Saturday, March 05, 2016

American crossroads: Reagan, Trump and the devil down south

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above, “Have mercy now,
Save poor Bob, if you please”
— Robert Johnson, Cross Road Blues

How the Republican party’s dog-whistle appeal to racism, refined by Richard Nixon and perfected by Ronald Reagan, led inexorably to Donald Trump

by Ben Fountain, The Guardian
Saturday 5 March 2016 12.00 GMT

How did it get to Trump?

To put it in Trump terms: you could say it started with a deal. Or more precisely, a big deal with various side deals attached, all of it amounting to one grand, dark bargain whose payment may be coming due at last. If one was inclined to reach for metaphor, you could say it was a deal with the devil. Or you could say it started with this, a plank adopted by the Democratic national convention of 1948:
The Democratic party commits itself to continuing efforts to eradicate all racial, religious, and economic discrimination.
That was enough to bring the devil howling out of his hole, that foot-on-the-neck-of-the-black-man devil of the Jim Crow, hookworm, lynch-prone south – “the solid south” that reliably delivered its votes to the Democratic party every four years.

The year 1948 was a flash that led to a slow burn, a simmering fuse that wouldn’t erupt again for 16 years. The flash was the breakaway States’ Rights Democratic party, aka the Dixiecrats (motto: “segregation forever”), who recoiled from the regular Democrats’ spasm of conscience and put forward their own candidate for president, South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond. Thurmond campaigned on a platform that decried civil rights as “infamous and iniquitous”, “totalitarian” and an attempt by the federal government to impose “a police nation” on the land of the free. That fall, the Dixiecrats took four deep south states and 39 electoral votes from Harry Truman, a rippling of racist muscle that kept the Democratic party’s egalitarian impulse in check throughout the 1950s.

(More here.)

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