Another Nixon and Southern Strategy reference

From The Guardian:

The tension between the projection of a modern, inclusive, tolerant party and the reality of a sizeable racially intolerant element within its base pining for the restoration of white privilege is neither new nor accidental. Indeed, it in no small part explains the trajectory of the Republican party for almost the last??half century. In his diary, Richard Nixon's chief-of-staff, Bob Haldeman, described how his boss spelled out the racial contours of a new electoral game-plan to win southern and suburban whites over to the Republican party in the wake of the civil rights era. "You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks," Nixon told him. "The key is to devise a system that recognises that while not appearing to."

This could be the final hurrah for what became known as Nixon's southern strategy in what is shaping up to be the most racially polarised election ever. Black support for the Republican party literally cannot get any lower.


Fair and balanced on the campaign trail, 1972…?

A passage straight out of Jay Rosen’s “view from nowhere” thesis, spotted in Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland:

Every Watergate story was balanced by an imprecation against McGovern. The New York Times reported, “MCGOVERN DISCLOSES LARGE NEW LOANS,” about two heirs to the Eli Lilly fortune who channeled $500,000 to McGovern. Far down, after the jump, the story noted that Richard Mellon Scaife, of the Pittsburgh banking family, had given a million dollars’ worth of $3,000 checks to 330 Nixon committees to avoid the gift tax. The Lilly brothers’ contribution was a loan the McGovern campaign paid back through thousands of small donations; Scaife’s was a straight-up payout. But you had to read down to the end of the story whose headline mentioned McGovern to learn that.

For McGovern, the media’s gospel of “balance” was proving deadly. His campaign was overwhelmingly being funded by donors he labeled the “skinny cats.” They attended “people’s fund-raisers” where admission was five bucks. … They responded to direct mail with some thirty thousand envelopes a day. … After a televised speech on Vietnam … the one-day haul was $852,248. Gary Hart himself had to work the mail table to help with the backlog. You wouldn’t know it from reading the headlines in McGovernophoic organs such as the Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal: “$2 Million Loaned to McGovern by Unions, Rich Contributors”; “$4.5 Million in Loans; McGovern Forces Ask Wealthy for Financing”; “Secrecy Preferred by Some McGovern Moneymen.”

He wasn’t mugging Avon ladies. Apparently, he was mugging heirs and heiresses instead.”

Nixon’s southern strategy

I have heard Republicans claim that segregation was the creation of Democrats in the South.

It’s true. The Democratic Party was completely dominant in the former Confederate states almost until the end of the 20th century.

What’s not true, however, is any notion that today’s Republicans in the South are the inheritors of Republicans in the pre-civil rights era. That’s the implicit (explicit, even) point of southern Republicans who go to great lengths to note their party allegiance and how the GOP was the party of blacks and progressives (at least on matters of race) from Reconstruction until the presidencies of FDR and LBJ.

For it’s simply true that today’s Republican Party in the former Confederate states is the inheritor of the anti-civil rights Democratic Party of decades ago.

As a young acquaintance from Alabama once said to me with a serious tone: “If you’re white, you’re Republican.”

And it dates back to Strom Thurmond and his political ally, Richard Nixon. It was taken up by the likes of Jesse Helms and Richard Shelby … and so many others.

It’s the result, partly, of Richard Nixon’s ingenious “southern strategy,” which I once had a conservative correspondent claim he’d never heard of not to long ago.

The reason for the history 101 here is that I came across another great passage in Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland today:

The president [Nixon] found succor in Dixie. The Fifth Circuit had ordered thirty-three Mississippi school districts integrated before the opening of the school year. The districts filed the court-mandated plans; HEW approved them. Then Nixon ordered HEW secretary Finch to send the judge a letter with language dictated by Mississippi senator John Stennis: the September deadline would bring “chaos, confusion, and catastrophic educational setback” for children “blacks and whites alike.” The judge moved back the deadline to December; when it would, perhaps, be moved back some more. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund took out a full-page ad in the New York Times: “On August 25, 1969, the United States Government broke its promise to the children of Mississippi. The promise was made in 1954. By the highest court in the land.” Roy Wilkins accused the administration of actively helping the South prolong segregation and said that if Nixon was serious about civil rights, he’d fire John Mitchell. HEW’s civil rights chief, Leon Panetta, a thirty-one-year-old former aide to Thomas Kuchel, did what he thought was his job: he piped up that Nixon was serious about civil rights, just as he’d said at his inauguration.

Panetta immediately got a call from Ehrlichman: “Cool it, Leon!”

Silly Leon. HEW general counsel Robert Mardian, a top operative in Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign, marveled, “Doesn’t he understand Nixon promised the Southern delegates he would stop enforcing the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts?”

This isn’t to say that all southern Republicans are racists. They aren’t. Just as all northern liberals aren’t colorblind.  The point here is that history is history, and there’s no white-washing the fact that today’s southern Republicans are the descendants of a political backlash against civil rights and integration.

Right wingers for gun control?


I’m reading and immensely enjoying Nixonland by Rick Perlstein. I’m learning a lot more about that era’s politics, the narrative of which is much more nuanced than I ever appreciated.

For example, conservatives in California tried to ban carrying guns in public places after the Black Panthers started arming themselves. An excerpt:

The Panthers started patrolling in rich white neighborhoods: let them find out what it was like to have hostile forces stalking your streets with guns. Which was how they caught the attention of Don Mulford, the assemblyman who had conspired with the FBI to help Reagan get elected. He introduced a bill to ban the carrying of loaded firearms in public places. it was set for its first committee hearing on May 2 [1967].

“Gunman Invade W. Coast Capitol,” read the front-page banner in far-off Chicago:

“The Negroes, shouting they were members of the Black Panther party, forced their way into the assembly chamber while the legislators were in session, and scuffled with state highway patrolmen.”

Upon their arrest Huey newton read the Black Panther Executive Mandate No. 1, which called on “Americans and particularly Negroes to take careful note of the racist California legislature which is now considering legislation aimed at keeping the black people disarmed and powerless.” For many whites this statement settled it: Black Power meant arming black people.

Which only made sense, if you were a Black Panther. …

Wonder what would have happened had armed black people showed up outside George W. Bush rallies in 2001 … a la tea party. Somehow I think things would have played out quite differently.

Image courtesy Washington State Archive and Kurt Schaefer’s “The Black Panther Party in Seattle, 1968 – 1970” (via UW).

(Sidenote: The things you find online…