"Notwithstanding the emerging racial strategy initiated by Goldwater, when Richard Nixon secured the Republican nomination in 1968, the new racial politics of his party had not yet gelled, either within the party generally, or in Nixon himself. Indeed, the moderate Nixon’s emergence as the party’s presidential candidate reflected the extent to which the Goldwater faction had lost credibility in the wake of their champion’s disastrous drubbing. Nevertheless, the dynamics of the presidential race would quickly push Nixon toward race-baiting. Nixon’s principal opponent in 1968 was Johnson’s vice president, Hubert Humphrey. But running as an independent candidate, George Wallace was flanking Nixon on the right. By October 1, just a month before the election, Wallace was polling more support in the South than either Humphrey or Nixon. Nor was his support limited to that region. Wallace was siphoning crucial votes across the country, and staging massive rallies in ostensibly liberal strongholds, for instance drawing 20,000 partisans to Madison Square Garden in New York, and 70,000 faithful to the Boston Common—more than any rally ever held by the Kennedys, Wallace liked to crow. Republican operatives guessed that perhaps 80 percent of the Wallace voters in the South would otherwise support Nixon, and a near-majority in the North as well.
"Late in the campaign, Nixon opted to publicly tack right on race. He had already reached a backroom deal with South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond— an arch-segregationist who had led the revolt against the Democratic Party in 1948 when it endorsed a modest civil rights plank, and who switched to become a Republican in 1964 to throw his weight behind Goldwater. Nixon bought Thurmond’s support during the primary season by secretly promising that he would restrict federal enforcement of school desegregation in the South. Now he would make this same promise to the nation. On October 7, Nixon came out against 'forced busing,' an increasingly potent euphemism for the system of transporting students across the boundaries of segregated neighborhoods in order to integrate schools. Mary Frances Berry pierces the pretense that the issue was putting one’s child on a bus: 'African-American attempts to desegregate schools were confronted by white flight and complaints that the problem was not desegregation, but busing, oftentimes by people who sent their children to school every day on buses, including mediocre white private academies established to avoid integration.' 'Busing' offered a Northern analog to states’ rights. The language may have referred to transportation, but the emotional wallop came from defiance toward integration.
"Nixon also began to hammer away at the issue of law and order. In doing so, he drew upon a rhetorical frame rooted in Southern resistance to civil rights. From the inception of the civil rights movement in the 1950s, Southern politicians had disparaged racial activists as 'lawbreakers,' as indeed technically they were. In the Jim Crow regions, African Americans had long pressed basic equality demands precisely by breaking laws mandating segregation: sit-ins and freedom rides purposefully violated Jim Crow statutes in order to challenge white supremacist social norms. Dismissing these protesters as criminals shifted the issue from a defense of white supremacy to a more neutral-seeming concern with 'order,' while simultaneously stripping the activists of moral stature. Demonstrators were no longer Americans willing to risk beatings and even death for a grand ideal, but rather criminal lowlifes disposed toward antisocial behavior. Ultimately, the language of law and order justified a more 'quiet' form of violence in defense of the racial status quo, replacing lynchings with mass arrests for trespassing and delinquency.
"By the mid-1960s, 'law and order' had become a surrogate expression for concern about the civil rights movement. Illustrating this rhetoric’s increasingly national reach, in 1965 FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover denounced the advocacy of nonviolent civil disobedience by civil rights leaders as a catalyst for lawbreaking and even violent rioting: '"Civil disobedience," a seditious slogan of gross irresponsibility, has captured the imagination of citizens. … I am greatly concerned that certain racial leaders are doing the civil rights movement a great disservice by suggesting that citizens need only obey the laws with which they agree. Such an attitude breeds disrespect for the law and even civil disorder and rioting.' This sense of growing disorder was accentuated by urban riots often involving protracted battles between the police and minority communities. In addition, large and increasingly angry protests against the Vietnam War also added to the fear of metastasizing social strife. Exploiting the growing panic that equated social protest with social chaos, one of Nixon’s campaign commercials showed flashing images of demonstrations, riots, police, and violence, over which a deep voice intoned: 'Let us recognize that the first right of every American is to be free from domestic violence. So I pledge to you, we shall have order in the United States.' A caption stated boldly: 'This time. . . . vote like your whole world depended on it … NIXON.'
"Nixon had mastered Wallace’s dark art. Forced bussing, law and order, and security from unrest as the essential civil right of the majority—all of these were coded phrases that allowed Nixon to appeal to racial fears without overtly mentioning race at all. Yet race remained the indisputable, intentional subtext of the appeal. As Nixon exulted after watching one of his own commercials: 'Yep, this hits it right on the nose . . . it’s all about law and order and the damn Negro-Puerto Rican groups out there.'
"Nixon didn’t campaign exclusively on racial themes; notably, he also stressed his opposition to anti-war protesters, while simultaneously portraying himself as the candidate most likely to bring the war to an end. Nevertheless, racial appeals formed an essential element of Nixon’s ’68 campaign. Nixon’s special counsel, John Ehrlichman, bluntly summarized that year’s campaign strategy: 'We’ll go after the racists.' According to Ehrlichman, the 'subliminal appeal to the anti-black voter was always present in Nixon’s statements and speeches.'
"Nixon’s Southern Strategy
"Nixon barely won in 1968, edging Humphrey by less than one percent of the national vote. Wallace, meanwhile, had captured nearly 14 percent of the vote. Had Nixon’s coded race-baiting helped? Initially there was uncertainty, and in his first two years in office Nixon governed as if he still believed the federal government had some role to play in helping out nonwhites. For instance, Nixon came into office proposing the idea of a flat wealth transfer to the poor, which would have gone a long way toward breaking down racial inequalities. But over the course of those two years, a new understanding consolidated regarding the tidal shift that had occurred.
"On the Democratic side, in 1970 two pollsters, Richard Scammon and Ben Wattenberg, published The Real Majority, cautioning their party that 'Social Issues' now divided the base. 'The machinist’s wife in Dayton may decide to leave the Democratic reservation in 1972 and vote for Nixon or Wallace or their ideological descendants,' Scammon and Wattenberg warned. 'If she thinks the Democrats feel that she isn’t scared of crime but that she’s really a bigot, if she thinks that Democrats feel the police are Fascist pigs and the Black Panthers and the Weathermen are just poor, misunderstood, picked-upon kids, if she thinks that Democrats are for the hip drug culture and that she, the machinist’s wife, is not only a bigot, but a square, then good-bye lady—and good-bye Democrats.' How, then, could the party get ahead of these issues? Scammon and Wattenberg were frank: 'The Democrats in the South were hurt by being perceived (correctly) as a pro-black national party.' The solution was clear: the Democratic Party had to temper its 'pro-black stance.'
"On the Republican side, a leading Nixon strategist had come to the same conclusion about race as a potential wedge issue—though, predictably, with a different prescription. In 1969, Kevin Phillips published The Emerging Republican Majority, arguing that because of racial resentments a historical realignment was underway that would cement a new Republican majority that would endure for decades. A young prodigy obsessed with politics, Phillips had worked out the details of his argument in the mid-1960s, and then had gone to work helping to elect Nixon. When the 1968 returns seemed to confirm his thesis, he published his research—nearly 500 pages, with 47 maps and 143 charts. Beneath the details, Phillips had a simple, even deterministic thesis: 'Historically, our party system has reflected layer upon layer of group oppositions.' Politics, according to Phillips, turned principally on group animosity—'the prevailing cleavages in American voting behavior have been ethnic and cultural. Politically, at least, the United States has not been a very effective melting pot.'
"As to what was driving the latest realignment, Phillips was blunt: 'The Negro problem, having become a national rather than a local one, is the principal cause of the breakup of the New Deal coalition.' For Phillips, it was almost inevitable that most whites would abandon the Democratic Party once it became identified with blacks. 'Ethnic and cultural division has so often shaped American politics that, given the immense midcentury impact of Negro enfranchisement and integration, reaction to this change almost inevitably had to result in political realignment.' Phillips saw his emerging Republican majority this way: 'the nature of the majority—or potential majority—seems clear. It is largely white and middle class. It is concentrated in the South, the West, and suburbia.'
"The number crunchers had spoken. The Southern strategy, incipient for a decade, had matured into a clear route to electoral dominance. The old Democratic alliance of Northeastern liberals, the white working class, Northern blacks, and Southern Democrats, could be riven by racial appeals. Beginning in 1970, Richard Nixon embraced the politics of racial division wholeheartedly. He abandoned the idea of a flat wealth transfer to the poor. Now, Nixon repeatedly emphasized law and order issues. He railed against forced busing in the North. He reversed the federal government’s position on Southern school integration, slowing the process down and making clear that the courts would have no help from his administration. But perhaps nothing symbolized the new Nixon more than his comments in December 1970. Reflecting his initially moderate position on domestic issues, early in his administration Nixon had appointed George Romney—a liberal Republican and, incidentally, Mitt Romney’s father—as his secretary of housing and urban development. In turn, Romney had made integration of the suburbs his special mission, even coming up with a plan to cut off federal funds to communities that refused to allow integrated housing. By late 1970, however, when these jurisdictions howled at the temerity, Nixon took their side, throwing his cabinet officer under the bus. In a public address, Nixon baldly stated: 'I can assure you that it is not the policy of this government to use the power of the federal government . . . for forced integration of the suburbs. I believe that forced integration of the suburbs is not in the national interest.' That dog whistle blasted like the shriek of an onrushing train.
"In 1963, Robert Novak had written that many Republican leaders were intent on converting the Party of Lincoln into the White Man’s Party. The following year, Goldwater went down in crushing defeat, winning only 36 percent of the white vote. Even so, less than a decade later, the racial transmogrification of the Republicans was well underway. In 1972, Nixon’s first full dog whistle campaign netted him 67 percent of the white vote, leaving his opponent, George McGovern, with support from less than one in three whites. Defeated by the Southern strategy, McGovern neatly summed it up: 'What is the Southern Strategy? It is this. It says to the South: Let the poor stay poor, let your economy trail the nation, forget about decent homes and medical care for all your people, choose officials who will oppose every effort to benefit the many at the expense of the few—and in return, we will try to overlook the rights of the black man, appoint a few southerners to high office, and lift your spirits by attacking the ‘eastern establishment’ whose bank accounts we are filling with your labor and your industry.' McGovern erred in supposing that the Southern strategy pertained only to the South. Nixon had already learned from Wallace, and then later from the number crunchers, that coded racial appeals would work nationwide. Other than that, especially in its class and race dimensions, McGovern had dog whistle politics dead to rights."
|Yes, you are.|
(Excerpted from “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class” by Ian Haney López. Copyright © 2014 by Ian Haney López. Reprinted by arrangement with Oxford University Press, a division of Oxford University. All rights reserved. Ian Haney-López is a law professor and the author of "Dog Whistle Politics: How Fifty Years of Coded Racial Appeals Wrecked the Middle Class." Follow him on Twitter @DogWhistleRace. MORE IAN HANEY-LOPEZ.)
"Law and order," "states' rights," and "busing," were the dog race-baiting dog whistles back then when racists like Nixon really meant " law and order and the damn Negro-Puerto Rican groups out there."
The demographics of the times also meant that "the nature of the majority—or potential majority—seem(ed) clear. It (was) largely white and middle class...(and) concentrated in the South, the West, and suburbia." The Tea Party of today is also reaching out to these people, but the demographics also tell us that racism is more likely to be a factor of old, soon-to-be-dead white people.
The politics of racial division, perfected by Tricky Dick, transformed the party in another relevant way: the GOP could no longer brag about being "the party of Lincoln" as party members began switching parties and the African Americans that the Conservatives demonized hopped over the Democratic Party. It wasn't the first time political parties had "switched" or people abandoned their favorite parties, whether Tories, Whigs, Federalists, or Democratic-Republicans, these parties are no more.
And the abandoment of a major American political party is happening once again as the GOP is embroiled in an internal gang war: the establishment Conservatives vs. the Tea Baggers. See "The Raging Republican Civil War."
As the Tea Baggers and Sheeplets once again prove their abysmal stupidity (See any of our 142 articles on the topic "Conservatives Are Stupid") by comparing the almost-impeachment of Nixon to their idiotic desire to impeach President Obama. And as they are also rationalizing a strange accusation of racism to both presidents ("if Nixon was a racist so is Obama,") they are helping to change political party history.
"If you’ve seen one city slum, you’ve seen them all."
Vice President Spiro Agnew.
Vice President Spiro Agnew.