Sunday, April 10, 2016

Quotes from Two Mainstream Republicans From the 1980s

1. "I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could--if that were your sole purpose--you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."
---Bill Bennett, transcribed from his conservative talk show, Morning in America, in 2005.  Bennett was head of the National Endowment for Humanities under Reagan, later becoming Secretary of Education under Reagan.  He was Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under George H.W. Bush, Distinguished Fellow in Cultural Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, author of Moral Compass:  Stories for a Life's Journey, editor of The Children's Book of Virtues, and a political analyst for CNN from 2008 until he was terminated in 2013.

2.  "You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.'  By 1968 you can't say 'nigger.'  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."---Lee Atwater, on tape in 1981 in an interview with Alexander P. Lamis.  Atwater was campaign manager for George H.W. Bush.  He was author of the Willie Horton ad against Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988,  Later  he became Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  When dying of a brain tumor at the age of 40 he apologized to Michael Dukakis in a Life magazine interview, for the "naked cruelty" of the 1988 presidential campaign.

It is not possible to understand the 2016 Republican primary contest, yet alone American politics today without knowing something about the Republican Southern Strategy (of which both quotes above are a part), which triumphed in 1968 and dominated national campaigns for the next half-century.  You must also reflect on the mischief created by bipartisan "political correctness," as enforced ideologically and selectively by the increasingly arrogant establishment media, and the damage it has caused to honesty in political expression. 
But mainly you must understand the profound frustration of millions of white working class Republicans (not just in the South) who drank the kool-aid only to wake up decades later and discover the ineluctable truth that it was their vote--not their financial security nor their health nor "family values"--that stood behind the curtain of the American Dream envisioned by Republican campaign strategists.  How to channel this frustration is what the Republican campaign of 2016 became after Trump began winning primary elections.  Trump, Cruz, and Kasich represent different versions of just how to do this, but the national electorate doesn't seem to be buying it so far.  The Clinton and Sanders campaigns also represent variations on how to deal with these same frustrations over massive, bipartisan, government failure on bread and butter issues.  Not since 1968, with its political assassinations and violence in the streets over Viet Nam and civil rights has the public played as decisive a role in setting the terms of the debate.  This election is a game-changer, long overdue.

1 comment:

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