Sunday, November 11, 2007

Krugman v Brooks and Reagan's 'Mistaken' Legacy of Racism

Reagan: A Legacy of States' Rights

Steve Benen caught on to a subtle feud being played out between NYT’s Paul Krugman and David Brooks in their respective op-eds recently. Krugman's column a few weeks back pointed to Ronald Reagan's notable embrace of a Southern Strategy during a 1980 Philadelphia Miss. speech to capitalize on racism to secure the votes of those white voters who had become disenchanted by the Democratic Party following Lyndon Johnson's endorsement of Civil Rights legislation in the 60's. In an apparent response, on Fri Brooks offered up a version of what's becoming an all too common lately, a myopic defense of Reagan's infamous "states' rights" speech, taking Krugman to task without ever actually mentioning him by name.

Krugman fired back a snarky retort a day later, likewise not mentioning his fellow columnist by name. Benen writes, "As Krugman explained on his blog, Reagan’s defenders would have us believe that his “states’ rights” speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, was just an “innocent mistake,” which Reagan managed to make over and over again." Krugman went on to list a litany of other Reagan "mistakes" such as his oft told tale "about the welfare queen driving her Cadillac, and kept repeating the story years after it had been debunked," or that time when he "declared in 1980 that the Voting Rights Act had been “humiliating to the South.” ...

There was also that time Reagan mistakenly "intervened on the side of Bob Jones University's ban on interracial dating," or when he accidentally "fired three members of the Civil Rights Commission" only to have them later reinstated by the courts, and when he "opposed making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday." That "Poor Reagan," Krugman wittily opines, "He just kept on making those innocent mistakes, again and again and again."

Like Benen, I don't know that Brooks will be able to come up with a response to that, but should he try, I'd like to point to a few other "mistakes" that Krugman didn't mention, like Reagan's embrace of the white racist leaders of then-apartheid South Africa and his defense of Sen. Jesse Helms' attacks on Dr Martin Luther King, and his drastic cuts to important social programs that provided needed assistance to minorities, or that time when he accidentally had Col Oliver North involved with smuggling cocaine into the U.S. which led to a crack epidemic at the very same time he had so erroneously declared a war on drugs, building prisons and increasing the sentences that has resulted in the disenfranchizement of generations of mostly black would-be voters to this very day.

If you think about it it's quite remarkable. How ever did anyone so mistake-prone ever manage to fall upward all the way to the White House for two terms and still manage to be held in such high regard by so many (white) people?

No, Reagan didn't invent the Southern Strategy for the GOP to capitalize on America's bigotry for their electoral gains, but his administration just about perfected and ingrained it into the core of his party. And make no "mistake" about it, no matter what Tony Snow says otherwise, racism is still alive and well and being used as an electoral crutch by the Republican Party to this very day. The only difference I can tell is today's boogieman is starting to look less like the Civil Rights Act and more like a border fence, or rather the lack thereof.

UPDATE: Here's video of Krugman on CSpan's book TV discussing his book, The Conscience of a Liberal and Reagan & the GOP's use of race:

Big hug to uniongal/ heathr234 aka 'Heather' a fellow daily contributor to C&L for grabbing this vid for me.