Sasha Abramsky writes: eight years after Obama’s extraordinary electoral victory, Donald Trump is stoking a racial violence, a seething, bubbling, street-violent animus last whipped up so overtly by a presidential candidate in 1968, by the segregationist George Wallace.
Trump has repeatedly re-tweeted, thus endorsing, White Supremacist tweets, launched a vicious verbal assault on Mexican-Americans, made sweeping anti-Muslim statements that, if one were to substitute “Jew” for “Muslim,” would not have been out of place in early Nazi propaganda, and has, in the process, racked up endorsements from a who’s who of white nationalists and neo-fascist groups.
It’s not that that animus hasn’t long been there; it’s just that, since the civil rights era, politicians have calculated that subtlety wins out over naked bigotry, that it’s somehow more palatable to the great mass of middle-of-the-road voters. Hence the rise of what came to be described as “dog whistle politics,” a coded appeal to racial hatreds that could be heard and clearly understood by those it was aimed at while being plausibly denied when politicians were publicly called out for it.
Neither party can claim to have been immune to this. On the Democratic side, Bill Clinton, for example, despite his great popularity amongst African American voters and his reputation as a post-segregationist, liberal Southern governor, sought to shore up his conservative credentials with tough-on-crime policies and welfare reforms that disproportionately impacted black Americans.
But, by and large, once the national Democratic Party broke with its southern segregationist wing and embraced Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights agenda in the mid-1960s, it was the GOP, employing what Richard Nixon termed “the Southern Strategy,” that utilized race-resentment politics in the crudest, most personal, of ways. After all, millions of white Americans were largely unreconciled to the civil rights revolution, and for a party willing to pander to their bigotries, there were rich electoral pickings to be had. [Continue reading…]