Monthly Archives: October 2016

This is Not 1964, Part 2

In spite of all of this, it is true that Trump’s views on race and gender are overall more extreme than the Republican Establishment. But when it comes to civil rights for LGBT Americans, the Establishment is as bad or worse than Trump. “The Donald,” is homophobic, to be sure, and that has not gotten as much attention as it should. But rabid homophobia is the stock and trade of establishment Republicans. There’s the Federal Marriage Amendment that Bush advocated and most Republicans Senators and Representatives voted for. When Florida had one of the worst anti-gay adoption laws in America, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio favored it. McCain favored Prop 8 and helped lead the fight to keep “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Romney repeatedly expressed support for the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and in both of his presidential runs. Most Republicans in Congress have voted against ENDA. Paul Ryan not only voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment but just earlier this year defended the right of institutions to discriminate against LGBT people while receiving government money. The “Let Institutions Discriminate Against LGBT People While Taking Their Tax Dollars” is a standard GOP policy, not something Trump injected into the party. And what about Lindsey Graham? Graham voted for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage nationwide twice, reiterated his support for such an amendment in 2008, and voted against both ENDA and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Once again, there is some element of influence from Ronald Reagan here. In 1975, he criticized the legalization of homosexuality in California, and as president, he allowed the military ban on gay soldiers to continue. And despite offering a liberal position on the issue in 1978, he implied in 1986 that openly gay people should not be allowed to teach in public schools. Establishment Republicans cannot criticize Trump for his homophobia, because by and large, they agree with him or are even more homophobic than he is. This is a crucial difference between now and 1964. The Republican Establishment was clearly well to the Left of Goldwater on civil rights and had concrete policy differences that they could point to in order to illustrate this. Trump, however, is relatively normal for a modern Republican candidate. Furthermore, in 1964, there were a significant number of Republican politicians who equalled most liberal Democrats on civil rights and outperformed them in certain areas of civil rights. There are very few Republican politicians today who fit such a description. Mark Kirk is probably the most progressive Republican Senator on LGBT rights issues, and his record on this issue is probably less liberal than that of Hillary Clinton, a moderate Democrat.

There is another great comparison that illustrates this difference. Consider National Review, a magazine that has been one of the key anti-Trump outlets on the Right. Founded by William F. Buckley, the magazine opposed the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s. National Review‘s civil rights attitudes are now more complex, moderate, and varied, but it still has a lot of the same flavor as it did sixty years ago. For one thing, although some of its writers support gay marriage, the magazine has repeatedly run anti-gay marriage articles in recent years, as well as articles opposing other aspects of LGBT rights. They run a recurring column by Maggie Gallagher, a former leader in the National Organization for Marriage. Feminism is practically a dirty word for some of their writers. David French, a writer for National Review who was floated as a possible establishment Republican alternative to Trump, opposes marriage equality and criticizes Trump for being too moderate on transgender bathroom use. In fact, while he and his family have undergone disgusting, racist, sexist, threatening attacks from Trump supporters, French’s own writing on race walks a fine line. Last year, he said that the Confederate Flag should remain at the South Carolina Capitol regardless of whether it offended people. This year, he said that Colin Kaepernick needed to stand for the National Anthem, because, apparently, not offending people is very important after all. Contrast this with the New York Herald Tribune, a prominent Republican newspaper that refused to endorse Goldwater in 1964 and blasted him for race baiting. The paper was a combination of two older papers, the New York Herald and the New York Tribune. The New York Tribune had been founded by Horace Greeley, a moderate abolitionist but an abolitionist nonetheless, who asserted in 1864 that it was none of the government’s business if a person married someone of a different race. During the 1950s, the New York Herald Tribune favored civil rights and even allowed NAACP Executive Secretary Walter White to publish an article in the paper blasting neighborhood racism in Chicago. One of the paper’s presidents, Ogden Reid, was elected to the House of Representatives in the 1960s, where he was one of the chamber’s strongest advocates of civil rights and eventually left the GOP after it became too conservative for him.

The bottom line is this: in 1964, Dixiecrats and Buckley-style Republicans had not yet completed their mission of remaking the Republican Party in their image. Thus, mainstream Republicans were in a good position to criticize Goldwater on substance rather than simply style, without coming across as hypocritical to the degree that many modern (but not all) Republicans do when they criticize Trump. Even in the 1970s, Nixon mixed his racist Southern Strategy with some moderate policies on civil rights. His Administration sued both Bob Jones University and the Trump family’s real estate business for racial discrimination. Of course, within a decade, the Republican Establishment was blatantly catering to Bob Jones, and now, Trump is the party nominee for president. In this election, by contrast, Trump did not have to remake the Republican Party, because it had already been remade. He didn’t make it the party of bigotry, fear-mongering, big government social authoritarianism, or white identity politics, because it had already become that party. Back in January, former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson wrote a column entitled, “The Party of Lincoln is Dying.” Truth be told, it was already dead before Trump ever ran for president. And if it wasn’t dead when Gerson’s old boss took office, it sure was when he left. Trump is living in the house that folks like Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley, James Kilpatrick, Robert Bork, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Trent Lott, Ronald Reagan, Lindsey Graham, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and plenty of others built. And if he somehow wins next month, he’ll owe them a thank you.

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It’s Not 1964, Part 1

Donald Trump has gotten a lot of comparisons to Barry Goldwater in this election. On the surface, they have major similarities. Both men were incendiary, catered to bigots, won the GOP presidential nomination largely through grassroots support, and clashed greatly with the party establishment. Some admirers of Goldwater take umbrage at this comparison, feeling that it is unfair to to the Arizona Senator, whom they consider far superior to Trump. But I would submit that there is a key difference between Trump in this election and Goldwater in 1964 that most people have not discussed. In 1964, Goldwater was one of just six out of thirty-three Republican Senators to vote against the Civil Rights Act. In 1956, the Republican platform declared that the party accepted the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Several years later, Goldwater insisted that the decision was not necessarily the “law of the land.” While the Arizona Senator was well to the Left of Southern Democrats on race, he was also to the Right of the mainstream of the GOP. And while racism was rampant in both parties pre-1964, the Democratic Party was significantly more racist, as it was the home of most segregationist politicians. In a lot of ways, however, Trump is par for the course in today’s Republican Party. Certainly, his views about immigration are far outside the party’s mainstream. This is partly because: 1. Establishment Republicans are dependent on major Islamic countries for oil and as allies in foreign wars; 2. Many establishment Republicans and their wealthy donors rely on Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, as a source of cheap labor. On the other hand, racism and pandering to racists is common among mainstream, establishment Republicans.

Consider the case of Lindsey Graham, a prime example of an establishment Republican. Graham tacitly favored the display of the Confederate Battle Flag by the South Carolina state government until after the 2015 Charleston Church Shooting. In 2011, he asserted that, “The statehouse has resolved this in a bipartisan way. People are focused on jobs. Any [candidate] who brought that up wouldn’t be doing themselves any favors.” He also went to an all-male club and informed members that, “If I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.” Graham claimed that he was joking, but the statement was proceeded by, “I’m trying to help you with your tax status. I’m sorry the government’s so f–ked up.” Logically, if Graham was being sarcastic about white men in male only clubs, he was presumably being sarcastic about the tax system being “f@#%ed up.” But this would make no sense, since Graham is advocate of lower taxes. So it seems that Graham was making a campaign promise that he did not want to go public. And he has a habit of palling around with exclusionary groups; when Bob Jones University still restricted interracial dating, Graham received an honorary degree. He also has indicated that he actually shares Trump’s position that children born in the U.S. should not automatically be citizens if their parents came here illegally–not exactly consistent with the spirit of equality under the law regardless of race or ethnicity. Former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was back in the news earlier this year, criticizing Ted Cruz, cowriting a book with Tom Daschle about bipartisanship, and generally positioning himself as a sensible moderate Republican. And as this article describes, he allegedly tried to stop Trump via a Kasich-Rubio ticket. Hopefully, nobody has forgotten that Lott tried to keep his college fraternity segregated, praised Jefferson Davis, associated with the white Supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, complained that the Voting Rights Act was unfair to the South, and had to step down as Senate Majority Leader for more or less waxing nostalgically about segregation. While recent party nominees have eschewed this sort of racism, they have all played close to the edge. George W. Bush and John McCain were both originally reluctant to disavow the Confederate Flag, and Bush spoke at Bob Jones University and tried to appoint a former Mississippi Dixiecrat to the federal bench. Mitt Romney refused to point blank state that the Mormon Church’s old racist policies were wrong and appointed Robert Bork–one of the men who advised Barry Goldwater that the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional–to his Judicial Advisory Commission. And who could forget Ronald Reagan? I have written a great deal about Reagan’s record on race herehere, here and here. Suffice it to say, Reagan viciously exploited racial tensions for political gain in the much same way than Trump did, although he was probably far less racist personally.

What about gender? Again, it was Ronald Reagan, not Donald Trump, who helped remove support for the ERA from the GOP platform after every presidential nominee from Wendell Wilkie to Gerald Ford had run with a pro-ERA plank in place. The Republican Party bends over backwards to cater to the Religious Right, a movement that generally believes men should be the head of the household and  women belong in the homes unless they are conservative antifeminists. And let’s not forget Graham’s comment referenced above.

 

 

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