The alt-right was always one step away in the GOP

This past week, Hillary Clinton said THIS:

I don’t disagree with Secretary Clinton that Donald J. Trump receives credit for opening the door to the white supremacist/ alt-right movement (or the “so-called alt-right”, to quote Andrea Mitchell… so-called? How about self-identified????).  I would contend two additonal points.  First, the door was partially opened, when Trump got there. That’s how he made his way in.  Second, Trump’s additional “crime” is in taking the door off of its hinges and posting the “welcome” sign for supremacists when he was done.  The #GOP unlocked that dWelcome Signoor long ago, making room for Trump,  when it first nominated Goldwater , who virulently  opposed the civil rights bill.  The party has been toying with Goldwater-esque politics at varying depths since then.  

In reality, the #GOP has always tolerated racism from its candidates, as long as racism was carefully coded, enough so to allow a plausible deniability of anything untoward taking place.  The sentiment had to be “warm” – accompanied by a smile,  none of the bile dripping, vein popping, raging racism of the pre-civil rights movement.  It had to have finesse, and be described as benevolently patriarchial “concern” for minority groups.  It had to be inconsistent enough to create a sense of cognitive conflict by having its actors behave in ways that seemed to run counter to the charge of racism.  It was ok to hire individual minorities.  It was not ok to ensure equal access of opportunity for ALL minorities.  

Below are some of the #GOP’s greatest hits.  If they need explanation, you should talk to some of your progressive friends more often:

Richard M. Nixon (whose tendency toward grievance counting and vindictiveness is  often viewed as having the most direct connection to Trump’s brand of modern Republicanism)

The Nixon legacy: 

“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

John Erhlichmann to Dan Baum, 1994

You tell me, did it work?  It would be easy to believe that Erhlichmann made it all up.  How could the Nixon WH view minorities, African-Americans, in particular, as being the enemies of the Republican Party?  Many African-Americans were still registered members of the party, right?  He won an enviable 32 percent of the African-American vote despite his reported disregard for African-American people.  The problem for those who are in denial regarding Nixon’s racist disposition is that there are over 265 hours of audiotape from the Nixon White House,  which confirm his prejudices against African-Americans,  Jewish-Americans, and many others.

 If you follow this Miller Center link, and listen to more of the recordings, his comments about  minority groups will make your hair stand on end. 

Ronald  Reagan  (who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968)

Source: Bill Moyers

Those comments are only shocking or confusing to those who supported Reagan.  To those who understood the real issues of poverty in minority communities, those comments were sad and unnecessarily divisive.  If this helps (current data, but consistent over time):

Income Spending Chart

Source:  NPR

Why is spending on food higher for low income people?  Impoverished and lower income people have household budgets, too, they aren’t buying steak and lobster.  They tend to live in communities, which rely on more “mom and pop” stores instead of major chains. Major chains have more buying power to pass lower costs on to consumers.  They offer fresher produce and more product choices. There is a huge grocery gap in our communities.   Low income individuals spend more money for food, but are able to buy less.  “Young Bucks” buying steak and lobster with food stamps while everyone else eats hamburger is more a figment of the racist and classist imagination than it is reality.

Consciously or unconsciously, Reagan’s supporters make a distinction that I refer to as the politicized Reagan vs. the projected Reagan.  Politicized Reagan is the person his non supporters see and judge based on the legislation he did (or did not support), and the rationales he gave – including the refusal to support sanctions against S. Africa. It is not always clear whether his choices were politically motivated or reflective of his true beliefs, but at some point it no longer matters.  He supported the frighening Goldwater,  fought civil rights legislation, was PUBLICLY unclear of whether he thought MLK, JR was a communist sympathizer, engaging in dog whistle politics despite the truth of the lives of minority people.  Of Dr. King, Reagan  wrote, to Gov. Meldrim Thomson (member of the John Birch society): “On the national holiday you mentioned, I have the reservations you have, but here the perception of too many people is based on an image, not reality. Indeed to them, the perception is reality. We hope some modifications might still take place in Congress.”

 The proejcted Reagan is the man I think his supporters, who were typically not impacted by his more unsavory beliefs and policies,  have chosen to believe in – despite all evidence to the contrary.  I see a  revisionist approach to the man, one which allows his supporters to view his  values as non-racist or non-harmful.  After all,  he was merely seeking to help minorities help themselves, wasn’t he?  They see him as someone who couldn’t have held racist sentiments because he occasionally said nice things about minorities  or displayed some act of contrition for a lousy thing he’d said or done.  I think it’s worth noting that Reagan’s most openly positive PERSONAL actions, regarding race, reported in the link above, occurred prior to his political transition.  As President, he spoke about overt acts of racism that he found troubling.  None of those feelings stopped him from promoting the false notions of welfare queens and young bucks buying steaks with food stamps.

10 Real Facts About Ronald Reagan That Republicans Never Choose to Admit

 

Jesse Helms (who attempted to filibuster the bill which created the MLK, Jr. Holiday)

“White people, wake up before it is too late. Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife and your daughters, in your mills and factories? Frank Graham favors mingling of the races.” – Ad created by campaign strategist Helms and friends for the blatantly racist (and successful) U.S. Senate campaign of Willis Smith in 1950. During the same campaign, Helms described UNC as “the University of Negroes and Communists.”  Creative Loafing 

The Helms Center denies any involvement, officially or unofficially, in the Smith campaign.  Then there is this:

Helms gained a political following in the 1960s as a commentator on Raleigh’s WRAL-TV and the Tobacco Radio Network with his denunciations of the civil rights movement, liberalism and communism.  As a senator, he explained that he voted against Roberta Achtenberg, President Clinton’s nominee for a Housing and Urban Development position, “because she’s a damn lesbian.”

“Let it GO! “, you say.  Everyone was racist, sexist, and homophobic in the 1950s and 60s, you say.  Well, that’s WRONG, I respond. Not everyone was racist, sexist, and homophobic.  That’s one of the reasons there was support for the Civil Rights bill and cross cultural participation in the movement.  Jesse Helms did not give up his beliefs after the Civil Rights movement (which he opposed). 

Same source:

When Helms encountered protesters during a visit to Mexico in 1986, he remarked: “All Latins are volatile people. Hence, I was not surprised at the volatile reaction.”

Let’s not forget his reported comments to Orin Hatch about Carol Moseley-Braun (D), the first elected  African-American female U.S. Senate, serving from 1993 to 1999:  “Watch me make her cry. I’m going to make her cry. I’m going to sing ‘Dixie’ until she cries.”  The Helms Center,  of course, reports the interaction as much more  friendly. It adds that she heard his comments to Hatch and told him that his singing would make her cry if he sang “Rock of Ages”.  Awwww, see, racism can be warm and friendly too, depending on which side of that interaction you’re standing.  No need to realize that CMB managed to defuse an awful situation with humor…. just so those associated with the Helms Center know, slaves did not sing in the fields out of joy.

Strom Thurmond (who left the Democratic Party because of its support for 1964 Civil Rights Act)

His most famous quote – the unsanitized version?

“I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigger race into our theatres into our swimming pools into our homes and into our churches.” 1948

The quote is reported with either “Nigger” or “Nigra” being used.  Which matters more? Neither.  What matters more is that by the time he uttered those words, Thurmond was the father of a 23 year old African- American woman named Essie Mae Washington-Williams.  He’d kept her hidden from the public.  Thurmond fathered her when he was 22 years old and Ms. Washington-Williams’ mother, Carrie Butler, was 16 years old and a maid working  in the Thurmond household.

When his daughter was 32 years old,  the then-Democrat, Thurmond had successfully filibustered the 1957 Civil Rights Act by speaking for more than 24 hours.  Would it surprise you to know that he supported Barry Goldwater in 1964?  No?  It shouldn’t. He did.  He also worked aggressively for Richard M. Nixon in 1968. 

Slate outlines the reasons why Thurmond’s later actions should not be treated as a repudiation of his earlier beliefs.  For me, the fact that he died, never acknowledging his daughter is sufficient.  She set the historical record straight, on her own, six months after her father’s death.

Steve King

For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.” July 2013, referring to Dreamers.

Calves the size of cantaloupes?  75 pound bags?  Ok, Whatever, Steve King.

(While in Cleveland, Ohio,  July 2016):  “This whole ‘white people’ business, though, does get a little tired, Charlie. I mean, I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about? Where did any other sub-group of people contribute to civilization?”

I’m sure if he’d just asked anyone who studied African-American history, or anyone who knew anything about that city, that they would have told him about Kentucky born Garrett Morgan, who made Cleveland, Ohio his home: Inventor of the first safety hood, one of the first stop lights, and a host of other inventions.  King’s race baiting comments are too numerous to name.

Paul LePage

Everything you need to know about this guy is summed up in the following statement: 

In addition to the GOP’s stand out all stars, above, there are the assorted bunch of racially insensitive characters (elected at all levels of government) whose actions mirror the above, to varying degrees.  I do not believe that all of the above are equal in terms of the depth of vulgarity of their approaches to race and racism.  I do believe they are tied to an ideology that binds them to the Republican party.  As stated earlier, Trump didn’t open the door to the alt-right, he just took the door off the hinges so that they could move about freely.  It is up to GOP voters and supporters as to whether the door is closed, or if they leave it open and allow the alt-right to eventually burn the party down.  The constant denial of its troubles with race will mean that the door can never be properly secured to keep out the fringe. If the party doesn’t start to look deeply into its soul  and then take action, it will never again be the party of Lincoln, in the way that it has hoped to be.  Their refusal to take action after the 2012 autopsy tells us that.

Let’s hope that post-Trump,  things change for the better.

 

 

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