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Interesting Tidbit on Racism and Reagan's 1980 Victory:

One reads quite often that Reagan successfully captured the southern Wallace/anti-civil rights/racist vote, thus forever tainting his victory with the stench of racism. So I was surprised to read that white voters over sixty in the eleven ex-Confederate states gave Carter a small plurality of their votes, a greater percentage for Carter than he received among such voters elsewhere in the country. Meanwhile, Reagan received overwhelming support from 18-39 year old white southerners. Bruce J. Shulman, From Cotton Belt to Sun Belt 215 (1994). Unless one wants to defend the proposition that the over-sixties were less racist than their much younger counterparts, the standard narrative seems incomplete at best.

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, some commenters below raise the issue of a speech Reagan gave in July 1980, that has been portrayed as "Reagan launching his campaign in Philadelphia Mississippi where three civil rights workers were killed with an overt appeal to southern racism by declaring his fealty to states' rights." As I've explained previously, this is an inaccurate representation of what happened.

In fact, the speech wasn't in, but near, Philadelphia, at a state fair that many other candidates, including Michael Dukakis, have attended. The speech didn't "launch" his campaign as it the timing was understood at the time (when campaigns weren't "launched" until Labor Day), and the reference to "states' rights" was a fleeting (but foolish) reference in an entirely non-racial context.

Here's what I think is an accurate portrayal of the event:

"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 advisers held out hope of winning some southern states. Some of his campaign advisers were savvy enough to realize that the Mississippi speech would create problems for the first goal. .... 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."

You can listen to the speech for yourself here. The audio of the speech wasn't discovered until January 2007, which gave plenty of time for myths about its content to circulate.

In any event, if Reagan was trying to make appeals to southern racists, the voting data above still suggests that a very large percentage of them voted for Carter nevertheless.

Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

[T]he standard narrative seems incomplete at best.


Ya think?
7.14.2008 3:44pm
ejo:
well, the only conclusion I can reach is that you are wrong or lying as it does not comport with my worldview. somehow, I also suspect your conclusion has to do with JC's stance on Israel as well.
7.14.2008 3:51pm
BRM:
Do you suppose the age differential might have something to do with older voters having much more ingrained party identity than younger voters? The fact that young southern voters broke for Reagan and old southern voters broke for Carter (who at the time was and still is an old southerner himself) does not necessarily indicate anything about the racial views of the different age groups.

Besides, the fact that Carter only won a plurality of over 60 southern voters suggests that they voted for Carter less than they might have been expected to. A comparison between the same groups voting for Carter in 1976 and 1980 might be more illuminating, although Carter's lack of success as president would probably make the comparison difficult.
7.14.2008 3:56pm
rarango (mail):
The standard "narrative" is based on a lot of circumstantial events as well as some degree of mind reading ability on the part of those charging racism. Of course, if those purveyors of the narrative have any proof, let them provide it.
7.14.2008 3:56pm
tarheel:
I don't have time to look, but I bet Reagan's percentage of older and younger southern voters was higher than Republicans had received in past elections (notwithstanding the fact that he was running against a native son (and I use that literary allusion cautiously!!)).

Older southerners in the 1970s and 80s were overwhelmingly Democratic and had been for generations (for godssake, Jesse Helms was Democrat until 1972). No surprise, then, that many voted for a Democrat for President out of old allegiances. I know Republicans hate this reality, and fight it at every turn, but the reality for those of us who actually spend time down here is that Republicans turned the south for two main reasons -- religion and race. In fact, Helms himself is example A of that very phenomena. You can believe he switched parties out of his belief in a balanced budget, or whatever, but it ain't reality.
7.14.2008 3:58pm
Deoxy (mail):

the standard narrative seems incomplete at best.


Yes, at best (and that's generous). Considering who peddles the "standard narative", this is about as shocking as the sun rising in the morning.
7.14.2008 4:02pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Shulman goes on to say that there were 3 groups in the South that led to the Republican transition, the most important of which were former northerners who moved to the expanding sunbelt to escape unions, high taxes, and so on. The other categories were urban small business types and rural Goldwaterites. Only the latter group had a significant racial agenda, and the latter also were fickle and often voted for Democrats, especially outside presidential elections. But this is just one source, and the book isn't primarily about modern southern politics, so take it with a grain of salt.
7.14.2008 4:06pm
PersonFromPorlock:
But then, Kennedy carried much of the Old South in 1960. So?
7.14.2008 4:09pm
Angus:
Different wrapping of the same inner package. The racism of the 1950s/1960s was "Black people are animals that will overrun society and murder you while you sleep."

The racism of the 1970s and 1980s was "Black people will take your jobs and leave you penniless, and your white kids will have to be bused into black neighborhoods where goodness knows what will happen." Who would be more affected by affirmative action and school busing: 18-39 year olds or 60+ retirees?

Heck if the narrative is untrue, why did the Chairman of the RNC apologize for it in 2005? I can't get the link to work right, but you can google "Ken Mehlman apology".
7.14.2008 4:12pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Following up Angus's point, the "narrative" that this tidbit allegedly casts doubt on is not a narrative entirely created by Democrats and entirely denied by Republicans. Numerous Republicans have spoken of their party's "southern strategy," and some have admitted the pretty obvious point the strategy relied in part on coded and not-so-coded appeals to racism. See also late-period Lee Atwater.
7.14.2008 4:20pm
Smokey:
Are people still trying to parse Reagan's crushing victory over Carter? The reason is simple, and has nothing to do with racism: Carter was a pessimist and a dud. Reagan was a cheerful, pro-America optimist. Who would you rather hang around with?
7.14.2008 4:22pm
tarheel:

The other categories were urban small business types and rural Goldwaterites. Only the latter group had a significant racial agenda, and the latter also were fickle and often voted for Democrats, especially outside presidential elections.

It is a curiosity in modern-day NC, that Republicans dominate federal elections and Democrats dominate statewide elections (roughly speaking).

As I wrote on one of the Helms posts, both parties have plenty of racial baggage to lug when it comes to southern politics. FWIW, I don't think Reagan was as much a purveyor of the southern strategy as Nixon was. Reagan was more a beneficiary of Nixon's work. The migration of northerners certainly played a role, though I wonder how much race played in their decisions to move south, as well (escaping riots in the northern cities, etc.)
7.14.2008 4:25pm
Elias (mail):

Shulman goes on to say that there were 3 groups in the South that led to the Republican transition, the most important of which were former northerners who moved to the expanding sunbelt to escape unions, high taxes, and so on.

This makes me give Shulman's account less credence, in my view. I've never heard, in my whole life, of someone moving "to escape unions [and] high taxes." Even if true of a scarce few, this smacks of right-wing caricature to me.

This is not to defend unions or high taxes -- or to suggest that people aren't bothered by them. But it seems hyperbolic to me to suggest that people were so bothered by them that, en masse, they decamped from the North to the South, fueling Reagan's victory. We're talking about hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people here.
7.14.2008 4:38pm
SIG357:
I wonder how much race played in their decisions to move south, as well (escaping riots in the northern cities, etc.)


Those darn racist whites! How dare they escape from riots!

The "standard narrative" fails to explain how the South continued to send mostly Democrats to Congress until the 1990's. Could it be possible that the reason the South (and the rest of the country) started voting for Republican Presidents was that the Dems started running such losers?
7.14.2008 4:40pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
The narrative I referred to was specifically about Reagan's victory in 1980, not Republican politicking in the South in general for any given period of time.
7.14.2008 4:41pm
SIG357:
This is not to defend unions or high taxes -- or to suggest that people aren't bothered by them. But it seems hyperbolic to me to suggest that people were so bothered by them that, en masse, they decamped from the North to the South, fueling Reagan's victory.

And yet it is the truth. One of the most signifcant changes in American political demographics these last forty years has been the decline of the industrial states in the north-east and mid-west, and the rise of the Sun Belt. There is nothing hyperbolic about this.
7.14.2008 4:43pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Elias, don't take this offhand summary as an exact replica of Shulman's entire argument. The "lower taxes" and lack of unions were my shorthand for pro-growth policies in the South, leading to a booming economy that drew in northerners.
7.14.2008 4:44pm
Elias (mail):
SIG357 and DavidBernstein,

Fair enough.
7.14.2008 4:46pm
JosephSlater (mail):
So Reagan's states'-rights speech in a particular part of Mississippi with a particular past regarding the civil rights movement was really all about the right-to-work law in Mississippi that has brought that state such incredible economic success?
7.14.2008 4:50pm
tarheel:

Those darn racist whites! How dare they escape from riots!

Dude, settle down a bit. I'm not calling anyone a racist for leaving the north to live in the south (I grew up in Detroit and live in NC, after all!). I'm just saying that race may well have been as much a factor as taxes and unions.
7.14.2008 4:51pm
SIG357:
As I wrote on one of the Helms posts, both parties have plenty of racial baggage to lug when it comes to southern politics.

I think it's safe to say that the Democratic Party has the most baggage. And also that this baggage goes almost entirely unremarked.

For instance, here is a 60 Minutes interview with Democratic Senator Fritz Hollings in 2004 as he retired. Unlike Helms, Hollings was one of those Senators who filibustered the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Note the kid gloves treatment he gets.
7.14.2008 4:51pm
SATA_Interface:
Well, did Reagan's campaign make any racist overtures? If it was anything like Jesse Helms and his disgusting ads, the charge would be warranted.

Even approaching from the Lee Atwater angle of states rights then affirmative action being analogous to saying "ni*ger ni*ger" doesn't quite fully embrace racism in my opinion.

The prez had enough of his own flaws like Iran-Contra or the School of the Americas for me to worry about racism as part of his legacy.
7.14.2008 4:53pm
Bernstein Buster:
RNC Chief to Say It Was 'Wrong' to Exploit Racial Conflict for Votes

By Mike Allen

Thursday, July 14, 2005; Page A04

It was called "the southern strategy," started under Richard M. Nixon in 1968, and described Republican efforts to use race as a wedge issue — on matters such as desegregation and busing — to appeal to white southern voters.

Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, this morning will tell the NAACP national convention in Milwaukee that it was "wrong."

"By the '70s and into the '80s and '90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out," Mehlman says in his prepared text. "Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."

Mehlman, a Baltimore native who managed President Bush's reelection campaign, goes on to discuss current overtures to minorities, calling it "not healthy for the country for our political parties to be so racially polarized." The party lists century-old outreach efforts in a new feature on its Web site, GOP.com, which was relaunched yesterday with new interactive features and a history section called "Lincoln's Legacy."

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean spoke to the NAACP yesterday and said through an aide: "It's no coincidence that 43 out of 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus are Democrats. The Democratic Party is the real party of opportunity for African Americans."

Washington Post article
7.14.2008 4:54pm
anonymouseducator:
I think what you read quite often is that Reagan tried to appeal to racists, not that he won because of their support.
7.14.2008 4:56pm
frankcross (mail):
David, I don't read that quite often about the Reagan election. I think your reading may be unrepresentative. I read an occasional article about the Mississippi campaign kickoff, but I don't recall those articles claiming his victory was tainted with the stench of racism.
7.14.2008 4:57pm
SIG357:
RNC Chief to Say It Was 'Wrong' to Exploit Racial Conflict for Votes


Funny how the article does not back up the headline, which the biased media made up to express their own views rather than what Mehlman said.
7.14.2008 4:59pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Joe, the purported "states rights" speech tale has a grain of truth, but is more myth than reality, as I've explained in detail here. In fact, the speech was about economic policy, and the "states rights" phrased was used solely with regard to federalism in economic policy, with no racial overtones beyond the fact that he chose to use that phrase. You can listen to the speech yourself at the link provided in the post linked above, and see that it's much ado about very little.
7.14.2008 4:59pm
tarheel:

Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong

Perhaps the biased media fed these lines into Mehlman's teleprompter without his knowledge.
7.14.2008 5:02pm
Bernstein Buster:
November 10, 2007, 7:36 pm

Innocent mistakes

So there's a campaign on to exonerate Ronald Reagan from the charge that he deliberately made use of Nixon's Southern strategy. When he went to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980, the town where the civil rights workers had been murdered, and declared that "I believe in states' rights," he didn't mean to signal support for white racists. It was all just an innocent mistake.

Indeed, you do really have to feel sorry for Reagan. He just kept making those innocent mistakes.

When he went on about the welfare queen driving her Cadillac, and kept repeating the story years after it had been debunked, some people thought he was engaging in race-baiting. But it was all just an innocent mistake.
When, in 1976, he talked about working people angry about the "strapping young buck" using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks at the grocery store, he didn't mean to play into racial hostility. True, as The New York Times reported,



The ex-Governor has used the grocery-line illustration before, but in states like New Hampshire where there is scant black population, he has never used the expression "young buck," which, to whites in the South, generally denotes a large black man.



But the appearance that Reagan was playing to Southern prejudice was just an innocent mistake.
Similarly, when Reagan declared in 1980 that the Voting Rights Act had been "humiliating to the South," he didn't mean to signal sympathy with segregationists. It was all an innocent mistake.

In 1982, when Reagan intervened on the side of Bob Jones University, which was on the verge of losing its tax-exempt status because of its ban on interracial dating, he had no idea that the issue was so racially charged. It was all an innocent mistake.

And the next year, when Reagan fired three members of the Civil Rights Commission, it wasn't intended as a gesture of support to Southern whites. It was all an innocent mistake.

Poor Reagan. He just kept on making those innocent mistakes, again and again and again.

PS: It has been pointed out to me that Reagan opposed making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday, giving in only when Congress passed a law creating the holiday by a veto-proof majority. But he really didn't mean to disrespect the civil rights movement - it was just an innocent mistake.

Link to Krugman Blog

See also
7.14.2008 5:09pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Frank, you can find plenty of material just by dong a search on Reagan and racism on Google. No one sensible denies that white racial resentment played "a" role in Republican victories since Nixon, but it strikes me that many commentators want to elevate this to the "predominant" or "overwhelming" role, so that they don't have to deal with the fact that decades of perceived liberal economic and foreign policy debacles, concluding with the horrific Carter presidency, turned many people into Republicans (just as the perceived failure of the perceived conservative GWB and the Republican Congress is turning many into Democrats today).
7.14.2008 5:11pm
JosephSlater (mail):
David:

As to the previous thread, I find your critics in the comments to be pretty persuasive, but based on your post above, perhaps our disagreement is limited. I wouldn't argue that Reagan's coded appeals to racism (and the list of actual acts that "Bernstein Buster" lists above) had an "overwhelming" role in Reagan's vicotry over Carter. There were many other factors as well, including, yes, failures by the Dems. So let's agree that white "racial resentment" -- can we include "racism" within that concept? -- played, as you say "a" role.

The interesting tidbit you added in this post was the numbers from the Schulman book. I haven't read that book, but assuming the numbers are accurate, what say you to the points made above by BRM and Tarheel in the first several posts?
7.14.2008 5:19pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Bernstein Buster, it's laughable to cite Krugman as an objective source on anything. But more to the point, my post suggests that Reagan's appeal in the South was higher among less racist whites. I didn't say anything about whether or not he engaged in subtle racial appeals. And of course, the only 1980 example you give is the mostly-debunked (see my comment above) "states rights" speech.

And I don't want to go through your otherwise irrelevant examples, but the Reagan Administration gets an unfair rap on the Bob Jones issue. Though the Supreme Court ultimately held otherwise, the Reagan Administration was absolutely right about Bob Jones as a matter of statutory interpretation, as Neal Devins showed in a series of law review articles. A Political Analysis of Bob Jones University v. U.S., 1 J.L. &Pol. 403 (1984). Tax Exemptions for Racially Discriminatory Private Schools: A Legislative Proposal, 20 Harv. J. on Legis. 153 (1983). Tax Policy Analysis of Bob Jones University v. U.S., 36 Vand. L. Rev. 1353 (1983) (with Charles O. Galvin).
7.14.2008 5:23pm
JosephSlater (mail):
David, aren't all the things that Bernstein Buster listed well-known facts? If so, whether or not he got them from a blogger you don't like doesn't really matter, does it?
7.14.2008 5:32pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Joe, I'd say to BRM and Tarheel that given the state of the economy and the state of the Soviet threat in 1980, and the lack of current hot button racial controversies in that presidential election, the votes of southern whites were likely based primarily on their views of economic and foreign policy, with older whites more likely to be economically populist. Economic liberalism and populism went hand in hand with racism in the South for generations, and I'd say that Carter likely carried the southern hard-core racist vote because (a) they also tended to be economic liberals/populists; and (b) Carter, who wanted badly to win the South, and had the black vote sewn up, hardly went out of his way to offend them.
7.14.2008 5:36pm
davidbernstein (mail):
It's how Krugman construes the facts. Why would Reagan reappoint (I doubt he "fired") Civil Rights Commission staffers appointed by Carter? The Bob Jones decision, as noted above, was absolutely correct as a matter of law, and I like my administrations to follow the law, even if the "issue is racially charged."

Hey, did you know that the despite the vast resources of the Clinton Administration, it allowed the Klan to continuing soliciting members, use the internet to promote racism, and even run one of its most famous alums (David Duke) for governor? That's all "accurate" but hardly conveys useful information.
7.14.2008 5:39pm
Toby:

Heck if the narrative is untrue, why did the Chairman of the RNC apologize for it in 2005? I can't get the link to work right, but you can google "Ken Mehlman apology".

Kinda like Clinto apologizing for slavery. Nothing like a Bush-apointed functionary shooting down Reagan. Bush the elder despised everything about Reagan until he was second on the ticket, supported Reagan only long enough to get elected as Reagan term III. Both Bush's have spent most of their careers undoing Reagan's legacy in the Republican party. Clearly the opion of their apointee must be dispositive....

<hah />
7.14.2008 5:40pm
Paul Goodrock:
"No one sensible denies that white racial resentment played "a" role in Republican victories since Nixon...."

--------------------

You're undoubtedly right about that, Professor Bernstein. But your post is about Ronald Reagan, specificaly, and his use of coded language and other tactics to stoke that "racial resentment" to his electoral advantage in the 1980 election.

To the extent other commentors (and even your own comments to this post) imply that Reagan engaged in purely innocent tactics simply misunderstood as intending to stoke racial resentment, it is worth noting evidence to the contrary, such as Reagan's visit to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980.

Your assetion that the coded message of Reagan's campaign event in Philadelphia and his invocation of the "states rights" segregationist rallying call had "no racial overtones" is laughably, intentionally obtuse.

And, I love that you purport to know to a metaphysical certainty that Reagan used the "states rights" phrase "solely with regard to federalism in economic policy..." -- contrary to the clear circumstantial evidence -- as though you somehow had inhabited Reagan's very soul as he spoke that day and can thus express his "true" intentions. When I am dead and gone, I hope I am lucky enough to have as the staunch defender of my uprightness a person with such a considerable gift.

One is free to close one's eyes and believe the Reagan myth. That blind faith will never make the evidence disappear.
7.14.2008 5:44pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
If Ronald Reagan talked about "rootless cosmopolitans" instead of the "strapping young buck", do you think David Bernstein would have as much trouble understanding the code?
7.14.2008 5:50pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Paul, there is no need to look at circumstantial evidence. You can listen to the speech for yourself, and see that the states' rights reference had nothing to do with civil rights policy. The reference was nevertheless gratuitous, and I criticized Reagan for it in the post linked above. That said, if this was a subtle racial appeal, it was so subtle that it was said in a completely non racial context, the people who heard it didn't think he was talking about race, and Reagan destroyed whatever value this appeal had by flying the next day to the Midwest to speak to the Urban League and meet with Jesse Jackson.
7.14.2008 5:51pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
And for those of you to lazy to read the link above, Reagan didn't visit Philadelphia, he visited a county fair near Philadelphia. He didn't kick off his campaign there, he went there in the downtime between the Republican and Democratic conventions. Carter, otoh, kicked off his campaign after the labor day weekend with a visit to a town that was one of the Klan's great strongholds in the South. The intent was undoubtedly innocent, but the "circumstantial" evidence would suggest that Carter was trying to appeal to the racist vote.
7.14.2008 5:54pm
The Mojo Bison (mail) (www):
Silly me, I thought it was this ad that reminded everyone why they wanted to vote for Reagan...
7.14.2008 6:10pm
frankcross (mail):
I googled Reagan and racism and came up with nutty blog type posts and a few mainstream articles, most of which were responses to David Brooks' defense of Reagan. I'm sure the accusations are out there, but I don't think people quite often claim the election was tainted. I hope you're not a regular reader of democraticunderground.com.
7.14.2008 6:33pm
Kazinski:
Ronald Reagan had a clear record in his personal and public life of opposing discrimination based on race:

In his private writings, Ronald Reagan has always maintained that his earliest encounters and views on race were shaped by his parents' quiet activism. Mr. Reagan has told the story of how, one bitterly cold night, his father slept in his car to protest a hotel's policy of not admitting Jews. The president's father also refused to allow his sons to see the movie ''Birth of a Nation,'' on the ground that it glorified the Ku Klux Klan.

Mr. Reagan has said that his first personal experience with racism against blacks occurred while he was on the football team at Eureka College. He and his teammates were traveling by bus in Illinois near his hometown, and stopped at a hotel for lodging. When the hotel manager refused to accommodate his black teammates, Mr. Reagan offered to take them to his home for the night. His parents warmly welcomed their son's friends.


The fact that Reagan occasionally used racially charged terms like "young buck", may indicate that he harbored some prejudices, it would be hard not to growing up in early 20th century America. Blacks and Whites alike had very different ideas of race than we do now. It is hard to fault Reagan for terms that were in wide use by both whites and blacks during his formative years.

It may also be of note that Reagan made his first formal public speaking engagement at a memorial for a Japanese-American war hero. The express objective of the memorial was publicising the heroism of Japanese-Americans in the war to help ease the transition of internees back into the general populace.
7.14.2008 6:43pm
Jane (mail):
In fact, the speech was about economic policy, and the "states rights" phrased [SIC] was used solely with regard to federalism in economic policy, with no racial overtones beyond the fact that he chose to use that phrase.


Questioner: But the fact is, isn't it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps…?

[Lee] Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, "N***, n***, n***." By 1968, you can't say "n***" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights, and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites." (emp mine)
7.14.2008 6:49pm
SIG357:
And, I love that you purport to know to a metaphysical certainty that Reagan used the "states rights" phrase "solely with regard to federalism in economic policy..." -- contrary to the clear circumstantial evidence -- as though you somehow had inhabited Reagan's very soul as he spoke that day and can thus express his "true" intentions.

I dunno, Paul Goodrock. You seem to have no problem in inhabiting Reagans very soul and pronouncing on his deep seated racist "true" intentions.
7.14.2008 7:12pm
SIG357:
Hello, "Jane". Do you have a link to that? Because I don't believe that Atwater ever said such a thing.
7.14.2008 7:16pm
tarheel:
SIG357:

I'd like to see a link too, but it is well known that Atwater expressed a lot of regret for his racially-tinged tactics later in his life (as he faced death, if I recall correctly). I have no doubt that he said just what Jane quoted.
7.14.2008 7:21pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):
DB asserted that the narrative was incomplete citing the Carter plurality. with few exceptions, no one seems to be addressing that. Instead, the focus is on the well worn charges against Reagan's campaign. Its not enlightening, at all. we all know, verbatim, the various explanations and accusations.

As a southerner growing up in the south during the Jim Crow era, I doubt Carter lacks sin. i know, however, little of Carter's campaign. Where would the discussion of his campaign start, what were the right's objections at the time (hyperbolic or not)?
7.14.2008 7:30pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):

"As a southerner growing up in the south"

fear my keystroke. yeesh.
7.14.2008 7:32pm
SIG357:
I have no doubt that he said just what Jane quoted.


How generous of you to ascribe racism to people you never met, based on moonbat talking points.

There is no link. Those words were attributed to Atwater after he died, so these is no chance that he can refute them.

his racially-tinged tactics

What "racially tinged tactics" might those be? The fact that there is no "there" there never seems to stop people like you from acting otherwise.
7.14.2008 7:36pm
tvk:
David, you are too smart not to know your statistics. The question is not whether Reagan captured a majority of Southern racists with his strategy, the question is whether he captured more racists with his strategy than he otherwise would have, and whether that difference is because of appeals to those people's racist inclinations.

The answer will usually require some sophisticated regression analysis. The fact that Carter (with his Southern accent) captured a majority of older Southerners says basically nothing, since (1) older Southerners could have stronger preferences for a local; and (2) older Southerners might prefer the Democrats' economic policies that effected a wealth tranfer to older and poorer people (e.g. Social Security and Medicare).
7.14.2008 7:38pm
SIG357:
aren't all the things that Bernstein Buster listed well-known facts?

Buster did not list anything, he cut-and-pasted a Krugman column. And no, they are not "well known facts". They are the sort of smears which some people here insist do not exist.
7.14.2008 7:43pm
SIG357:
question is whether he captured more racists with his strategy than he otherwise would have

Which "strategy" are you refering to exactly? Can you spell out any details? Enquiring minds want to know.

Given that Reagan won by the biggest margin at the time since FGR beat Hoover in 1932, by ten percentage points, while carrying forty-four states, I'm looking forward to seeing you explain how Ronnie Racist won the Presidency by wooing the Southern vote.

Mind you, he did carry places like Vermont and Massachussets, and they are notably white, so maybe you are onto something.
7.14.2008 7:50pm
JosephSlater (mail):
SIG357.

Which of the specific claims in the Krugman piece do you dispute happened?
7.14.2008 8:06pm
ERH:
Reagan may well have been the last presidential candidate in the south who was a victim of Sherman's legacy. My grandmother wouldn't vote for Reagan or Eisenhower because of Sherman. Strange but true.
7.14.2008 8:15pm
Kazinski:
JosephSlater,
Krugman makes no claims in his piece, it all innuendo.
7.14.2008 8:23pm
tarheel:
From the NY Times obit:

"In 1988, fighting Dukakis, I said that I 'would strip the bark off the little bastard' and 'make Willie Horton his running mate,' " Mr. Atwater said in the Life article.

"I am sorry for both statements: the first for its naked cruelty, the second because it makes me sound racist, which I am not."

Asked today about Mr. Atwater's apology, Mr. Bush replied: "I found that very interesting and very enlarging. I think as he took stock of his life, he wanted to make things right and heal some wounds, and that was a very noble thing."

Sorry if that is not enough, SIG. There is a there there, and they are Atwater's talking points, not moonbats or "people like me" making them up.
7.14.2008 8:31pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'The fact that Reagan occasionally used racially charged terms like "young buck", may indicate that he harbored some prejudices, it would be hard not to growing up in early 20th century America. '

I grew up in the South in the mid-20th c. and I've never had any trouble not calling people, in particular black men, young bucks.

I dunno, what's worse. A) a politician who is not personally racist who panders to the worst instincts of the segment of the electorate he thinks he can win? or B) an honest and open racist who runs on what he believes?

Reagan was 'A' and I despise him for it. It's called leading from the rear.
7.14.2008 8:35pm
Toby:
Tarheel

THe accurate quote and your need to reach for an strained interpretation, no matter how popular among the partisan, speak for themselves.
7.14.2008 8:39pm
tarheel:
If you think the Willie Horton ad was not racially tinged (which is all I said, not that he was a racist), then this discussion is not worth having. I am stunned that people are unaware of Atwater's own well-publicized apologies for the tactics he used. Sorry I don't have time to pull out the full run of stories on this topic.
7.14.2008 8:41pm
TheDude42:
This makes me give Shulman's account less credence, in my view. I've never heard, in my whole life, of someone moving "to escape unions [and] high taxes."

Really? Never? This is happening in Ohio right now. The state's population is shrinking dramatically because workers (and employers) are fleeing the state en masse to avoid its heavy taxation.
7.14.2008 9:49pm
anon252 (mail):
The idea that "forced busing" = "n---er" is absurd whether Atwater said it or not. Busing was a public policy disaster, and lacked support from both blacks and whites, but was shoved down their throats by federal courts.
7.14.2008 9:54pm
ck:
SIG357, the Atwater quote is cited in the Shulman book that is the subject of this post.
7.14.2008 10:08pm
byomtov (mail):
Reagan didn't visit Philadelphia, he visited a county fair near Philadelphia.

This is feeble. It was the Neshoba County fair. Philadelphia is the county seat. The Sheriff of Neshoba County had a hand in the killings, and the county name was associated with them as much as the name of the town.

I think you are overlooking two things:

1) The impact of the killings. The had huge resonance, and their association with both Philadelphia and Neshoba County meant that those places were thoroughly identified with racist murder. There was no way Reagan didn't know that.

2) The degree to which the term "States Rights" was well-understood to mean "segregation." It doesn't matter if Reagan used it in some other context. His audience heard it that way. Did The Great Communicator really not know what he was saying?
7.14.2008 10:09pm
Dave N (mail):
The Democrats turned Willie Horton into a racist talking point because the FACTS behind the ad were such that no sane person can defend them.

Frankly, having a policy giving weekend furloughs to people serving life without the possibility of parole is imbecilic--and Horton, on such a forlough while serving such a sentence, proceeded to commit the crimes the robbery and rape. That Michael Dukakis endorsed this program certainly grounds to suspect his fitness to be President. It mattered not whether Horton was black, white, green or purple.

Oh, and the first person to mention Willie Horton was that noted race baiter, Al Gore.
7.14.2008 10:13pm
Orson Buggeigh:
'The fact that Reagan occasionally used racially charged terms like "young buck", may indicate that he harbored some prejudices, it would be hard not to growing up in early 20th century America. '

Good grief. Do you think Charles Dickens was being a proto racist in "A Christmas Carol" when he uses the term? Scrooge tells the boy in the street to buy the prize turkey, who asks if it is the one as big as me (the boy), and Scrooge answers - "Yes my buck."

Reagan grew up at a time when this synonym for young man was at least recognized as acceptable if not common usage in the more innocent sense Dickens used it; it was, however, also used for African American and Indian males, and in that manner, yes, with a derogatory sense by many. Still, this is small change to hang a charge of racism on. Unless we are willing to decree that such blemishes are utterly damning for all people. In which case, people like Senator Byrd, who actually has ties to the KKK, or Senator Kennedy, whose driving record would have put him in prison in my state, would probably come off much worse than Ronald Reagan, excepting that old rule that says only Republicans can be accused of racism and sexism. Aren't double standards just so much fun?
7.14.2008 10:31pm
Dave N (mail):
There is a two word reason for why people moved to the South in the era after World War II-- "air conditioning."

When you add the lack of a state income tax and it is evident that both propelled Florida's population from under 2,000,000 in 1940 to over 18,000,000 today. If you are retiring, why stay in Ohio or Michigan when you can be comfortable year round in Orlando?

By the way, Florida started voting Republican for President in 1952 (long before the rest of the South) and elected its first post-Reconstruction Republican Congressman as long ago as 1954.
7.14.2008 10:37pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Byom,

As my long post on the matter states, he NY Times reported that the people in the crowd did not hear it that way, and if you listen to the address, Reagan was clearly using "states rights" as a synonym for "federalism," not "segregation." OTOH, he could have just said federalism, and I suspect that he was doing a little pandering here, knowing that the locals were more familiar with the idea of "states' rights" than federalism, and he either got caught up in the moment or had a tin ear for how this would sound in the broader world. (He certainly didn't do it to provoke a racial controversy, given his scheduled speech at the Urban League and meeting with Jesse Jackson the next day.)

Reagan was aware of the Philadelphia connection because his advisors warned him about it, but he had already committed to Trent Lott to attend. But I've seen literally dozens of stories stating that Reagan went to Philadelphia to kick off his campaign giving a speech about "states rights," a description that contains three inaccuracies. Part of the problem is that the dateline for many of the stories is Philadelphia, because that's the closest town. Anyway, if Neshoba is "as bad" as Philadelphia, why don't Krugman, Alan Wolfe, et al., say that Reagan went to the Neshoba County Fair to give a talk on economic policy where he made a passing reference to states' rights in a non-racial context, instead of saying he went to Philadelphia to give a talk on "states' rights"? Obviously, to skew the description to make Reagan look bad; if nothing else, going to a county fair near where a murder took place doesn't sound nearly as bad as going to the town for no apparent reason. Again, my bigger post on this doesn't completely absolve Reagan, but the facts are not nearly as bad as Krugman et al assert.
7.14.2008 11:21pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Andrew Lazarus, I made no comment at all about "strapping young bucks," and I'd appreciate it if you didn't attribute to me things I didn't say.
7.14.2008 11:28pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
In an ideal world, Reagan would have used the occasion to raise the issue of the murders and local complicitly therein. In the real world, Dukakis also didn't do this when he went to the fair in 1988.
7.14.2008 11:33pm
hawkins:
Rather than comparing how Reagan fared against Carter, wouldnt a more accurate comparison be with Republican candidates of prior elections? This would show much much Atwater's "Southern Strategy" benefited the GOP in gaining ground on Democrats in the south.

Good to know, I had no idea "young buck" had racist connotations.
7.14.2008 11:40pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Last post on this thread by me. The original point is that people say Reagan's victory is tainted because he got the George Wallace vote in the South. But it appears that Carter likely got most of this vote. (And he certainly got it in 1976). And Reagan actually did better with non-southern older whites than with southern older whites, and better with younger southerners than with older southerners (unlike, e.g., Jesse Helms). So the idea that Reagan's campaign had special appeal to the Wallace/Helms voter seems to be wrong, even if he had greater appeal than, say, Ford.
7.15.2008 12:04am
Straw Man:
What are the examples of this "standard narrative"? Who are its proponents? Is the narrative that Reagan won because of appeals to racism? It would be interesting to see examples of that. Is it that he successfully captured the white vote through such appeals? The success or failure of unsavory campaign tactics seems pretty inconsequential if his victory didn't depend on it. If it's that Reagan's victory was tainted by appeals to racism, how does evidence of voting patterns affect that narrative?

Liberals get plenty of things wrong. Why not respond to a position someone actually expressed? You might find that some positions are more complete and sophisticated than the caricatures to which you prefer to respond. They may still be wrong, but a lot more worthy of debate.
7.15.2008 12:14am
loki13 (mail):
Personally, I find nothing disreputable about Reagan's use of coded language. Despite DB's disavowals, "states' rights" is (and, especially, was) an incredibly loaded term that people in the South today cannot invoke without the racist component, and even "federalism" can be problematic, as those who go to Southern law schools know (the term having beeen reclaimed... just barely). But Reagan, after all, was a politician, and he was going after votes. Slimy tactics come with the territory.

What is disreputable is DB's intellectually dishonest defense. As pointed out above, had the words been "rootless cosmopolitan" from a long-ago politician then DB wouldn't be contorting himself in such a fashion. But this is just sad.
7.15.2008 12:28am
David M. Nieporent (www):
If you think the Willie Horton ad was not racially tinged (which is all I said, not that he was a racist), then this discussion is not worth having. I am stunned that people are unaware of Atwater's own well-publicized apologies for the tactics he used. Sorry I don't have time to pull out the full run of stories on this topic.
There is no "the Willie Horton ad," in that there were two ads. Neither one was "racially tinged," however. Neither one had anything to do with race.
7.15.2008 12:35am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I promised that was my last post, but I'm reneging. If you read the link to my long post I link to on the "states' rights" incident, I don't "defend" Reagan, I criticize him. But I also criticize him accurately, for using an inappropriate phrase once in a non-racial context, not inaccurately be claiming he gave a speech about states rights. But I'll assume you're not being intellectually dishonest, but are just a lazy reader, so lazy that you think calling his remark "ill-conceived" (see the post) is a "defense".
7.15.2008 12:38am
DavidBernstein (mail):
And, and "foolish."
7.15.2008 12:39am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> I wonder how much race played in their decisions to move south, as well (escaping riots in the northern cities, etc.)

Why is escaping riots evidence of racism?

At least some of the riots were by presumed racists. (It's interesting that the majority of the busing violence was in the north. If busing opposition is a race thing....) How is it that moving away from racists is racism?

And, if you're going to argue that they were trying to escape the black riots, why would they go where there were more blacks and the blacks were less segregated?
7.15.2008 12:39am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I think you are overlooking two things:

1) The impact of the killings. The had huge resonance, and their association with both Philadelphia and Neshoba County meant that those places were thoroughly identified with racist murder. There was no way Reagan didn't know that.
I think you are overlooking two things:

1) The killings were in 1964. The campaign in question was in 1980. I realize that liberals still want to fight the civil rights era, but most people had moved on.

2) Bad racially-related stuff happened throughout the south. If Reagan had given the speech in Little Rock, people would claim he was alluding to Orval Faubus. If he had given the speech in Birmingham, people would claim he was somehow endorsing the Birmingham church bombing. If he had given it in Memphis, they'd say it was a reference to King's assassination. If the speech had been in Northern Mississippi, Reagan would have been accused of favoring the lynching of Emmett Till. Had it been Jackson, it would have been supporting the murder of Medgar Evers.

In short, there is no reason to think that speaking at the Neshoba County Fair had the slightest thing to do with the Philadelphia murders.
7.15.2008 12:52am
Happyshooter:
ZOMG!!! Saginaw, Mi, in 1967, had riots and the city's first black mayor raised the bridges to contain the violence on the black side of the river!!!!

Bush Jr came to Saginaw in an election stop in 2004!!!

Bush Jr supports racist bridge raising!!! He had a racist Northern stop!!!
7.15.2008 9:33am
JosephSlater (mail):
I want to second Dave N's point that a big factor in the migration to the south in recent decades (and the economic success in some, but certainly not all parts of the south) had a lot to do with good-quality air conditioning becoming cheaper and more widely available.
7.15.2008 11:44am
Paul Goodrock:

Reagan was clearly using "states rights" as a synonym for "federalism," not "segregation." OTOH, he could have just said federalism, and I suspect that he was doing a little pandering here, knowing that the locals were more familiar with the idea of "states' rights" than federalism, and he either got caught up in the moment or had a tin ear for how this would sound in the broader world. (He certainly didn't do it to provoke a racial controversy, given his scheduled speech at the Urban League and meeting with Jesse Jackson the next day.)


---------------------------


Again, your near-religious certainty of Reagan's moral innocence and your willingness to ignore what a sophisticated politician and communicator he was strains your credibility.

You state with a professorial certitude that Reagan "didn't [invoke the segregationist 'states rights' rallying call] to provoke a racial controversy" because of "his scheduled speech at the Urban League and meeting with Jesse Jackson the next day."

You would have your readers believe that it was impossible for Reagan (or any other skilled politician) to attempt to play for votes using coded appeals to latent and other racists as well as direct entreaties to African-Americans and other minority groups. Nonsense. That sort of opportunism and shameless pandering is hardly rare among the political class.

And, I'm puzzled by your insistence that by your writings you do not intend to "defend" Reagan and instead mean to "criticize" him for his poor judgment in thoughtlessly (but innocently) invoking a racist rallying call in a speech about federalism and economics at a site intimately associated with racists killings.

Your comments to this post make clear you are indeed mounting a zealous defense of Reagan (or at least the reality that Reagan knew exactly what he was doing that day in 1980).

Among your various arguments is the fantasy that the Neshoba County Fair and Philadelphia, Mississippi are so geographically distinct that the suggestion of Reagan having intended to associate himself with Philadelphia by his visit to the Fair is silly:


And for those of you to lazy to read the link above, Reagan didn't visit Philadelphia, he visited a county fair near Philadelphia....


However, the Neshoba County Fair is held a mere five miles from Philadelphia, at a local fairground, and the Neshoba County Fair Association is headquartered at: "16800 Highway 21 South
Philadelphia, MS 39350."


You also assert that Reagan "didn't kick off his campaign [at the Neshoba County Fair, 5 miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi] but rather, "he went there in the downtime between the Republican and Democratic conventions."

Your intentionally vague phrasing makes it unclear whether Reagan delivered his Philadelphia speech before or after the Republican convention, and thus lends credence to the lie that the speech cannot be considered Reagan's general election campaign kick-off.

In reality, (as you candidly note in your earlier post on the subject) Reagan's Philadelphia speech came after the Republican convention. While the Philadelphia speech may not have been considered by Reagan's campaign as his "official" campaign kick-off, the fact that it was his first large speech after the convention renders it a "de facto" "kick-off," despite any "de jure" intention otherwise.

It's like a couple being married by a justice of the peace a few days in advance of a destination wedding. Sure, the "official kickoff" of their marriage is at the formal wedding in Tahoe, but they are married when they leave the courthouse in Denver, whatever their "official" intention.

I'm hungry. Le's go get a taco.
7.15.2008 12:05pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
David, if you want to claim that Reagan did not make a conscious electoral appeal to racists (I don't charge him will being personally racist himself, but, echoing Harry Eager, that only makes it worse), you will have to defend all of Reagan's crypto-racist language. Given his use of the inexcusable "strapping young buck", we have good reason to believe that phrases you claim are ambiguous, e.g., "states rights", were also used as dog-whistle politics.

If we had a politician who talked about "rootless cosmopolitans", we would be well-justified in heightened scrutiny of his parallel attacks on "Hollywood moguls". Somehow I doubt if you would be defending that politician, either, no matter how enlightened his tax cut policy might be.
7.15.2008 1:16pm
davidbernstein (mail):
First, let me say that the reason the county fair speech issue raises my hackles, is not to defend Reagan, but because I personally was taken in by the narrative about this particular speech, and I don't like being taken for a fool.

You would have your readers believe that it was impossible for Reagan (or any other skilled politician) to attempt to play for votes using coded appeals to latent and other racists as well as direct entreaties to African-Americans and other minority groups."


This would make sense in 1930, when a candidate could say contradictory things in different parts of the country with no one noticing. It makes exactly zero sense with regard to Reagan's Mississippi speech, given with the national media (times, post, wires, etc.) present. Dog whistle politics doesn't occur when you use an obviously loaded phrase in front of the national media.

Say what you will about "kick off," it's obvious if you look at the media from the time that no one thought the timing of the speech had any significance (beyond how it related to his Urban League speech--he purposely spoke in Mississippi first, for fear that the Urban League would be offended if he immediately went to Mississippi to speak to an overwhelmingly white audience), the true kick off of the campaign was on Labor Day. To suggest otherwise, as so many commentators have done, is either ignorant or disingenuous.

If Neshoba County Fair = Philadelphia, why do Reagan's critics always say he went to Philadelphia, not the Fair? Obviously, because the civil rights workers weren't killed at the fair, so it weakens the narrative. Or why don't they just say "near Philadelphia?"

Finally, I don't declare Reagan's moral innocence. I say that his guilt was different in both kind and degree than what he is accused of. To reiterate, he's accused of launching his presidential campaign in the town where three civil rights workers were killed with a speech defending states' rights. In fact, he gave a speech during what was traditionally considered the off period in between the conventions to a county fair to which he had been invited by Trent Lott in which he made exactly one reference to states' rights in a context that had nothing to do with race but was clearly a reference to federalism. One can still say that the symbolism was bad, because the fair is indeed near where the victims were killed; that Reagan should not have slipped in a reference to states' rights, which had nasty connotations even if the context was non-racial; and that Reagan even should have said something related to the region's sorry history. For all that, he could be held morally culpable. But it's rather thin gruel compared to the story Krugman et al portray.

By the way, if Reagan had said, in the context of arguing that economic policy would be better left to the states, because they will do a better job than the rootless cosmopolitans in the federal government who don't concern themselves with local issues, as one sentence in a speech, the day before he was giving a major speech to the ADL, I might criticize him for use of a loaded phrase, but I'd hardly say he gave a speech "about" rootless cosmopolitans, nor would I suggest that this shows that his entire campaign was an attempt to stir anti-Semitism.
7.15.2008 2:02pm
Smokey:
Some folks find racism lurking in every corner. Fine, if that's the way they want to live their lives. But they are hypocrites when they attribute racism to Reagan, and conveniently leave Bill and Hillary Clinton and Robert Byrd out of it.

As pointed out above, the race card is played much more today than it was during Reagan's campaign, when the central issues were the Cold War and the economy.

Today, instead of congratulating our country -- now the least racist country on Earth -- for destroying official racism, those who still spout "racism!" at every opportunity in order to score personal political points are doing this country a great disservice by disparaging America in the eyes of the world.

To see how far we've come, read Huckleberry Finn again.
7.15.2008 2:35pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):

Today, instead of congratulating our country -- now the least racist country on Earth -- for destroying official racism
Could someone explain the survey methodology used here?
7.15.2008 2:40pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
dog-whistle politics.
This argument makes no sense. The metaphor is based upon the notion that only dogs can hear the sounds it makes -- but the people who claim to have heard the whistling are all liberals, not conservatives! Doesn't that make liberals dogs -- er, racists?

The liberal claim is presumably that conservatives also heard the whistling, even though they don't admit it. But if liberals heard it and conservatives heard it, what exactly was the point of using the dog whistle? Why not just speak? Who was it being hidden from?

Among your various arguments is the fantasy that the Neshoba County Fair and Philadelphia, Mississippi are so geographically distinct that the suggestion of Reagan having intended to associate himself with Philadelphia by his visit to the Fair is silly:
It's not that they're "geographically distinct," but that they're actually distinct. The argument is that there's no other reason to speak in Philadelphia, Mississippi, a place known only as the location where civil rights workers were killed. Perhaps a speech there could be in some way -- though nobody explains how -- an expression of support for those murders. But there was a reason to speak where Reagan actually spoke, the Neshoba County Fair.
7.15.2008 2:52pm
Careless:

Could someone explain the survey methodology used here?


Show people large numbers of faces of various races and have them report the expression (negative and positive expressions) as quickly as possible. The theory (and I believe they found some evidence that it reflected actual racism, but it's been years and I've lost the study) is that people with more racist views will be slower to recognize happy faces on faces of their disfavored races.

I know that Americans are, by this measure, less "racist" than other people in the Americas (I've never seen a study that did Europe).

I have no idea how accurately this reflects actual racism or that this test was anything more than a g-test.
7.15.2008 3:11pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
If the dems had wanted to show that the Horton ad was racist, they'd have found a more egregious case with a white perp and asked how come he didn't get the ink.
They didn't.
What they did do, however, was obviously falsely and despicably accuse millions of their fellow citizens of racism in order to shut down the discussion of crime, punishment and general liberal foolishness.
7.15.2008 3:14pm
Smokey:
Andrew J. Lazarus:

Today, instead of congratulating our country -- now the least racist country on Earth -- for destroying official racism
Could someone explain the survey methodology used here?
AJL's reading comprehension = zero.

Unless you can point out some official racism in this country.
7.15.2008 8:37pm
hawkins:

Unless you can point out some official racism in this country.


I think he was referring to the "now least racist country on Earth" part of your statement.
7.15.2008 11:53pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Nelson Mandela is celebrating his 90th birthday today. Ronald Reagan (along with Jesse Helms) stood proudly behind the racist Apartheid regime and staunchly against the blacks seeking freedom.
7.18.2008 6:06am