It’s Not Just a Card–It’s the Whole Deck

Speaking of the “race card”….

As Donald Trump has continued his march toward the Republican nomination, pundits and political historians alike have tried to explain his emergence. One of the most cogent of those explanations appeared in the Guardian, in a lengthy, well-researched article tracing the trajectory of racism and political calculation in the United States.

After describing the events leading up to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the article referenced Lyndon Johnson’s well-known quote:

“I think we just gave the south to the Republicans,” he told his staff after ramming the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress. His aide Bill Moyers recalled the moment in more drastic terms: Johnson feared he had delivered the south to Republicans “for your lifetime and mine”, a prediction whose proof, while not yet conclusive – we are happy that Mr Moyers is still with us – has trended ever since toward prophecy.

Fast-forward to Nixon, and the “southern strategy.”

What was needed was white backlash with a kinder, gentler face. Years later, the Republican strategist Lee Atwater, by then an operative in the Reagan White House, would explain the essence of the “southern strategy” to an academic researcher:

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, uh, forced bussing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me – because obviously sitting around saying ‘We want to cut this’ is much more abstract than even the bussing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘nigger, nigger’.

The article details how Nixon refined the strategy and Reagan perfected it. It also describes  the way in which the GOP “establishment” used that racism to distract from a more plutocratic agenda–engaging in a “bait and switch” operation that won elections and then ignored the base that delivered those victories.

Enter Donald Trump.

While the other Republican contenders keep their xenophobia within the bounds of acceptably cruel political discourse, Trump blows it out: his racist rants play like full-fledged operas compared to the dog-whistle stuff, shredding the finely honed code that’s worked so long and so well for the GOP establishment. But that’s why the base loves him; he feels their rage.

Paul Krugman has an abbreviated version of that same history in a recent New York Times column.

How does a party in thrall to a basically unpopular ideology — or at any rate an ideology voters would dislike if they knew more about it — win elections? Obfuscation helps. But demagogy and appeals to tribalism help more. Racial dog whistles and suggestions that Democrats are un-American if not active traitors aren’t things that happen now and then, they’re an integral part of Republican political strategy.

Krugman takes up where the Guardian leaves off, and completes the history of the southern strategy.

During the Obama years Republican leaders cranked the volume on that strategy up to 11 (although it was pretty bad during the Clinton years too.) Establishment Republicans generally avoided saying in so many words that the president was a Kenyan Islamic atheist socialist friend of terrorists — although as the quote from Mr. Rubio shows, they came pretty close — but they tacitly encouraged those who did, and accepted their endorsements. And now they’re paying the price.

For the underlying assumption behind the establishment strategy was that voters could be fooled again and again: persuaded to vote Republican out of rage against Those People, then ignored after the election while the party pursued its true, plutocrat-friendly priorities. Now comes Mr. Trump, turning the dog whistles into fully audible shouting, and telling the base that it can have the bait without the switch. And the establishment is being destroyed by the monster it created.

If we’re lucky, America won’t be destroyed in the process.


  1. It is just good to finally see in words what so many of us have sensed and believed for so long. Thank you, Sheila!

  2. Racism has been used as a tool by the GOP to destroy our public education. Charter schools are used to segregate Those People and keep them away from the “good” public schools. And when that is not enough, vouchers are available to the ones that want to keep their children from Those People. If we are lucky, the parents and teachers that are standing up to this racism will prevail. But hearing GOP spew their hate and seeing our Governor deny rights to just about everyone that isn’t a white male makes me think we are running out of luck.

  3. Thank you Sheila. This sums it all up quite nicely. Your last sentence nails it though. Where will the Republican Party’s slide to oblivion end and how much further damage is that slide going to do to virtually everything that it touches? None of those at the helm of the GOP seem to be able to think of anything other than preserving their party and pay no attention or even lip service to what this is doing to the country at large.

    With our political system ending up crippled, or at least in disarray, what other things will be set in motion that we also don’t need or can foresee? This is totally unknown territory for all of us and there’s no instruction manual for us to aid us in fixing it Even if there was does anyone think that any sort of meeting of the minds could be hammered out among people that right now see each others as enemies, traitors, or worse?

    Meanwhile, the whole world, friends and foes alike, are intently watching us as this inane spectacle continues to play out. Our friends are growing more horrified every day and our enemies are licking their chops.

  4. Teresa,

    “But hearing GOP spew their hate and seeing our Governor deny rights to just about everyone that isn’t a white male make me think we are running out of luck.”

    Maybe we’re not running out of luck. Maybe Donald Trump is the luck we needed. He’s brought the virulent hatred to the surface and out in the open PREMATURELY.

    It would be much worse, for example, if Jeb Bush was in contention for the presidency. Again, another example, if he became the President then the “forces of hate” would be impossible to counter. The Repulblicans would be in control of the Justice Department as well as the Army, Air force, Navy and Marines. Fortunately, at the present time the enforcement agencies are in the hands of President Obama and the Democratic Party.

    The GOP isn’t worried about the hatred that Trump is exposing. They’re worried about losing control of the hatred by not having the power to enforce it. “They wanted their cake and eat it too.” They now they have their “cake” but will enough Americans “eat it.”

    I doubt it, not as long as we still have free speech like on Sheila’s Blog.

  5. Those once easily controlled “useful idiots” now are nearing full control of the Republican party. God help us all if the rest of the nation does not see it for what it is.

  6. It was racism (and for some, always will be), but after the civil rights movement it became about economic class.

    The article gets one thing right, they needed changes to stay in power. So they threw white inner city and poor whites under the bus to keep blacks under their thumbs.

    Since then the policies have freely targeted the poor instead because this encompasses the majority of blacks but the Democrats and Republicans, alike, ignore the fact that these policies hurt whites as well and use a perpetuated “race war” propaganda to keep the elite in power.

    Democrats (the original racist party) and Republicans are EQUALLY guilty of this. The modern day GOP is just the historical “Southern Democrat”.

    It has become one party splitting issues amongst them to play “good cop, bad cop” to keep us divided and naively loyal to the ruling elite through party loyalty.

  7. In a functioning society where people are interested in staying informed, and take advantage of the range of excellent materials and good minds, I would be more optimistic. Just as the GOP honed a sophisticated strategy, the right wing media has honed its strategies to inoculate the public from resources which provide a clear analysis of the situation. Public radio and tv, and excellent print media get labeled as poison to an anti-intellectual public, encouraged to attend to the more “fair and balanced” venues which only serve the twisted status quo. I’m afraid this is not going to end well.

  8. The honorable Mr. Trump tells – TRUTH . Which always transcends Trendy political correctness. HE is a TRUE Kennedy Democrat just like me . I am a Democrat born and raised , and he has my vote .

  9. Stuart,

    “…..the right wing media has honed its strategies. I’m afraid this is not going to end well.”

    You’re right. Analysis won’t work with the majority of the public. Our only chance is for them to be presented with a PICTURE of what is in store for them in the near future if we continue with this disastrous GOP charade.

    “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s not a pretty picture. I doubt that they would want to hang it on their walls.

  10. Re: Mark:

    “The honorable Mr. Trump tells – TRUTH . Which always transcends Trendy political correctness. HE is a TRUE Kennedy Democrat just like me . I am a Democrat born and raised , and he has my vote.”

    Mark I hope and pray you are just being facetious–because if you truly mean what you wrote you are a sadly deluded and bigoted individual. Trump is the dregs of society. The bottom of the feces filled outhouse that has been Republican politics for the past 50 years. Shame on you.

  11. E. J. Dionne’s book, _Why the Right Went Wrong_ is a very good explanation of how the extreme conservative wing of the Republican Party came to dominate the party, and the role of racial politics in that take over. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. This didn’t start with Nixon or even with Goldwater (who later regretted voting against the civil rights act). The rise of the far right has been financed by the same folks who once financed the John Birch Society. He postulates that conservatives are becoming more and more enraged because they keep on electing their candidates (Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, Bush II), but never get what they want. Cultural change keeps on moving forward, and (surprise) a rising tide isn’t lifting all boats. As Sheila’s earlier posts have mentioned, enactment of conservative policies in places like Kansas haven’t worked out so well.
    David Brooks’ column this week says that the Republican Party is undergoing a revolution similar to the revolutions in scientific thought that Thomas Kuhn talked about for scientific models. Brooks is hopeful that some new, more constructive, sort of conservatism will emerge. I am not so optimistic. I saw Mr. Dionne speak this week at Westminster Town Hall Forum in Minneapolis. He said that he is concerned about the disintegration of the right because the nation needs both thinking conservatives and thinking liberals to thrive.

  12. Wray,

    “Trump is the dregs of society. The bottom of the feces filled outhouse that has been Republican politics for the past 50 years.”

    You’re very artistic.

  13. It boils down to which is most powerful, advertising or democracy? Or, put another way, which is most powerful, economic slavery or freedom?

    Lee Atwater was one of the first to bet on advertising at a time when TV was in its ascendancy. History could prove him right or that we are capable of using our votes despite advertising.

    You (we) have to decide. Now.

  14. The media yammer we hear about political correctness has nothing to do with political correctness. It’s rather advertising for privilege. At it’s core is that privileged people are entitled to call their inferiors any name that they want to.

    That was a foundation of racism for many decades and nationalism too. Think of ethnicity and how many pejorative names we knew as kids for every one.

  15. I agree with the post’s title. It’s not just a card; it’s the whole deck. However, the deck is no longer intact. It’s now similar to the old card game, “52 Card Pickup”, where the deck is tossed skyward and we’re left to pick up the cards.

    While picking up the cards, we’ll realize the cards do not align with the former parameters of the traditional deck. In other words, it’s a new game using a new deck of cards. If we cannot adjust to that, then we’re outta the game.

    Speaking of LBJ, I was a high school student when he replaced JFK by default following the latter’s untimely death. From Camelot to a cow lot, that’s how I remember the era. From thinking that JFK hung the moon to realizing that LBJ was nothing more than a crude, coarse, and racist redneck who’d married into money, I developed a cynical outlook on partisan politics.

    My widely-remembered LBJ quotes include: 1)“I’m going to have to bring up the nigger bill again.” [Said to a southern U.S. Senator upon the occasion of the Republicans re-introducing the Civil Right Act of 1957, according to LBJ’s Special Counsel Harry McPherson.],

    2) “These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don’t move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there’ll be no way of stopping them, we’ll lose the filibuster and there’ll be no way of putting a brake on all sorts of wild legislation. It’ll be Reconstruction all over again.” [Said to Senator Richard Russell, Jr. (D-GA) regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1957] ,

    3) “When I appoint a nigger to the bench, I want everybody to know he’s a nigger.” [Said to an aide in 1965 regarding the appointment of Thurgood Marshall as associate justice of the Supreme Court],

    and 4) “I’ll have them niggers voting Democratic for the next two hundred years.” [Said to two governors regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964].

    LBJ’s name should not be mentioned in connection with the Democrat party. Like Trump, LBJ was a dreg from the bottom of the political barrel.

  16. I’m wondering if the Republican establishment isn’t more afraid of the Donald because they fear he is a closet liberal than because he seems like a mad man.

    The roots of the modern Republican party do indeed go back to the 1950s. When Robert Welch and Fred Koch formed the John Birch Society. The Kochs claim they are Libertarians, but in reality they are anarchists who believe the ONLY function of government is the protection of private property (preferably their own). They have regular secret meetings of like minded billionaires to decide the fate of the Republican party, which they now clearly own.

    The game isn’t new, it’s just that only they have been playing it, while the rest of us have been playing politics as usual.

  17. Peggy, as you wrote “The game isn’t new, it’s just that only they have been playing it, while the rest of us have been playing politics as usual.”

    Don’t you realize, there is no game of playing politics as usual? And, for that I’m grateful. The leadership of a massive nation should not be left in the hands of those who support selecting leaders via a process that is nothing more than a game, or as you stated, “the rest of us playing politics as usual.”

  18. For the record, whites represent less than 1/3 of the beneficiaries of charter schools, while another 1/3 are Hispanic and more than 1/4 are African American. But don’t let the facts get in the way of your dogma.

  19. Interesting Ken.

    Here are the actual statistics.

    Close enough.

    Not particularly part of the charter school debate though.

    The debate is more about taking money away from proven public schools to fund risky charter schools and the impact of that revenue taken from public school systems to fund those charter school businesses. It’s part of a privatized profit and socialized risk conspiracy.

    Also concerning is the impact on public school students when the children of more involved parents take them out of public schools and isolate them into exclusive schools.

    Like many conservative solutions it attacks a non existent problem.

    Public schools, like democracy, assumes that the greater good is lifting all boats.

    Charter schools assume that ownership by a few of the means of production is inherently better than everybody owning the means of production when the evidence shows that is only true in commodity highly competitive markets.

    Education is not a commodity but is highly individualized.

    Capitalism just is inappropriate and dysfunctional in necessary education and arguably in optional education.

  20. Pete, as per the charter school issue in Indiana, check out the Indiana Department of Education website where after a bit of digging around or drilling down into the foundational bits, you will learn that charter schools largely and primarily are situated in inner city school districts, and you’ll learn with enough research that former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson’s (D) legacy includes his being the first Mayor to establish charter schools under the title of his position as Mayor.

    For your viewing, I’ve included a link to the IDOE map of charter schools where you can see the clustering of charter schools in and around the inner city schools.

  21. The facts are these: less than 13% of charter schools are for profit. The ability to discipline in the public schools has rendered far too many as day care centers. Students in huge numbers are unmotivated with no consequences for poor grades and social promotion to protect their delicate self-images. With no charter schools, only the affluent are able to escape the broken system. With charter schools, at least no child with a concerned parent is left behind. Several years ago I committed an hour per day to work with seven students during their study hall. I tried to motivate them and engage them in skill development in math. One of my challenges was to get them to complete 400 flash cards in 8 minutes (100 of +-x/). The incentive was $10 for each student who accomplished the goal, and another $10 each if they all did it. During the course of the year, we did some good at honing their skills, but almost no progress on flash cards. After spring break, I ask what it would have taken to get them to learn these facts. They all shrugged their shoulders so I asked, “Would you do it for $100?” They thought for a few seconds as said “No!” How will these students be able to factor a polynomial when the don’t know multiplication facts? No penalty for bad behavior, no consequences for poor performance, and no means to demand a strong work environment.

  22. Donald Trump has loose lips that often travel faster than he thinks. He told us he wanted to tax the rich, but when he copied a GOP tax plan, it benefitted himself and very wealthy others at the expense of the poor and middle class.

    He says he’ll make America great again. So workers at his Vegas hotel said ‘start with us’. He didn’t and hasn’t. A majority of the workers voted to unionize in hopes of gaining comparable pay and benefits of the majority of Vegas strip hotels which are unionized and provide more pay and benefits. Trump doesn’t want to recognize the union.

    He bloviates about illegal immigrants displacing American workers but has employed and exploited illegal immigrants on his construction sites for 40 years. If he can’t find the illegals on his own job sites (assuming he’s even tried which is quite an assumption), how will he find and deport 12 million from throughout the U.S.? He manufactures his clothing line in China and Mexico to line his own pockets. Does anyone really think he’ll tax his own clothing line to decrease American sales and his own profit margin?

    He’d like us to think he’ll make the economy work again for average workers, but if he couldn’t save so many of his own businesses – including casinos which control their own stakes at the expense of the gamblers – how is he supposed to manage our entire economy to make it work again?

    Trump University didn’t qualify as an accredited college, let alone a university. Legal authorities in two states have some 5000 complainants who say they were scammed. Trials are expected this summer.

    For those who may think Trump is on the side of American workers, think again. The Music Man – “Professor Harold Hill” – could take con man lessons from Donald Trump.

  23. Ken, what is different about the discipline rules in charter vs public schools in Indiana? I would have guessed that the state education law and school board policies apply to both.

    Oh, BTW, there’s not much difference between for profit and not for profit. Both follow the same rule. Make more money regardless of the impact on others. It’s how the beans are put in which bucket after that’s different.

    I think that what you are saying is that the main logic behind charter schools is that they’re better because they’re not public.

    I’m not convinced that there’s any real evidence of it. It’s for believers who have the faith.

  24. Pete! I am not suggesting that charters are better, but you suggested the motive is profits which is only true for 13% of charter schools. On the issue of discipline, parents who are involved and concerned about the education of their children are allies with the schools instead of adversaries.

  25. Ken Glass the not for profit moniker is as much a sham as is the phony discipline argument and equally offensive. The not for profits simply don’t distribute to shareholders; they keep the money by paying it to related entities which lease the buildings (and pay it out to the investors in the real estate )or pay it in inflated executive salaries. How stupid do you think we are. Read the court opinion in the Missouri Imagine Case to see how it really works.

  26. Pete, if you’re reading day-old posts, I’ve attached a link from the IN DOE website where you can find expanded info about charter schools in Indiana. By the way, I am not ‘sold’ on the charter school movement, never have been.

    You will note that Indianapolis has by far the largest number of charter schools with 38 of those charters falling under the auspices of the Mayor’s office. In fact, the Mayor’s office has an entire ‘school board’ operating these charters, never mind being a duplication of services with IPS (Indianapolis Public Schools) and its Board and Administrative Staff. And, no, before one thinks the existence of these charter schools is the fault of one political party, understand that the charter school movement in Indiana and elsewhere is embraced from both sides of the aisle with equal fervor.

  27. Mark! The education system is broken…severely! Those who want to protect it as it is are doing far more damage to society than charter schools, willing to try a different model, profit or no profit. A few years ago I listened incredulously as a suburban superintendent said there was no need for a charter school targeting poor minorities since the district was making real progress. His idea of progress was a pass rate up from 30% to 31.5%. Never mind that that progress was based on NCLB data that compares different students each year. If perfectly accurate and relevant we were only 20 years away from 60% pass rates.

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