here's a clue: A war was begun by Northerners who couldn't abide the departure from the Union of the substantial tax revenues collected in southern ports, and would kill hundreds of thousands of people to keep that money.

The so-called "Civil War" wasn't about slavery -- it was about money, and about the determination of some people to rule the lives of others hundreds of miles away. It was a repudiation of the very idea of self-determination that was once the foundation of this country.
And then there are revisionist idiots like this "Mariner" that give aid and comfort to liberals trying to smear all non-liberals as racist.

The Civil War was begun by the south over slavery. Not by the north over tariffs. Nobody has ever fought a war over tariffs.
1.20.2008 12:41am
Skyler (mail) (www):

Nobody has ever fought a war over tariffs.


Are you kidding?

Read some history books.
1.20.2008 3:21am
Milhouse (www):

Nobody has ever fought a war over tariffs.

How about the USAn revolution. It wasn't really about tea and people's dissed feelings. The real issue was the UK's trade policies; everything else was propaganda.
1.20.2008 3:24am
Milhouse (www):
In the USAn Civil War, slavery was the immediate reason why the South seceded. Tariffs were what built up the popular resentment against the North that allowed the politicians to secede. And tariffs were probably the main reason the North didn't just wave good-bye.
1.20.2008 3:26am
LN (mail):
The Confederacy was so concerned with states' rights that they wrote up a Constitution that made it impossible for individual states to pass laws banning or restricting slavery. Viva the freedom of the states!
1.20.2008 12:59pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
LN, no one said slavery wasn't a big issue. It was one of the issues.
1.20.2008 1:28pm
Milhouse (www):
LN, the Confederate constitution also explicitly banned secession. Once a state joined the Confederacy it explicitly waived any right to back out later. That reduced the legitimacy of its own secession from a moral claim of inalienable rights to a question of a legal technicality. The CSA was not exactly a poster child for the principle of federalism.
1.20.2008 1:40pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
For the record, any actor will tell you that subtext trumps text approximately 99.9% of the time. The fact that most people say one thing while they're thinking another is the foundation stone of most modern drama and fiction.
1.20.2008 1:57pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'I don't see why you think this supports your point. They weren't objecting, because their concern wasn't some larger racial issue. It was their own kids.'

David, that isn't the argument they made, though.

They were saying that 'neighborhood schools' were a matter of principle, not of individual convenience. Yet the whites (the same whites, in most cases) who had run the school districts had somehow overlooked that principle as long as the busing served to keep black kids out of white schools.

(Some white kids got bused past black schools, too, but I think generally it was black kids who spent the most time on the bus.)

My post about the riot should have said 1968, not 1963.
1.20.2008 2:57pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
How about the USAn revolution. It wasn't really about tea and people's dissed feelings. The real issue was the UK's trade policies; everything else was propaganda.
When Jefferson was listing causes of secession in the Declaration, he did mention taxes (and trade). In the middle of a longer list of grievances.

You dismiss "everything else" as "propaganda." But assuming that's true, propaganda to what end? The answer should be clear: nobody will fight over tariffs. You can't get people to volunteer to die to change the tax rate. (If you could, the Libertarian Party would be a lot more successful.)
1.20.2008 4:43pm
neurodoc:
David M. Nieporent: What I want to know is if people think that when Reagan went to Bitburg, he was sending a coded message to American anti-semites to vote for him.
You don't think that, nor does anyone else, at least not anyone who has participated in this thread. But tell us, if you will, what you thing about Reagan at Bitburg. Do you think it was the wrong thing for him, as Elie Weisel thought? Or, do you think like Michael (1/19 @12:35AM) that "Mr. Reagan...in the South and at Bittburg (was) not excusing sin but unmaking a permanent scapegoating."? (Rejecting Helmut Kohl's call to visit one of the concentration camps, Reagan said he didn't want to risk "reawakening the passions of the time" or offend his hosts by visiting a death camp.)

David M. Nieporent: It's sort of like the nuts who think Willie Horton was a racist issue; only the self-proclaimed "non-racists" think of it that way.
When Atwater knew that he didn't have long to live, wasn't the Horton business one of the things he expressed regret about and asked Dukakis to forgive him for? You wouldn't count Atwater himself as a nut who thought "Willie Horton was a racist issue," would you? (If what you are saying that the Massachusetts furlough program was fair game for an opponent to use in the manner that Gore did, I would agree with you. What I don't agree with is the notion that as used in ads by the Republicans in 1984 there was no racial subtext.)
1.20.2008 6:12pm
Fred (mail):
Some parents objected to busing because they didn't want their kids rubbing elbows with black kids. Some parents objected because they didn't want their kids taking two hour round trip bus rides every day. Some parents didn't object to the black kids being bused a few years before because they were racists. Some parents didn't object because it didn't affect them personally and so they didn't care. And some probably weren't even aware of it.

Trying to shoehorn great masses of people into two categories when there are probably dozens available is counterproductive and not very helpful.
1.20.2008 8:42pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Fred, that dissection works only if the arguments had been presented as purely instrumental.

But that is not how the antibusing arguments were presented. The legal arguments were not (except secondarily) that busing was expensive, inconvenient or burdensome on the children. The argument was that busing was wrong on principle.

The closest the antibusing lawyers ever came to a non-racist argument was that court-ordered busing was an unconstitutional interference in local control of education.

If your argument is that we need to factor in the opinions of people who were so clueles that they didn't even know busing was happening, then there's little point in even discussing it.

As a matter of fact, by the time the courts started supervising busing, the existence of school board-ordered busing had been a hot issue throughout most of the South for a decade. At least among antiracists like me. And we'd made a lot of noise about it, too.

If your argument is that some whites were too stupid to be racists, I guess I'll grant you that one point.
1.20.2008 11:03pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Harry, don't put your arm out of joint. Patting yourself on the back for being the only Cassandra anti-racist requires great flexibility.

Just because it took personal involvement for some people to wake up and object to busing doesn't make it less wrong, and does not mean they are obliged to be silent in the face of the injustice when it is inflicted on them.

There are lots of injustices in this world. One is not required to fight each and every one of them at all times.

Busing as a means of desegregation was a very controversial solution to a problem with no easy answers. Labeling everyone who objected to this particular solution as a racist smacks of hubris, is needlessly insulting, and points out a lack of character.

Also remember that with the multi-generational character of the busing solution there are many, if not most, of the parents affected by busing were not of voting age before it affected them.
1.21.2008 5:17am
Harry Eagar (mail):
'There are lots of injustices in this world. One is not required to fight each and every one of them at all times.'

Oh. And in the late '50s, early '60s in the South, what evils were of more concern than racial oppression?

And it's only your opinion that busing was any kind of evil.
1.21.2008 11:00am
MarkField (mail):

Just because it took personal involvement for some people to wake up and object to busing doesn't make it less wrong, and does not mean they are obliged to be silent in the face of the injustice when it is inflicted on them.


That's pretty convenient, isn't it? Let me get this straight: for 45 years, black kids were bused past the good white schools they could have attended, but nobody (except the blacks) protested this. When this finally ended, and some whites got bused, the protests were not a matter of racism but because the parents had just realized the injustice?

This isn't a plausible explanation. For one thing, in the South there was less busing under integration than there had been under segregation (this wasn't usually the case in the North). For another, the very invisibility of the black suffering is kinda meaningful, isn't it? Finally, you had to see the anti-busing protests to understand it, but racism was very much a part of the opposition. For those of us who lived through it, Harry is describing it exactly right.
1.21.2008 11:07am
Skyler (mail) (www):

Oh. And in the late '50s, early '60s in the South, what evils were of more concern than racial oppression?


Gee, I don't know. I thought we were talking about 1980. I wasn't alive in the late fifties and just barely alive in the early 60's. I have no opinion on what another generation may have thought on this issue. I don't really care. But I know that I am not responsible for anything they did or failed to do. If I lived in a city with busing, I reserve the right to be against it without being called ipso facto a racist.

Tossing around the racist label so easily is contemptible.
1.21.2008 11:35am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Skyler, read Jason Sokol's 'There Goes My Everything' and -- if you are so inclined -- my review of it at Amazon.

You would learn some things you don't know.

It wasn't so easy to tass around the racist label in the '60s. I was looking down the barrel of a shotgun at the time.

For black people to do it was even harder.
1.21.2008 1:39pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
I really think this black kids being bused stuff is mostly a red herring. Segregated local schools existed not just because of any official policy towards segregating elementary and secondary schools but because of official and not so official policies of segregating housing. Housing segregation existed everywhere and not just in th south. I grew up in the north south of Chicago. In Chicago Heights Illinois the main road through town was "Chicago Rd.". All blacks and other non-whites lived on the east side of Chicago Rd. and all whites lived on the west side. Except for a very few families close to Chicago Rd. schools would be segregated as a natural consequence of local community neighborhood schools. Busing of blacks or whites wasn't required to produce segregated schools they just happened because of housing segregation. I suspect it was the same everywhere in the north and south. Segregated schools WITHOUT busing due to hosing segregation.


Says the "Dog"
1.21.2008 3:01pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
You can suspect what you like, but you're wrong.

In the South, schools were segregated by law.

And there were places -- Norfolk, where I was working, was one -- where whites lived on one side of the street (the seaview side) and blacks lived on the other side of the same street (the swampview side) and went to schools that were miles apart.

I am appalled, on King Day, to find people on a blog that is supposed to be a least one cut above an AOL chatroom who are so ignorant.
1.21.2008 6:46pm
MarkField (mail):
Harry's right again. Odd as it may seem, Southern housing was less segregated by neighborhood than a lot of Northern housing was. That's why there was, as I pointed out above, less busing in the South after integration than there had been before.

Maybe we could demand that everyone at least certify that they've read Taylor Branch or David Garrow before they post on these threads. If you didn't live through it, it's the least you can do.
1.21.2008 7:38pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Good idea.

But, you know, I take a certain comfort that America has changed so much, and in the right direction, that younger people can be so ignorant -- in all good conscience, I'm sure -- about the way we used to be.

I am not being sarcastic. I think it's wonderful. Although it would be even more wonderful if they knew the background, too.
1.21.2008 10:05pm
Waldensian (mail):
Everything old is new again.
1.21.2008 10:10pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
I'm not really that young, Harry. You're just stuck in ages past.
1.21.2008 10:37pm
Toby:

If you don't remember the nasty bussing fights, you don't remember the 80's. White parents nationwide were fighting hard to keep their kids from having to rub elbows with black kids at school.

Sounds like the 60's. By the mid 70's the only fight I remember was when Boston got bussing and it was a mess. I remember leaving high school in greater Boston and going south for college in 1976, and being releaved the matter wasn't so inflammatory.Perhaps Reagan went to Philadelphia MS to send coded messages to Brookline and Southie...

And the idea of Reagan sending coded messages to the future bussing fighters of the 80's in 1980 is just to wierd to contemplate, particular when the agument is coming from somone claining history on their side.
1.21.2008 11:13pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I guess you didn't get as far south as Charlotte, Toby.

Fer cryin' out loud. This isn't secret history that is locked in Kremlin files and buried in a dungeon. It was in all the papers. I know. I wrote some of 'em.
1.22.2008 12:29am