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Tilting at Windmills

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November 13, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

REAGAN AND NESHOBA....In the latest go-around on whether Ronald Reagan was deliberately appealing to racist sentiment in 1980 when he included a statement of support for "states' rights" in a speech at Mississippi's Neshoba County Fair, Bob Herbert says, "Everybody watching the 1980 campaign knew what Reagan was signaling at the fair. Whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans — they all knew. The news media knew. The race haters and the people appalled by racial hatred knew. And Reagan knew."

Actually, though, it's Joseph Crespino, a history professor at Emory University, who provides the smoking gun:

Reagan's states rights line was prepared beforehand and reporters covering the event could not recall him using the term before the Neshoba County appearance.

If this is true it wraps up this argument on pretty much every level, both substantive and semantic. Anybody care to weigh in on this? Is it true that Reagan had never (or virtually never) used the phrase "states's rights" before this speech?

UPDATE: Crespino emails to say that his source was a New York Times article by John Herbers written on September 27, 1980: "Those remarks had been prepared in advance, but use of the term 'states rights' is not in Mr. Reagan's standard political speech and reporters following him could not remember his using it elsewhere."

Brendan Nyhan reprints a Washington Post article from 1979 in which Jane Seaberry described a Reagan speech as "a denunciation of populist trends and a call for a return to more states' rights," but there's no indication that Reagan used the actual phrase himself.

I was able to come up with only one instance of Reagan using the phrase, in a response to a 1980 debate question about nuclear waste. There's no question that he frequently supported federalist policies, but the phrase "states' rights" itself has pretty obvious racial baggage and the evidence so far suggests that he virtually never used it before Neshoba.

Kevin Drum 1:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (101)

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I have no clue if Reagan (or W, for that matter) was actually racist. But if you rely on the Southern strategy, you earn and deserve the label.

Posted by: mmy on November 13, 2007 at 2:01 AM | PERMALINK

The most offensive part isn't the racism, per se, it's the not giving a damn whether or not they step on anyone to get what they want. For Reagan, it was "state's rights". For Obama, it's Donnie McClurkin.

Posted by: jprichva on November 13, 2007 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

Is it true that Reagan had never (or virtually never) used the phrase "states's rights" before this speech?

Kevin, it's impossible to prove a negative. As such, we can be certain that Crespino cannot prove his claim Reagan had never said "states's rights" before the speech. But even if he had never said it before, this doesn't prove one bit Reagan is a racist.
As usual liberals are trying to take two words out of context and blow it out of proportion. One doesn't have to be a racist to believe the federal government taxes too much and spends too much of our hard earned tax dollars. But this is what liberals are saying. It's really sad and unfortunate liberals must engage in slurs and cheap shots against the innocent remarks of conservatives to score debating points, but I guess I shouldn't expect anything better.

Posted by: Al on November 13, 2007 at 3:44 AM | PERMALINK

"Take two words out of context?" Look, Al, the only time after the Civil War that the phrase "state's rights" was ever used was by segregationists as code for "segregation," in the same way that "the peculiar institution" was used by antebellum Southern congressmen to refer to slavery. You'd have to be braindead not to understand the context.

Oh, wait.

Posted by: Pete on November 13, 2007 at 4:10 AM | PERMALINK

Pulling an all nighter... does this mean you officially recant your previous musings that he might have gotten a bad rap on this speech?

We need something quotable to hurl at anyone who brings it up.

Posted by: MNPundit on November 13, 2007 at 4:34 AM | PERMALINK

krugman provides the facts:

November 10, 2007, 7:36 pm
Innocent mistakes
So there’s a campaign on to exonerate Ronald Reagan from the charge that he deliberately made use of Nixon’s Southern strategy. When he went to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980, the town where the civil rights workers had been murdered, and declared that “I believe in states’ rights,” he didn’t mean to signal support for white racists. It was all just an innocent mistake.
Indeed, you do really have to feel sorry for Reagan. He just kept making those innocent mistakes.

When he went on about the welfare queen driving her Cadillac, and kept repeating the story years after it had been debunked, some people thought he was engaging in race-baiting. But it was all just an innocent mistake.

When, in 1976, he talked about working people angry about the “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks at the grocery store, he didn’t mean to play into racial hostility. True, as the New York Times reported,
The ex-Governor has used the grocery-line illustration before, but in states like New Hampshire where there is scant black population, he has never used the expression “young buck,” which, to whites in the South, generally denotes a large black man.

But the appearance that Reagan was playing to Southern prejudice was just an innocent mistake.
Similarly, when Reagan declared in 1980 that the Voting Rights Act had been “humiliating to the South,” he didn’t mean to signal sympathy with segregationists. It was all an innocent mistake.
In 1982, when Reagan intervened on the side of Bob Jones University, which was on the verge of losing its tax-exempt status because of its ban on interracial dating, he had no idea that the issue was so racially charged. It was all an innocent mistake.

And the next year, when Reagan fired three members of the Civil Rights Commission, it wasn’t intended as a gesture of support to Southern whites. It was all an innocent mistake.
Poor Reagan. He just kept on making those innocent mistakes, again and again and again.
PS: It has been pointed out to me that Reagan opposed making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday, giving in only when Congress passed a law creating the holiday by a veto-proof majority. But he really didn’t mean to disrespect the civil rights movement - it was just an innocent mistake.


and this in a ltte:

David Brooks is correct. This country has been too critical of the Republicans’ Southern strategy. We, as a nation, really need to back off the Republican Party in general and Ronald Reagan’s legacy in particular. While, as Mr. Brooks says, it’s obviously true that race played a role in the G.O.P.’s ascent, we can’t assume that there was a master conspiracy to play on the alleged Klan-like prejudices of American voters.

All you need is five minutes’ worth of research to establish the truth of this. Go to your favorite search engine and type in the name Lee Atwater and the words “Southern strategy.” This should clear up any lingering doubts you may have over Ronald Reagan and the Southern strategy.

Tracy Brooking
Kennesaw, Ga., Nov. 9, 2007

Posted by: linda on November 13, 2007 at 6:01 AM | PERMALINK

As Bob Herbert writes today, the murders of Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney "...constituted Neshoba County’s primary claim to fame when Reagan won the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1980."

Now I ask you, wouldn't you expect a presidential candidate with a conscience giving a speech in Neshoba County to mention the murdered activists? That should be the standard. Reagan didn't mention them. Not a word. Even if he did not mean “states’ rights” in the way most sentient people understand “states’ rights,” he still gave a speech in a county notorious for its racist attitudes without bothering to mention the one horrible event of racism that made that particular county significant in the history of Southern racism.

Why do we keep falling for Republican framing? Anyone who goes out of his way not to even acknowledge, let alone condemn, a major instance of criminal racism, is a racist. Reagan was one, and the whole goddamn Republican party is equally culpable when they are trying to scrub their record of racism. Reagan didn't have to mention “states’ rights”; not mentioning the murder of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney was enough to let Neshoba whites know exactly where he stood.

Posted by: Aris on November 13, 2007 at 7:36 AM | PERMALINK

Since I spent a number of years researching Reagan and public education, he most assuredly used "States Rights" to mean Pro-segregation. He wasn't subtle, but he said it with a disarming smile.

A good source from the era is the "Weekly Compilation of presidential documents" (WCPD). Prior to Bush II, it was a verbatum compilation of all presidential statements and Q&A session.

Another point: It's also clear, if you go to the WCPD, that Reagan is pretty goony post-assassination attempt. He's never as sharp mentally, and by 1983, he's absolutely incohernet in some Q&A sessions.

Reagan waltzed with the Southern Strategy. And Brooks is engaging in the worst sort of revisionist history. That pig won't fly.

Posted by: brat on November 13, 2007 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

I recall that David Brooks started off as a democrat, just as had his hero Ronald Reagan. It has been difficult of late for Brooks to defend George W so his columns skirt George W and look to other ways to bless conservatives. Brooks has been caught with his pants down, displaying his wide conservative stance. Good show, Herbert, good show Krugman.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline on November 13, 2007 at 7:51 AM | PERMALINK

Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert and the rest of you liberals should be ashamed of yourselves for such slanderous, calumnous accusations against our Greatest President, Ronald Reagan!

Why, Reagan would no more cater to white racism than Red Lobster would charge more than $20 for a five-course meal!

Posted by: David Brooks on November 13, 2007 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK

Mainstreaming Southern values has been an ongoing political and cultural project in this country. It dovetails with the respect accorded to Southern evangelicals along with the aesthetic militarism of white males. It's why Rush Limbaugh can make fairly racist jokes on his radio show and few even notice.

For once, I'd like to see someone call Southern traditions what they really are: deeply and offensively racist, predicated on the sedition of their forefathers. During the 1980s, there was enough momentum for social justice in this country to minimize the damage of the Southern Strategy. Today, that strategy has metatastasized into the whole body politic. It's not just black vs white, it's Your side vs My side. America has gone through another Civil War and lost. We lost because liberals are now so cowed they can barely surface without apologies. It's why most Americans STILL believe in Black Welfare Queens and Strapping Young Bucks. These myths easily vanquished reality in our daydream national conversation. Veterans Day has morphed into a celebration of militarism. Christmas is a Holy Day against secularism. Thanksgiving combines the twin verities, family and football. We're a country deeply mired in cultural resentments while being unaware of our actual history.

Posted by: walt on November 13, 2007 at 7:58 AM | PERMALINK

America has gone through another Civil War and lost.

I disagree -- there was no second Civil War. The South re-invaded the rest of us, and we lay down our arms to General Reagan without so much as a single shot fired.

Posted by: moron on November 13, 2007 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

Well I guess I'll never look at Reagan the same way again, thanks for Herbert setting the record straight.

I certainly noticed that Brooks lies alot about a great many things, but then so did Safire. And nobody ever took them to task for it, or for that matter, the entire realm of lies Bush pushes forth every day while pretending it's all okay, and our national press acts like the American people have come to expect lies as the norm, therefore lies are not news worthy anymore.

More like Herbert please, much more.

Posted by: Me_again on November 13, 2007 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

A bit tangential, but this caught my eye from that HNN article:

Reagan’s campaign chair in the state, Trent Lott, praised Strom Thurmond, the former segregationist Dixiecrat candidate in 1948, at a Reagan rally, saying that if Thurmond had been elected president “we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today.”

I know that Lott said that in December 2002 at Strom Thurmond's birthday party, but did he also say it at a Reagan rally before that?

Posted by: Tommy Corn on November 13, 2007 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

It's one thing to lie, it's another to lie in defense of racism in a county known for its racist murders. There are lines that should not be crossed, and this is one of them. The NYT should dump Brooks for this little tap-dance; once he's demonstrated that he'll say this, what lies will he not tell?

Posted by: dr2chase on November 13, 2007 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: Some grist for the mill:

"Undeclared Republican presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan yesterday wowed a largely conservative crowd of independent business people with a denunciation of populist trends and a call for a return to more state's rights...Reagan told the 2,000 delegates at the convention of the Nation Federation of Independent Business...."

Source: Jane Seaberry, "Reagan Decries Government," Washington Post, June 14, 1979

Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on November 13, 2007 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Even if he had used the "states' rights" line before - Philadelphia, Mississippi had 2,000 households in 1980. What was he doing kicking off his campaign there?

Unless he went on to visit 20 other small Mississippi and southern cities nearby, and can argue that it was only coincidence that his campaign started in Philadelphia, he had no reason to be there except the city's "claim to fame".

The smoking gun is he started his campaign off in a city with 1,000 voters.

Posted by: luci on November 13, 2007 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Reagan was not a racist, nor was he making an appeal to segregationists. His use of the term "states' rights" was just a natural reflex, coming after he'd written that three volume biography of John C. Calhoun.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on November 13, 2007 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

The Right has a huge problem. Any hero of their's who embodies all of their ideology will have to be by definition a despicable human being in many respects. So a bug chunk of their time has to be spent in polishing the turds that they give us.

Posted by: gregor on November 13, 2007 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

I can't believe this is an issue. The Neshoba County fair was hardly the only dog-whistle position of Reagan. He was the "white king of the suburbs". Anti-busing, pro-Bob Jones, his "welfare queen" fantasy ...

Reagan pandered to racists seamlessly and ceaselessly.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on November 13, 2007 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Hmm...I just published a coauthored book called "Deconstructing Reagan" and I wrote the Reagan and race chapter. Holy crap, a thread at WMonthly that I can comment knowledgeably on! Reagan knew exactly what he was doing to say states rights in Neshoba. Krugman's list is compelling. I would add RR's comment when MLK was shot--that this was a sad event that started when people began to disobey the laws--neatly laying the blame for King's death on his own civil disobedience! RR was the most dangerous of appealers to racism--he never ever believed he had a shred of racism in him, he was pure and had nothing to atone for, and he was such a persuasive sunny presence that whites could believe the same about themselves. He gave every racist and prejudiced white plausible deniability, at least internally.
One point, though--Luci--the Neshoba Fair is huge within the state, and has a political heft far beyond its county population. When I interviewed Reagan's pollster about it, he made it clear it was an important political appearance.

Posted by: Jerry Mayer on November 13, 2007 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

You revisionist jokers are busy doing the old Soviet encyclopedia trick. Reagan destroyed international Communism as your secret ally against Republicans---Jimmy Carter was caught imploring for help from the Kremlin in '83 as was Teddy Kennedy---the KGB documents don't lie.

And you creeps yak about angels on the head of a pin.

Posted by: daveinboca on November 13, 2007 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

The imperialist United States citizens, suprised, should not be, by the amber waves of racist grain, the purple mountains of rank hypocracy, the fruited plain of shackle-ey oppression of all brown minorities. If more so-called liberals had voted for Nader instead of that DNC goon Gore, racism would be all but eliminated today. The center will not hold! Sing the body electric!

Posted by: Pat/Steve on November 13, 2007 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

To paraphrase what Bob Kerry noted about Bill Clinton, "David Brooks is an especially good liar. Especially good."

Posted by: MaxGowan on November 13, 2007 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Jimmy Carter was caught imploring for help from the Kremlin in '83 as was Teddy Kennedy

I can't believe my secret has finally been discovered!

Yes, I did indeed implore the Soviets to invade the US and install me as Viceroy of the American province of the Soviet Empire.

And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for you meddling senile B-movie actors!

Posted by: Ex-President James Carter on November 13, 2007 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

This is an interesting discussion. I would like to remind everyone of the historical context. In 1968 and 1972 Republicans made major inroads in the south. This came to an end when a man named Jimmy Carter ran for President in 1976. I am writing from memory but Carter took back several southern states in winning election in 76. I even recall that it was Mississippi that put him over the Electoral College majority.

In this context the Reagan speech clearly comes out as an appeal to the southern voters who Republicans needed to lure back to their side.

Remember also that when the campaign began in 1980 Carter was still ahead in most polls. In this context the speech in Mississippi becomes far more like the Krugman-Harbert view than the Brooks view.

Posted by: Stuart Shiffman on November 13, 2007 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Reagan was consistent in playing to the racists. He absolutely knew what he was doing. Remember Bonzo goes to Bitburg?

Posted by: comfortably numb on November 13, 2007 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Brooks isn't out to convince anyone. He's just feeding the Right-Wing machine its daily spew of talking points, which the Dittoheads will go out and repeat like a mantra, without understanding or caring that they don't understand.

All that's left is to beat them back into their caves and then seal them in.

Posted by: bleh on November 13, 2007 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

All that's left is to beat them back into their caves and then seal them in.

If only liberals had the sense to take your advice.

But every opportunity that comes along -- 1865, 1932, 2006 -- seems to get squandered because we don't have the guts to finish of the pro-barbarism minority once and for all.

Posted by: moron on November 13, 2007 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

i just want to note how satisfying it is to see two of the nyt columnists debunk and destroy another nyt columnist without ever mentioning his name.

poor bobo.

Posted by: linda on November 13, 2007 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

I seem to recall reading that Reagan and at least one of his wives bought one of their homes despite (or even because of) a racial covenant that prohibited resale to black, Hispanic, or Jewish buyers and also did not allow non-white servants to stay overnight. If true, that would add credence to Reagan having racist motivations for his speech in Neshoba.

Posted by: Dano on November 13, 2007 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

The most important thing to remember from this Brooks - Krugman - Herbert "discussion" is that David Brooks is a sophist for the republican party and the conservative movement, and that he is not alone, there are about 25 major opinion makers in the USA print, television and web media who use their fine minds to peddle politically useful lies.

Every. Damn. Day.

No wonder America is busted, how can the average joe judge right from wrong when conservative opinion makers are allowed to lie with impunity over and over and over again? They control the vertical, they control the horizontal, they mold the public mind.

It takes an alert intelligence see through the crap. Liberal minded businessmen and people of means need to come together and aquire media outlets that will allow non-conservative ideas to reach the public. Debunking the Sophist Party is what the last 13 years has been about. Educating and motivating the people to positive action is the next step.

Posted by: Northern Observer on November 13, 2007 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK


This is a really stupid post.

Actually, I would venture to say that Reagan probably did say states rights or its equivalent many times before.

Reagan's entire history was as a supporter of "States rights."

You and a legion of people have proven yourselves utterly blind on issues of race.

From opposing the Civil Rights Act to opposing a MLK day and every day between, Reagan relied on race based appeals.

This Philadelphia speech was part and parcel of it. IT was of course especially egregious.

I presume you are now feeling profoundly follish in having been a source for Brooks' noxious column.

But this bit of an attempt at rationalization for your retraction is ridiculous.

Try this - "I was utterly wrong aqbout what I wrote. A mere reading of Reagan's history makes inescapabloe that the Philadelphia speech was consistent with Reagan's entire history of race baiting."

Posted by: Armando on November 13, 2007 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know anything about the servants, but lots of people in southern california whose house is older than a certain age probably still have racial covenants in the deed. Not defending the practice, but that anecdote isn't by itself demaning.

Posted by: Joe Klein's Murdered Conscience on November 13, 2007 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

I have no clue if Reagan ... was actually racist

There is no "actually." Racist is as racist does.

If reagan could appeal to racist sentiments without blinking in order to get power, then, yes, he was a racist.

Posted by: Tyro on November 13, 2007 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

My reading of Brooks is that he misrepresented what Kevin had said initially, but Brooks, being the liar that he is, doesn't actually care if he misrepresents Kevin or Reagan's racism or anything else.

As for those who claim that Reagan wasn't racist, nonsense. Sure, Reagan was genial but the hateful words are no less hateful just because they are said sweetly with a smile. Reagan was not senile when he first ran for governor and he clearly had decided even then to exploit the willingness of racists to vote for him by letting them know that he was just fine with their attitudes and behavior.

Saint Ronny sold his soul to the devil and he never even tried to get out of the bargain.

Posted by: freelunch on November 13, 2007 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Hi Armando - Good to see the Maoists are in the room! Kevin, retract your right deviationist line before the revolutionary cadres put you up against the wall and perforate your bourgeois torso.

Other misguided souls may argue that bloggers should be able to write what they please, free of the paralyzing fear that an obscure post from three years ago might be misused by some idiot with a newspaper column. These people are also right deviationists who should be put up against the wall.

Posted by: tomH on November 13, 2007 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Reagan gave up on the Bob jones matter, specifically, because he said it made the Admin seem racist. Reagan had black football players stay overnight at his house in the 1920s. He signed the MLK Holiday and Voting Rights extension happily into law. Many around him have said Reagan was naive about race. He just could not really believe that people could dislike each other over skin color. This is covered in Michael Deaver's book about Reagan, for example. One of Reagan's favorite heroes was always Abraham Lincoln.

Posted by: Liti-Gator on November 13, 2007 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps it's a bit too obvious, but Reagan's anti-civil rights agenda stood out because he was from California. Claire Engle, a Democratic senator from California was dying of cancer, but was so determined to support the civil rights bill of 1964 that he had himself wheeled onto the floor of the Senate -- on his deathbed -- to cast a vote to break the Southern filibuster. He died a few days later.

On the contrary, Reagan opposed that Civil Rights bill, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and just about every other piece of civil rights legislation, all of which were supported by most California members of Congress, Democrat and Repubican alike. He was conspicuous as one of a very few national political leaders outside the deep south who consistently opoposed all civil rights measures.

The 1964 civil rights bill was passed with significant Republican support, most memorably by the endorsement of minority leader Everett Dirksen, but by many others as well, including Republicans from California.

Posted by: Edward Furey on November 13, 2007 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Furey is right -- it wasn't just the "Southern Strategy".

Even the most apopleptic Reagan apologist (not to mention Goldwater carriers) oughta recognize that their political philosophy would have left Jim Crow intact. Their argument was always that it isn't the Federal government's place to use the power of the state to outlaw racism, while leading conservative opinion (like National Review) argued that white supremacists in the South knew better than anybody else how to deal with Americans who wanted civil rights laws. (yeah, they said that)

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 13, 2007 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Litigator, you are playing fast and loose with the facts. Yes, RR signed the MLK bill and the VRA extension. However, he had earlier opposed both, and only signed when it became extremely clear that he would face veto overrides. His comments about the MLK bill gave comfort to the stone racist Jesse Helms, who was still fighting it because MLK was a "commie". RR essentially said, I guess we'll find out some day when they release his FBI files. He had his justice dept weakening the VRA constantly. Bob Jones was only one of the many bones he threw to the racist South during his time in office. However, I agree with you that to call RR "racist" is simplistic. He showed very little if any prejudice to blacks personally in his long life. It was part of what made his appeal to colorblindness so effective. He was simply morally blind to the suffering of blacks, but was not a believer in white superiority. That story about the football players is true--but it was ONE time, and it reflects more on his parents' values than his, although it shaped him.
I agree that attacking RR on the housing covenant issue is weak. What's better, and related is this: he said that he opposed a federal housing rights bill, saying it should be left to the states. Then, when a statewide bill came up in California...he said it infringed on the right of homeowners to sell or rent to whoever they wanted, that prejudice was protected by the right of property. Shifting reasons for opposing civil rights in that context may be one of the best examples of RR's true attitudes about race.

Posted by: Jerry Mayer on November 13, 2007 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK


Reagan practiced Nixon's southern strategy to get elected President. He also used code words like "welfare queen" who drove her caddilac to get her food stamps (Caddilac is stereotyped as a Black person's car, and a welfare queen is Black.)

Was Reagan personally racist? Probably, but his behavior demonstrates that he used rascism to get elected. That is the behavior of racist politicians. You might as well ask if David Duke is racist.

But of course, Reagan belonged to Communist-front organizations before he later became closely associated with John Birchers. Was he a communist? He sure initiated work stoppages for them. See Rick Perlstein. Then he was "bought" by the bosses when his acting career tanked, and went from extremist on the left to extremist on the right as he did the bidding of the John Birchers.

That's pretty much the kind of behavior you would expect from the son of the town drunk. My mother attended High school with Ronnie, and that's how everyone in Dixon, Ill. knew him.

In every way that manners to the rest of us, Reagan was a racist. That's why the southern "Democrats for Reagan" voted for him, and he catered to them as he had previously catered to the Communist leaders and the John Birchers.

Posted by: Rick B on November 13, 2007 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Thomas Kuchel, the Republican Senator from California also voted for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Bills - He paid the price in the '66 primaries - The Birchers and former southern Democrats of the San Joaquin Valley dumped him for Max Rafferty, thereby throwing the fall election to Allan Cranston. This was the same election where Reagan won his first bid for the Governor's chair. So, the racists threw out the Knight backed Kuchel, but voted for Ronnie. So fitting, that after Rafferty lost, he accepted a high educational post in Alabama.

And the south started changing over to the Repugs in 1964, when Goldwater captured the southern vote. He had been against the Civil Rights bill more on Libertarian grounds not wanting any extension of the Federal government into rights of the states - Mattered little to the southern voter, as they believed he was "one of theirs".

Posted by: bert on November 13, 2007 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, good ol' Brendan Nyhan -- still twisting things to support his pseudo-centrist conservative bullshit...

Posted by: Chris on November 13, 2007 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK


I saw that comment also. I think Crespino was using Trent Lott's statement in 2002 to indicate Lott's position when he was Reagan's campaign chair. For Crespino to have found that Lott used the exact same wording in both 1980 in some venue and again in 2002 is too much of a coinidence.

Posted by: Rick B on November 13, 2007 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Chris - I've corresponded with Brendan Nyhan; he's a flaming liberal. He just happens to care about accuracy.

Nyhan demonstrates the utter falsity of Professor Crespino's allegation that Reagan had not previously used the term "states rights." http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/

Is is just a coincidence that Crespino is in the same department as Michael Bellesiles was, before he got booted out for faking his gun study? Is there something wrong with Emory's History Department?

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 13, 2007 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

DaveinBoca (8:58 AM),

Good piece of satire. Almost believable, with just the necessary touch of irony and sarcasm to give it away.

Al will buy it completely, and the rest of us understand what you are really saying.

Posted by: Rick B on November 13, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal, you claim to have abandoned liberalism in the 50s and 60s... did it make you proud to ally yourself with a race-baiting movement headed by Reagan in the 80s? Did you tell your children how proud you were to ally yourself with one of the few non-southern opponents of the civil rights act?

Posted by: Tyro on November 13, 2007 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Not enough attention has been paid to the context given by Stuart Shiffman above. In 1976, Carter won by getting the electoral votes of every Southern and border state except Virginia. Just look at the electoral college map (remembering that red was for the Democrats in those days): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._presidential_election,_1976

That electoral college map is hardly imaginable today, precisely because Reagan chose to begin his campaign in Neshoba County and to pander to racist voters there and in the rest of the South. This is the slimy foundation of movement Republicanism.

Posted by: David in NY on November 13, 2007 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin your 2004 piece on this issue was all you needed to say, well written, balanced, and reasonable. Not sure why you felt the need to re-raise it though it certainly gave folks here a chance to exercise one of the Left's favorite forms of two-minutes hate.

For what it's worth, I think that if Reagan never said "State's rights" but used "federalism" at the Neshoba fair, people would still be claiming that it was all a 'wink wink' to racists Southerners, so I'm not sure focusing on the term is all that relevant. Moreover, as ex-liberal showed, the idea that Reagan never used the phrase prior to the fair is pretty silly.

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 13, 2007 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

LOL -- oh, don't kid yourselves about Reagan signing the VRA extension. He didn't do it cuz he'd changed his mind about using Federal power to help African Americans.

Dole wrote the VRA to REQUIRE that if a majority minority district COULD be drawn, it MUST be drawn, cuz it meant consolidating Democratic votes in the fewest possible districts all over the South.

That's the demographic fact that led to the GOP takeover of the House in 1994.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 13, 2007 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

"state's rights" by itself is not necessarily a loaded term. In the south, it definately has that baggage, but in other contexts it doesn't. For instance, CA was a state's right kick with environmental regulation that could have been preempted. That's not racist, is it?

Posted by: do on November 13, 2007 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Hmmm, here's Reagan in a speech to the California Republican Assembly on April 1, 1967.

"It is not enough for our Senators and Representatives to seek to pass legislation involving the several states, they must also work to insure that legislation does not infringe on the rights of the individual states and they must be wary lest they trade those rights for the Federal dollar, which after all, is merely what is left of the citizen’s dollar after it has been strained through the Washington bureaucracy."

He used the same language in a speech to another Republican convention in May 1967. That same month, discussing Colorado River Legislation, Reagan stated:

"A primary purpose of the legislation should be to initiate studies leading to a well-founded decision on how best to accomplish augmentation. The nation can ill afford delays in getting those studies under way. We believe the essential ingredients of an acceptable augmentation study to be: (1) that it be conducted under the supervision of an impartial body; (2) that it be completed on a timely basis; (3) that all related factors be considered, including those outside the purely engineering and economic fields; (4) that the rights of the states and regions be fully respected; (5) that the affected states be permitted to participate effectively; and (6) that the expertise of existing state and federal agencies be used to the maximum extent possible."

The source is here:


And of course, in announcing for the presidency in 1979, Reagan said, in New York:

"The 10th article of the Bill of Rights is explicit in pointing out that the federal government should do only those things specifically called for in the Constitution. All others shall remain with the states or the people. We haven't been observing that 10th article of late. The federal government has taken on functions it was never intended to perform and which it does not perform well. There should be a planned, orderly transfer of such functions to states and communities and a transfer with them of the sources of taxation to pay for them."

In any event, as Kevin pointed out in 2004, the nation that Reagan embraced States' Rights at Neshoba in a racist appeal simply does not square with the fact that Reagan had long advocated the rights of States, federalism, and the need to reduce the role and reach of the federal government.

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 13, 2007 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

To clarify for a couple of posters upthread:

Yes, Trent Lott said the exact same thing in 1980 that he later said in 2002.

Here's part of Crespino's piece in the NYT from Dec. 13, 2002:

Trent Lott admits that his comment about the nation's being better served if Mr. Thurmond, who ran on a segregationist platform, had been elected president in 1948 was terrible. That sentiment was terrible when he expressed it in nearly identical fashion in 1980. Tom DeLay, the incoming House majority leader, says reopening old racial wounds is "unhelpful and unwelcome." But whose wounds are we talking about?

Posted by: JJO on November 13, 2007 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody know what the name of Strom Thurmond's segregationist party was when he ran for President in 1948?

It was the States' Rights Democratic Party.

Posted by: David in NY on November 13, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Look, Hacksaw, Reagan probably opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1964 because he believed in states' rights to oppress black voters. It doesn't matter, really, when he first came to that conclusion. But he clearly was appealing to racists in Neshoba, and he got their votes. After all, Thurmond had won the electoral votes of Mississippi for the "States' Rights Democratic Party" in 1948. Reagan was doing nothing less than running as the soft-spoken heir to Strom Thurmond.

Posted by: David in NY on November 13, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Not so, Hack -- at least, not UNLESS you directly respond to the following questions:

1) Without Federal intervention AGAINST the rights of states, how could Jim Crow have been killed?

I'm not asking for some speculative hooey about how one day the white supremacists would have died off and left a New South. I'm noting that Federal intervention IS how Jim Crow was killed -- and that, as a matter of political philosophy, Reagan and Goldwater and others who were dissidents in the Republican Party in the 1960s were opposed to that intervention. So answer the question, and then

2) As noted above, Reagan was FOR states' rights when the Federal government enacted a housing bill, cuz it FEDERALLY prohibited discrimination. But then when he was governor, the STATE legislature wanted to ban discrimination in housing, so he changed his argument to claim that bigotry is protected as a property right. Can't have it both ways: if he WAS really for states' rights, why was he against the California state legislature's fair housing law?

The fact is, Reagan revealed himself, time and again, as being flexible in his arguments about race issues while being absolutely consistent in the direction he wanted to go. He sorta reminds me of the original "states' rights" bullshit, where apologists for the Confederacy insisted after they'd lost the war (which abolished slavery literally over their dead bodies) that they weren't really pro-slavery, but rather favored states' rights.... except, of course, that when the Federal government OVERRULED most state laws with the Fugitive Slave Act, these folks had been on the other side: FOR a strong central government protecting their...

... property.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 13, 2007 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo on November 13, 2007 at 8:59 AM

That was not me. The DLC part of the comment makes me think it was Steve, who is quite a coward.

Posted by: Brojo on November 13, 2007 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

The Repukeliscum Party since Nixon is the party of racists. There is no question of this.

Posted by: POed Lib on November 13, 2007 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Tyro: ex-liberal, you claim to have abandoned liberalism in the 50s and 60s... did it make you proud to ally yourself with a race-baiting movement headed by Reagan in the 80s? Did you tell your children how proud you were to ally yourself with one of the few non-southern opponents of the civil rights act?

I agree with you Tyro. Reagan's civil rights position was not what I would have liked. I guess he eventually came around on this issue, because I found the following Reagan quote:

"I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at gunpoint if necessary."

Still, many Republicans of that era, including Reagan, Goldwater, and (or course) Nixon missed the boat on the importance of the civil rights movement. Ironically, the success of the civil rights movement is one reason I changed parties. Civil rights is no longer a major issue.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 13, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: mhr on November 13, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

The Americanist,

I'd agree with you that the Jim Crow era would not have ended as quickly as it did without federal intervention. And while I can understand the federalist concerns of folks like Goldwater, frankly the notion of even debating Jim Crow laws and how to deal with them is strange to me given how appalling I find the thought that they existed in the first place. Crucially though, neither Goldwater not Reagan opposed federal intervention on the grounds that racism was fine or Jim Crow-era laws were somehow OK or should be allowed to continue to exist. Rather, they opposed the means by which the federal government proposed to enforce those laws. Would the Goldwater approach have extended the length of time it took to get rid of those laws? Yes I think it clearly would have. But let us not confuse that with ascribing racist motivations to either of these men.

As to your second question, I suppose I would need to see how the proposed State housing bill lined up with the federal housing act before determining if Reagan really changed his mind. Broadly speaking though, it certainly was the case that Reagan (as with most politicians) did not always line up his rhetoric with his policies (just see his presidential rhetoric on deficits). What I disagree with is the "this proves he was racist" claims made earlier. I am unpersuaded by the argument that as a believer in State's rights Reagan had to support the California housing bill. He could quite easily believe that (1) such matters are the purview of the States and (2) this particular piece of California legislation was not the right approach to deal with the issue. In other words, this too was a disagreement over the proper role of any government (state or federal) and not about finding one way or the other to defend racism.

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 13, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

In a sense, this is easy to answer. All of Reagan's diaries and handwritten speeches are on file at the Reagan Library. Someone would have to go there, of course, and spend a lot of time reading, but the answer's in there.

The more interesting problem is whether the language of federalism is or is not ALWAYS also the language of racism. Could one, for example, prefer that more decisions be left to the states but also believe that not EVERY decision should (i.e., civil rights?). This, it seems to me, is the central issue.

Did Reagan use the term "state's rights" because he believed in smaller government or did he use it because he was a racist using racist code words -- or both? Did he USUALLY use the term because he believed in small government AND use it at Neshoba because it was a nifty code word? My guess is that this is the case.

Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on November 13, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw--there's a vast difference between Reagan and Goldwater on race. Goldwater, before he ever entered politics, was a member of the NAACP in Arizona, and fought discrimination as a private citizen. At the state level, he opposed it. He really was a principled federalist. Reagan? He opposed action against racism at the federal AND state level. And Goldwater voted FOR the 1965 Voting Rights Act, because he believed the only way for blacks to free themselves was to make the promise of the 15th amendment real. Reagan opposed it, when there really was NO federalism case to be made against the VRA (if the 15th amendments means ANYTHING, it means you can't stop blacks from voting! Right?) I hate to hawk another of my books, but I cover Goldwater and Reagan on race in three chapters of my 2002 book, Running on Race (named a WMonthly top political book of the year, thanks). You are really on shaky ground saying that Reagan didn't skillfully play the race card throughout his public career.

Incidentally, my book is pretty harsh on Clinton and Kennedy--it's no Democratic liberal screed.

Oh, and Ex-liberal--I've never come across the "enforce at gunpoint" quote. Do you have a source? A quick google reveals no source for it. I'm not saying he didn't say it, I can see RR saying it in 1980 or 84 when the worm had turned on the 1964 CRA.

Posted by: Jerry Mayer on November 13, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Bullshit -- both answers.

Last one first -- Reagan DID say 'this particular piece of California legislation was not the right approach to deal with the issue', and he gave his reason: bigotry is a property right.

The rest of your answer is floundering to avoid answering the question: IS bigotry a property right, or not?

Reagan thought it was.

And you simply evaded the first question entirely, and not very successfully (you should have used the time-honored "slavery was on the decline, and would have surely disappeared peaceably in a generation, or two, or three, or four, and anyway what difference does it make because slaves were happy and well-taken care of, not like NOW...').

Three basic things killed Jim Crow: the Supreme Court, which ruled that 'separate but equal' was unConstitutional; the civil rights movement itself, going back to Jackie Robinson and through MLK, Jr.; and then the actual instrument that kilt it, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts that authorized Federal power to overturn a state's right to enforce white supremacy.

Of those three things, Reagan and his pals supported ONLY half of one -- Jackie Robinson, and then only in those rare circumstances when a civil rights pioneer didn't threaten anything more valuable than who finished second in the National League.

Reagan's racism was UNMISTAKEABLE. Hell, look at his own defense: "I can remember when the country didn't know it had a racial problem."

Yeah, those guys being lynched all over the South hadn't a clue. Reagan simply didn't consider 'em to be part of "the country".

Reagan was against Brown, against MLK, and against the civil rights laws that killed Jim Crow.

I didn't ask you to defend the political philosophy that inspired these assaults on reason and liberty. I asked you to explain HOW you could have advanced American progress without the national government over-riding the fake "states' rights" claims that supported white supremacy.

Here's an example: Reagan famously objected to the Supreme Court over-stepping its boundaries on many occasions, one of which being the Brown decision in 1954. So the issue isn't whether Reagan would have muttered, well, no matter what I think of the Brown decision, it's the law, and it must be enforced with a gun, if necessary -- cuz that evades the evidence that he would have sided with Faubus, if it had been him instead of Ike since inaction would have much more consistent with his states' rights views, not to mention his political strategy.

The fact is, endorsing Reagan's political philosophy meant perpetuating Jim Crow : if you disagree, explain HOW, without damaging your precious philosophy.

Try again -- I don't think you can do it, cuz I don't think it can be done.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 13, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Jerry Mayer: Oh, and Ex-liberal--I've never come across the "enforce at gunpoint" quote. Do you have a source? A quick google reveals no source for it. I'm not saying he didn't say it, I can see RR saying it in 1980 or 84 when the worm had turned on the 1964 CRA.

Jerry, I found it, as you did, in google. My guess, like yours, is that he said it in the 1980's. Certainly that one quote doesn't excuse his apathy toward civil rights in the 1960's.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 13, 2007 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is that he didn't say it, then. A lot of crap circulates on the internet that is convenient to various political views, left and right and radical. It's impossible to prove a negative, but I like to think that if he did say it, I would have come across it in my research. Always willing to be proven wrong, but I spent a long time at the Reagan library and reading a lot of books about Reagan, including hagiographies by Noonan and D'Souza. I think D'Souza would have put that on the cover, if he hadn't almost entirely ignored race in his book on Reagan.

Incidentally, both Goldwater and Reagan were way ahead of their times on gay rights. When I interviewed RR's domestic policy advisor, Martin Anderson, he told me that Reagan said to him once on the campaign plane that his attitude towards gays was "as long as they aren't doing it in the street and scaring the horses, it's fine with me." Reagan was never as good a fit with the Christian Right as we remember today. Or...more likely, the Christian Right became more powerful and doctrinaire over time.

Posted by: Jerry Mayer on November 13, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Reagan was PC on race. Cheap shot.

I think you could make a pretty good case for white liberals being the true racists, as they seem to disregard completely any thought that minorities might be serious competition in the future and whites discriminated against. If you're a champion of minorities it may be because you think of them as eternal victims without the wherewithal to gain power and discriminate themselves. Payback time will never come in the Pollyanna world of PC liberals, even with fast approaching minority-majority rule.

Posted by: Luther on November 13, 2007 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK


Regret I haven't read your books. I think we need to recap a little. The original point of Kevin's post centered on the notion that Reagan first discusses State's rights (as opposed to the vaguer federalism) at the Neshoba Fair thus 'proving' all that rights talks was just code words for racism. I was establishing that (1) on facts alone this was not true and (2) Reagan had long talked about State's rights as part of his broader philosophy regarding the proper roles and limits of government. Unless someone can find a racial angle to the Colorado River legislation, it is clear that Reagan's views on these matters were not nearly limited to racial or civil rights issues.

Now you on the other hand are arguing something different (and theAmericanist clearly agrees), namely that Reagan was racist all along. Well OK, theAmericanist is arguing that, you are arguing that Reagan skillfully played the race card throughout his career. Despite your assertion, I have not said he didn't, I did say that Reagan had a long-standing, and non-racial philosophy of federalism/State's rights/limited role of government that reached back to his earliest political days.

I have said before (when the Atwater quote came up) that I thought that there is merit (to a degree) to the argument regarding the Southern strategy and that even in the 1980 campaign I had no doubt that Reagan's federalist philosophy (despite its non-racial grounding) could nevertheless appeal to racist Southerners. What I have objected to is the blanket conclusion that anytime Reagan or anyone else mentions State's rights it must be a coded appeal to racism.

Lastly, when it comes to the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act, I think it is too easy to dismiss Goldwater or Reagan as simply racist or race-card playing on the mere account of their opposition. I think you are taking it too far to suggest there was no federalism issues raised in the Voting Rights Act (and recent debates about the Act support that). As you know, it extended the federal government's reach into the direct registration and vote administration processes of some States. Opposing such an intrusion is not the same as defending the racist policies of those states and certainly was not the only way to "make the promise of the 15th amendment real." However, a candidate for state office with a political philosophy of limited government might well be opposed to an Act authorizing the federal government to directly control what had until then been a basic function of state government. Just as a like-minded presidential candidate had been a year before.

The problem of course is that this would and did play into the racial politics of the time. And I have little doubt that both candidates were not only aware of but factored this into their campaigns (in a "this is the right thing to do in terms of federalism, but it also won't hurt with the Southern vote" sort of way). And, as an admirer of both me, it makes me sad and ashamed that that was a reality of the times. But I think both men acted as they did in line with their principles as they related to the role of government and not as racial tools callously deployed to achieve electoral success.

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 13, 2007 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

It's still bullshit. The only question is whether you KNOW it's bullshit.

For one thing, you didn't answer EITHER question this time: is bigotry a property right? Reagan thought it was.

Do you?

And if there was ANY way to have kilt Jim Crow without using the Federal government to overturn " into the direct registration and vote administration processes of some States" you haven't said what it was, despite being directly asked three times.

Well? It's YOUR political philosophy: defend it, already. Cuz it's clear you would have perpetuated Jim Crow... on "principle".

Besides, you're simply wrong on the history of voting rights.

Before the Civil War, the Constitutional law was in effect that there was no such thing as national citizenship: if Dred Scot was a US citizen in Minnesota, that still didn't keep him from being property in Alabama -- or any other slave state: "no black man has any rights a white man need respect."

As with the Fugitive Slave Act, it is sheer ignorance to argue that "states' rights" meant anything but the defence of slavery, since white supremacists happily dropped their defense of states' rights whenever state authority meant that slaves were NOT property (as Dred Scott was a citizen in Minnesota), and only took up the bullshit bumper sticker (that is, if they had bumpers, but I digress) when it suited their white supremacist purpose.

After the Civil War, Dred Scott was still Constitutional law, which might have posed a problem. So the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment repealed Dred Scot, AND anybody seeking any state office who had fought for the Confederacy to preserve slavery had to take an oath to uphold the AMENDED Constitution -- and a damned good thing, too.

But this was politics, after all. The momentum that easily passed the 13th amendment had begun to slow down with the 14th (I think two states actually tried to take back ratification -- NJ and Ohio, maybe?), so when it came time to write the 15th amendment to guarantee voting rights, Frederick Douglass decided, for political reasons, to dump women's rights: maybe the best American proof EVER for the law of unintended consequences.

It didn't happen because of "states' rights".

Before the Civil War, abolitionists and suffragettes had made common cause, and they advocated for all the same things... until after the 13th and 14th had been ratified. Then Douglass feared that if he kept the right to vote for WOMEN in the 15th, it'd be defeated: so he dumped the women. (Susan B. never forgave him.)

But she was a resilient sort, so she decided to sue for the right to vote under the FOURTEENTH amendment, cuz it says "all persons born.." are US citizens. Since women are persons, and they get born, they argued in front of the SCOTUS, there was a NATIONAL right to citizenship for women that had to include voting.

To avoid THAT (heaven forfend!), the SCOTUS decided that, well, okay, so women ARE "persons", and so they are "citizens", voting is.... um, up to the states. Yeah, that's it: sure, the 15th means blacks and freed slaves can vote... including the phrase in the CONSTITUTION that shows you're full of shit, there, Hack: " The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

So the suffragettes' lawsuit gave the SCOTUS (led by former Confederates) the chance to say, contradicting the Constitution itself, that the FOURTEENTH means that it is up to the states to write the rules... to deny women the right to vote.

THAT (not some bizarre founding myth about "states' rights" that directly contradicts the plain language of the 15th amendment) is how Jim Crow was born.

C'mon, Hack: have the courage of your conviction. You're flat out wrong on voting rights, and your "principle" would simply have perpetuated Jim Crow.

So answer the questions, already: Do you AGREE with Reagan, that bigotry is a property right?

And, since you'd have perpetuated Jim Crow on the bogus states' rights theory, what WOULD you have done about it, consistent with your 'philosophy'?

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 13, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, theAmericanist, I was just ignoring you.

Your rantings aside, I already said that using federal impositions on the states was the fastest way to undo Jim Crow-era laws. Now you may be so enamored with the federal government as to believe that the only solution to a problem is a new and invasive bureaucracy but there are in fact other options. Judicial options for example, but these would have taken more time than the hamhanded but effective sending in the troops as it were. And it is difficult after the fact to argue for a slower process. But that does not mean that at the time there were valid reasons for wariness at the federal approach. We need only look at the 2006 debate on the Voting Rights Act to see that some of the conservative concerns in the 1960s were quite reasonable (unless of course you think a federal bureaucracy insisting on non-English state ballots is somehow connected to undoing Jim Crow-era laws).

As to your other "when do you stop beating your wife" claims regarding housing, Reagan believed that the state should not dictate who an individual property owner could sell their personal property to. This was a huge national issue at the time and, yes, it involved issues of "white flight" just as it does in our own time, but it also involved a real debate about the balance between individual rights (like selling your own property) and social or civil rights. Here's an interesting (and generally pro-open housing) article from the time:


My point is not to minimize the racial aspect of the housing debate but only to point out there were disagreements regarding how absolute a property owner's rights were and how far the state could go in diminishing them. We live in a world where that debate has been largely settled. But in the mid-1960s that debate was very real and focused as much on the constitutionality of restricting property rights as it was about bigotry. As the Time article linked to above said:

"Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen, without whose support the 1964 and 1965 civil rights bills would have been defeated, sincerely considers the housing measure "absolutely unconstitutional" and intends to fight it to the death in the Senate. Even many Northern liberals confess that they are disturbed by the idea of depriving a man of the right to sell his property to anyone he likes."

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 13, 2007 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know if anyone else has covered this, but it seems to me it was pretty standard at the time for people on the right to say they were for states rights and against big government. What this really meant was that they didn't like the way the activist liberal Court was taking things out of states' hands in order to enforce a liberal agenda. People ascended to the Court stating that they, also, were states rights people --- right up until they got their majority on the Court.

For some people I suppose this may have been code for racist policies, but I think for many it was just a way of expressing conservatism. The only single issue that I heard it specifically associated with was abortion.

Posted by: catherineD on November 13, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK
….I think you could make a pretty good case for white liberals being the true racists….Luther at 2:20 PM
No, actually neither you or any else cannot. You cannot justify your bigotry and you cannot blame it onto those who have fought against discrimination.
…Even many Northern liberals confess that they are disturbed by the idea of depriving a man of the right to sell his property to anyone he likes." Hack at 4:04 PM
That was the same argument uses in all other discrimination actions: a shop owner has a right to sell to whomever he wants, parents have a right to the school they want, a restaurateur can serve whom he wants to, homeowners have a right to the neighbor they want. That line of crap was the entire justification of Jim Crow.
….What this really meant was that they didn't like the way the activist liberal Court was taking things out of states' hands in order to enforce a liberal agenda…..catherineD at 4:19 PM
Oh, puleeze… What they meant was they did not like the courts deciding that Jim Crow and Separate-But -Equal were unconstitutional. They did not like the fact that the courts demanded that the Executive branch enforce it. Posted by: Mike on November 13, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

I ain't the only reality you're ignoring, Hack.

Stripped of your gutless evasions, you believe "there were valid reasons for wariness at the federal approach..." Fair enough. Your "principles" would have perpetuated Jim Crow, but you've been blessed that after folks whom you acknowledge (oh, so obliquely) you would have opposed actually DID kill it, you can say "that debate has been largely settled."

Except -- it hasn't. It's obvious to everybody (except possibly you) that you want to argue that it is wrong to 'deprive a man of the right to sell his property to anyone he likes', reserving the right to REFUSE to sell it to anybody he doesn't. Why else bring up Everett Dirksen? Hell, why not say what YOU believe? You've been asked...

I think it's clear you DO believe bigotry is a property right, you just figure that cuz of folks who showed more guts for their principles than you show for yours, you don't actually have to say so. You can argue about bilingual ballots, instead.

The thing is, these aren't "when did you stop beating your wife" questions, cuz Jim Crow really WAS about beating your wife. If you won't acknowledge THAT, there'd be no point to engaging you -- which, frankly, is why you're trying to ignore the validity of the questions. Ya think folks don't notice? The purpose of claiming that something is a 'when did you stop beating your wife' question is to note that there is no innocent way to answer it: if you say I haven't, the implication is that you're still beating her, and if you say I have, the implication is that you DID beat her -- and wouldn't taht be unfair?

No, it wouldn't. Your ploy is stooopid and ignorant, Hack.

When a guy is a convicted wife beater (as Jim Crow was obviously about violent enforcement of white supremacy), it IS a valid question to ask: When and how did you stop?

Your answer boils down to, well, the cops stopped me, but they were wrong to do it cuz a man's home is his castle.

And then you want to pretend you've got ANY standing to claim that the bitch deserved it cuz she kept mouthing off.... in some other language, too.

Show some guts: is bigotry a property right, or not?

And how WOULD your philosophy have kilt Jim Crow, EXCEPT by using the Federal authority embodied in the 15th amendment?

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 13, 2007 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure it makes you feel superior to cast about racial aspersions (and frankly nothing better typifies sophomoric liberalism), but I have been describing the debate at the time when, as it turns out, I wasn't even alive so your "conclusions" about me are transparently silly.

What I have been trying to show you is that the debate about civil rights in the 1960s cannot be reduced to simply a question of criticizing or condoning racism. And the debate over fair housing, to use just one example, was not purely a stand-in for a debate about whether or not racism and discrimination should be eliminated or not. The debate at the time focused on the proper balance between civil rights, individual rights, and the proper limits of government.

This was the reason I cited Dirksen. Here was a man who was clearly a believer in civil rights and yet he was wary of passing a law to undermine individual property rights. Now you either have to argue that Dirksen too was a racist or you have to accept that the housing debate cannot be boiled down to pro-racism and anti-racism.

And Dirksen's opinion in the 1960s is a hell of a lot more relevant to the question at hand than is my opinion in 2007. For what it's worth, I would simply observe that fair housing laws have now been on the books for almost 40 years and we haven't exactly achieved desegregation in housing have we. Bigotry may not be a property right but regrettably it is a property reality and it will take continued social changes rather than legislative changes, to address the problem. That will take more time but, unlike the legislative route, it will be more real and more lasting.

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 13, 2007 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Careful, there, Hack, you might actually learn something -- AND it won't fit in your "philosophy".

I haven't called you a racist. I merely noted that your principles would have perpetuated Jim Crow, which makes you uncomfortable (as it should), AND that those who argued for those principles back in the day KNEW that they would have perpetuated Jim Crow: THEY were okay with it.

And you're not.

So DEAL with it already. Stop trying to hide the consequences of what you believe: cuz THAT's what standing up for principle is about.

I'm not arguing about Everett Dirksen -- nor Hubert Humphrey (who is a better example, btw: he said that if a piece of civil rights legislation meant that some old lady bigot who ran a boarding house had to rent rooms to black people, he'd eat the bill, page by page).

I'm just confronting you with the consequences of your own opinions -- and, fwiw, you'd do better to deal directly, instead of hiding behind Dirksen, etc.

One way you could go would be to argue the empirical point: gee, if it wasn't for that terrible Federal attack on states' rights, all those white supremacists who had used lynching and poll taxes and such to keep black people down would have seen the error of their ways, and there wouldn't be all this RESENTMENT of African Americans who marry white people and vote and run for office.

Face it, that's what you're saying.

A smarter reading of the empirical approach is to recognize that without the Supreme Court making Jim Crow schools illegal, and the Congress outlawing Jim Crow itself, the economic boom that raised the whole South would not have been possible: as you say, you weren't alive in 60s. A wiser approach to that fact would be to recognize that things were a LOT worse than you evidently think -- which includes your idea that "debate about civil rights in the 1960s cannot be reduced to simply a question of criticizing or condoning racism".

Oh, yes it could. In fact, if you don't do it, you don't know what you're talking about.

The Jim Crow South was essentially the American Third World -- an underdeveloped nation. The economic and cultural phenomenon we call "the Sunbelt" was partly a product of cheap air conditioning, but it was literally liberated by the abolition of Jim Crow -- BY Federal authority. Hell, think defense spending and NASA, if nothing else (check where the original DARPANet backbone ran), and neither one of THEM would have been possible without the Feds killing Jim Crow cuz let's face it, the rest of the country wouldn't have stood for their tax dollars going to white supremacists down south.

Ya think Trent Lott, who got his start in politics working for the last of the Dixiecrats and changed his affiliation to Republican to run for the House to succeed the old bastard, could have brought a nickel of Navy shipbuilding money to Mississippi if it was the white supremacy state that Strom Thurmond wanted to keep it? Ya think that Estes could have sold the Navy on a billion dollars of Mississippi farm-raised catfish, if he'd been lynched for trying to vote, much less run for office?

It is only BECAUSE of the judicial and legislative IMPOSITION of truly American values on the backward Jim Crow states, that the progress you take for granted could have happened in the first place.

If ya want, you can argue a good thing went too far, that affirmative action (for example) should have been limited to those born in America under Jim Crow, etc., but to DO that -- you'd have to acknowledge, unequivocally, that the Federal intervention in "states' rights" was a good thing.

Well? There comes a time, Hack, to set aside principle and do what's right -- and for you to get the chance to do it HISTORICALLY, is about as painless as it gets.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 13, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Hacksaw, Americanist has done a fairly good job of explaining why opposing the VRA and other legislative remedies to violent racist oppression had the effect of maintaining just those abuses AND paid in rich political dividends for certain political actors, like Reagan. I would only observe that I do think it possible that someone could, in fact, have a principled federalist opposition to the 1964 CRA and the housing act in 68 (but not the VRA--manifestly constitutional, although there was a legitimate debate about the 1982 reenactment--maj/min districting is not for the constitutionally squeamish, and I would say that it is entirely possible that in seeking to make real the 15th, the 14th was intruded upon). Was Reagan such a person, who really was standing on principle, and not opposing these acts because of either 1. political advantage or 2. personal prejudice? In everything I've written about Reagan, and that's quite a lot at this point, I conclude that on a personal level, the man was not a racist, and I doubt that racial animosity was more of a motivation for him than for your average white dude of his era (your mileage may vary as to how great that is). But RR was also a very good populist politician. He knew when an audience was loving his stuff, and he knew that the south was crucial to his path to the white house, whether we are talking about his 1968, 1976 or 1980 and 1984 efforts at the nomination/presidency.

Honestly, Hack--consider this simple fact: nearly 90% of blacks lived in the South in 1964. Almost NONE of them could vote. Those that tried were often killed.

If the 15th amendment meant ANYTHING, it meant that this was vile, evil, and against the Constitution. By what conceivable principle of constitutional law would you have opposed the VRA? Seriously, it's like John Yoo defending torture as not torture. It is that intellectually dishonest. There is no case. You have a solid case on Ev Dirksen and housing (incidentally, I think you misquoted HHH--he said he'd eat the 1964 CRA if it meant quotas). But you have no case on the VRA. It would be good to see you concede that. RR had a long history of saying inflammatory things that fed the white backlash...and he always gave himself plausible deniability, he always tread a careful line that was just shy of Wallace. But opposing the VRA was manifestly an act in support of blunt white supremacy, without principle or constitutional defense. Did Reagan realize it? Dunno...

Posted by: Jerry Mayer on November 13, 2007 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

It's fair to add about Reagan, I think, that he really did reflect the Hollywood myths about America that he helped create, partly cuz he BELIEVED them, the way he believed that he was against racism 'before the country knew it had a racial problem'.

He would have been offended, I think, if somebody had told him to his face that the statement itself was racist, since it assumes that a Thurgood Marshall, circuit-riding in the South defending guys accused of crimes they didn't commit, wasn't part of 'the country', cuz he certainly knew stuff about race that Reagan didn't.

I wish somebody would do a better historical movie, something worth seeing cuz of the STORY itself, that shows how white supremacy was imposed on the South AFTER emancipation.

Reconstruction is mostly told as a white supremacist myth, like Birth of a Nation or Gone With the Wind, the carpetbaggers and so on.

In fact Reconstruction was the best thing that ever happened to the South, when the mothers and widows and sisters of lots of abolitionist Union men killed in the Civil War went south not as carpetbaggers to rob its wealth (what wealth?) but to teach emancipated kids to read. Ending Reconstruction was was the worst thing that ever happened to the South, even worse than the destruction of the Civil War, dooming millions of people to lifetimes of poverty and ignorance and violence, both black and white, with all the foolish mythology necessary to 'explain' it.

So it's the story of the emancipated themselves which oughta be told. There was a generation of African Americans who won REAL elections all over the old Confederacy -- against white opponents, in free and fair elections.

The institution that founded their political organization was the church.

THAT is what the Klan killed -- with the bloodiest violence imaginable, and they kept 'em down with the help of the likes of Lucius Cinncinnatis Lamar, the former Confederate officer who served on the Supreme Court, and that bogus interpretation of the 14th amendment to keep women from voting.

The Jim Crow states were never going to allow their political order to be overthrown from within, with votes; they had overthrown the Constitutional order generations ago, and been violently upholding their evil rule AGAINST their own citizens ever since.

So argue from principle if you want, Hack: but not from ignorance, and have some guts about it.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 13, 2007 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw: "Bigotry may not be a property right but regrettably it is a property reality and it will take continued social changes rather than legislative changes, to address the problem."

"If an individual wants to discriminate against negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it's his God-given right to do so."
-- Ronald Reagan, speaking at a Santa Ana rally against the California Fair Housing Act, 1966 Gubernatorial Campaign

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on November 13, 2007 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK


The vileness of the South's suppression of black voting rights in the 1960s (and its obvious violation of the 15th amendment) are not in dispute. And, with regard to Reagan, I'm quite sure his opposition to the VRA was not predicated on some desire to keep the black vote down. However, I think the constitutional complain against the VRA was that it not longer involved judicial review of state's policies but brough the executive branch directly into the business of what had been the purview of the states. In other words, it empowered to executive to become directly involved in state affairs, something that was pretty novel at the time (we've gotten more used to it over the years). The VRA complaints in the 80s and more recently fed from the same concerns about the proper balance between the federal and state roles in electoral processes. So I do think one could oppose the VRA on these grounds without embracing the racism it was designed to overcome.

Posted by: hacksaw on November 13, 2007 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

The theory of racial inferiority was not current in the pre-Civil War South. Then, the idea that slaves could be owned was rationalized on more or less Biblical grounds, if any justifications were called for. Racial theories developed in the 1870s to provide the intellectual framework for the Jim Crow laws, and the whole point of these laws was to replace de jure slavery with de facto slavery, in order to keep the Southern economy, or what was left of it after the war, humming along.

Twisted variants of racial theory, such as "eugenics", advanced by southern "scientists", surfaced as late as the 1890s and early 1900s, and were explicitly cited by Nazis as justifications for their own racialist theories and horrifying medical experiments.

Posted by: jprichva on November 14, 2007 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

Hack--I did not say Reagan's "opposition to the VRA was not predicated on some desire to keep the black vote down" Rather, I suggested it was predicated on his awareness that the opposition would pay a rich and continuing dividend in white Southern votes. In raw political terms, there were a lot more racist whites than there were blacks, and it would take the blacks a long time to start voting.
Your interpretation of the principled reasons for opposing the VRA remind me of uncritical acceptance of the stated reasons that lobbyists give for supporting such heinous things as sugar subsidies or ethanol. Sure, you can put the nouns and verbs together in ways that mimic sense, but does anyone really think that the white SOUTH or those who wooed its votes were standing on some principled objection to executive power under the constitution? The VRA was not that novel--it directed that the South cease discriminating against blacks in elections, and set up monitoring. How you conceptualize this as different from the New Deal wage, hours, and safety labor laws (which had significantly less constitutional standing, and yet were not nearly as controversial in the south--these after all required monitoring. In fact, I would suggest that nothing required more constant monitoring than the agricultural subsidy laws...read Wickard v. Filburn. Funny, I don't remember a Southern revolt against them, nor do I recall Ronald Reagan campaigning on a platform of ending executive intrusion into ag pricing. Odd, isn't it? Principles are funny things sometimes.

Posted by: Jerry Mayer on November 14, 2007 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

Hack: "one could oppose the VRA on these grounds without embracing the racism it was designed to overcome..."

Riiight: like one could defend white supremacy without endorsing racism. Like you can be a vegetarian and love to eat bloody beef.

There are STILL the same two questions hanging in front of you, Hack -- and everybody who reads this thread sees you trying to dodge 'em.

Your argument that "the constitutional complaint against the VRA was that it not longer involved judicial review of state's policies but brought the executive branch directly into the business of what had been the purview of the states..." is obvious bullshit. The 15th amendment states flatly that Congress had the power to ensure that the states could not deny the right to vote based on skin color.

Donald from Hawaii helpfully provided a quote backing up what I keep pointing out to you: REAGAN believed that bigotry was a property right ""If an individual wants to discriminate against negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it's his God-given right to do so."

So you're no longer just refusing to answer, you're trying to deny the ACTUAL meaning of your "principles", without having the guts to SAY so. But principles mean what they say and do, or else (as Jerry Mayer points out) they're not principles at all. So cowboy up, already:

1) Do you agree with Reagan on bigotry as a property right, or not? and

2) Since you'd have perpetuated Jim Crow on the bogus states' rights theory, what WOULD you have done about it, consistent with your 'philosophy'?

Cuz we know what Reagan would have done about it: NOTHING -- he said so plain in 1966.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 14, 2007 at 7:50 AM | PERMALINK


I'm not familiar enough with California politics in 1966 to know how big an impact VRA had on the race there, but it is certainly fair to say that racial issues (particularly the "white backlash" against the Rumford Act and concerns about race riots) were very much in play in the election and as Reagan developed his policies I am sure those issues were taken into account. The key question for me is whether Reagan took these positions primarily because he wanted to leverage racial tensions to his favor or primarily because he believed in what he was advocating as part of his conservative philosophy (versus a racist philosophy as others have argued).

This may come as a shock to theAmericanist, who continues to believe that my views in 2007 are somehow important to assessing Reagan in 1966, but there are more than civil rights in the Constitution. There are limits on what the government can do, there are rights to property, to free association, to a number of other things. And there was a strong belief that when one individual wished to engage in commerce with another individual with regard to his private property, the federal government had little right to interfere. And the debate at the time centered on how far the push to secure civil rights should intrude on the other rights individuals have under the Constitution. And while it was bad that people used this right to prevent minorities from buying into certain areas, many people felt it was worse to authorize the government to intrude so deeply into private transactions. TheAmericanist summarizes this by saying bigotry is a property right which is similar to saying racism is a first Amendment right. It is but only because the first Amendment secures almost all speech, racist or not. The debate in the 1960s was that individuals had the right to sell their property to whomever they wanted, for racist reasons or not.

That debate was ultimately resolved with a federal fair housing act, though it has hardly resolved the de facto segregation of many communities in the US (most in the north or midwest plus California, which undercuts the notion that this is all about appealing to racist Southerners):


All of which goes to my earlier point that debating whether or not "bigotry is a property right" is useless considering (1) it has been against US law to discriminate in housing since the mid-60s and (2) nevertheless, de facto segregation in housing remains a reality. Individual preferences for association (both odious and protected by the Constitution) have continued to defeat legislative fixes. And now, as in the 1960s, we continue to face the question of how intrusive the government should be in ensuring equitable outcomes in housing transactions.

After all, as with VRA, we could empower federal bureaucrats to sweep in on housing areas that fail to sell a proportional share of homes to minorities, review housing and marketing practices, and litigate to ensure appropriate outcomes are achieved. We could claim, as VRA advocates did, that it is too costly and lengthy to litigate violations of Constitutional rights with regard to housing and that it is more practical to send federal monitors to review housing sales to ensure systemic practices weren't preventing minorities from moving into certain areas. And we would once again find ourselves debating that balance between securing civil rights and protecting individual rights from excessive federal intrusion, even if that intrusion has the best of intentions.

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 14, 2007 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter Hack: "quack quack quack..."

You're a duck.

The most difficult thing for any ideologue to do, is to acknowledge that their ideology was WRONG in any particular example. The problem can't be with the THEORY; there must be something wrong with the facts. You're following the template, Hack.

Now you're saying stuff that just ain't true: it wasn't ME who said that bigotry is a property right. That was Ronald Reagan -- the guy you've been defending in the thread, cuz you share his political ideology.

So I'm just asking if you agree with him. Stop ducking, it's a simple question. Yes or no?

It's like when you tried to claim you're being asked 'when did you stop beating your wife': Jim Crow WAS about 'beating your wife'. It is legit to ask a convicted wife beater when and how he stopped.

If you think it is unfair or inaccurate to characterize your responses as first, 'well, she deserved it' and then, 'she's asking for it cuz she speaks foreign languages', kindly explain HOW those are unfair.

You might start by answering the two questions that focus on the REALITY of your 'principles':

1) Reagan said that bigotry is a property right. You keep mumbling that the law changed it (as if the law can take away a right, that whole 'governments exist to protect our rights' thing) -- but then, you say that you object to the law.

So, DO you agree with Reagan or not?

2) Your political philosophy would have perpetuated Jim Crow. It's to your credit that this makes you uncomfortable in 2007, but that's a reason for you to show some guts, not to let you off the hook:

Since you're against the expansion of Federal power that kilt Jim Crow, how would YOU have done it?

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 14, 2007 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Americanist, Hack, particularly on the 2nd question. How much longer would you have made blacks wait for the right to vote in America, under your philosophy? 20 years? 40? I don't for a moment believe that YOU are a racist--but the logical outcome of putting your philosophy into action would be that white oppression would have had decades longer to fester.
Also, you did in fact avoid my Wickard v. Filburn analogy--if it is federal intrusion into private conduct and monitoring, without judicial oversight, that you felt motivated Reagan and other principle conservative objections to the VRA specifically, then why no outcry about ag policies which were much more intrusive into private property rights. The intrusion into housing sales is even less than ag policy intrusions, and the voting process has never been considered "private"...so how do you explain the contradiction in the behavior and statements of the men you are so desperately defending from history's obvious judgment?

Posted by: Jerry Mayer on November 14, 2007 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

The reason I have not addressed the second question is because, looking back at history, no decent American could or would argue that making blacks wait 20 or 40 years longer for the right to vote. And I think that is an inaccurate description of what was being argued by small government conservatives in the 60s (though to be sure racist whites would have argued it - and no, kids, that isn't redundant). Which is why I have defended Reagan against the accusation that his stand on VRA for example was not motivated by a desire to extend disenfranchisement but was rather motivated by his views on the limits of government. In this case it wasn't an issue of the voting process being "private" but rather whether or not the federal executive branch could directly impose itself on the state's voting processes (the mechanism VRA created because it was believed, not unreasonably, that challenging each new state law regarding voting was too lengthy a process).

Wickard was decided in the 40s wasn't it? I'm not sure if Reagan ever commented on it. And though he did propose eliminating agricultural subsidies late in his presidency, I have no reason to disagree with you when you say he didn't address the issue earlier. That said, I think Reagan certainly often discussed the broader issue Wickard raised (namely the use of the commerce clause to justify almost any federal action) in his remarks on the rights of states and individuals and their erosion in the face of the expansion of the federal government. And those remarks occurred at the same time as the VRA or housing debate, which is why I see Reagan's stance as consistent across the issues rather than driven by racism or craven appeal to racism. So I don't see the contradiction that you have claimed, though I could certainly accept that Reagan was not perfectly consistent in his policies. Crucially though, I again don't think you can explain his inconsistency on racial lines. Which was the point of the comment's Kevin original linked to.

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 14, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Oh and theAmericanist,

With regard to the first question, as I've said before, Reagan was not stating that bigotry, in and of itself, was a property right or any other right. He was stating that an individual's property rights should be secure from government interference, even if the property owner was a bigot, because an individual should be allowed to do whatever they want with their property. Again, to go back to the points in the comment's Kevin linked to, this indicates to me that Reagan's position was not about racism but about limits to the government's intrusion, in this case, into individual rights.

My views in 2007 are irrelevant in assessing Reagan's motives in the 60s. It's not that I'm worried about stating what I think, but I don't intend to play into your distraction by making it about me, which it shouldn't be.

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 14, 2007 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

(snort!) On the contrary, it's NOT about you, and I wasn't ever trying to make it otherwise: it's about your IDEOLOGY, which sucks.

And every time you try to evade real questions, you prove the point. Hell, I think even you know you can't tell bull from beef.

For one thing, a crap sentence like "Which is why I have defended Reagan against the accusation that his stand on VRA for example was not motivated by a desire to extend disenfranchisement but was rather motivated by his views on the limits of government...." is generally a sign that the writer knows he's full of shit and is eager to hide behind words to avoid admitting it.

You'd have been better off to cast the sentence positively: the sentence means that you've defended Reagan against the charge that he would have perpetuated Jim Crow.

But if you had written the meaning plain you'd have realized -- um, actually, I haven't defended him against that charge. You've ADMITTED that he would have perpetuated Jim Crow.

Then, if you had the courage of your convictions, you'd have tried to express plainly the rest of your 'thought', such as it is, that Reagan would have perpetuated Jim Crow cuz.... he liked small government.

Isn't that special? You must imagine that if Clarence Thomas had been lynched in low-tech fashion, his last thought would have been: gee, I'm glad big government didn't intervene to save me.

LOL -- that's what you've been saying, however badly, in every one of your posts. You're just obscure about it.

Trouble is, Hack, if you'd HAD the wit to think clearly and to write plainly, you're intelligent enough to recognize that Jim Crow was the WORST sort of government program: it denied rights guaranteed by the Constitution. It required MASSIVE government interference in the lives of millions of Americans -- Jim Crow was imposed on African Americans in the South through the courts and the cops, both directly in arrests, imprisonment and executions, and indirectly through the tolerance of extreme violence.

Ever see a photograph of a lynching, Hack? Folks used to bring their KIDS. They'd buy snacks, and watch. They had their PICTURES taken.

They weren't exactly afraid of the police arresting them for the crime: THAT'S the kind of government Jim Crow was.

But you're following the classic ideologue's template: first you hoped nobody would ask you direct questions about your "principles". Then you argued the theory was sound, it's just that all those facts are wrong. Then you denied that words mean what they say. Pretty soon you'll be arguing that a deeper understanding of the issue means up is down, and always has been: you're getting downright Orwell here.

So -- you've made it to pretending that the plain meaning of Reagan's words meant something else. Bigotry isn't a property right (although that's what Reagan said, a "God-given one", no less), you've decided what he really meant was that government shouldn't have the authority to outlaw bigotry in commerce. (Which has the same meaning, yanno.)

And you STILL haven't answered the second question, the one that erodes any credibility your ideology could possibly have today:

What would YOU have done, with your 'principles', to kill Jim Crow?

You claim that "no decent American could or would argue [for] making blacks wait 20 or 40 years longer for the right to vote.." but in fact, the folks YOU claim for political models DID argue for that.

They were quite clear about it -- but you're not.

Jerry pointed out that the Constitutional principles you're claiming were soooo, um, principled, turn out to be quite flexible -- folks who raised no objection to far more intrusive Federal interventions by the executive branch in agriculture, suddenly decided that the executive had gone too far, when it went nowhere NEAR as far in ensuring voting rights than it had gone in propping up corn prices.

So, answer the question, already: you've already denied what Reagan actually SAID (no guts, no glory), so take your shot: how would YOU have kilt Jim Crow, since you reject using the national government to protect citizens in states that beat on 'em?

Cuz that you can't answer THAT one erodes any standing you might have for current fights.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 14, 2007 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

hack, you might as well give up. this amerikanist is right. his attitude is reflected in the "name" he chose to use here. his myopic focus on bigotry blinds him to anything else that ever went on in this country. you know, i know, and everyone else here knows that in this country's politics, nothing is ever as simple as he is making it sound.
but he prefers to try to make himself look like he's on a higher plane of existence by asking you to answer an unanswerable question. the truth is that you can never answer that question. you weren't there, and you did not have to choose a course of action. his constant focus on trying to make you look bad only serves as a shallow cover for his own lack of debating skills. by his repetitive attacks on you, he shows himself to be a small minded, little person, who has very little understanding on the very subject he was commenting on. as mr t used to say: pity the fool.

Posted by: jon on November 14, 2007 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

ohbyallthingsgodly: It's not an unanswerable question.

Ya just gotta TRY.

Q. Gee, Mr. Ideologue, since you're against the expansion of Federal power that kilt Jim Crow, how would YOU have done it?

A. Ideologue: I wouldn't have done it. Jim Crow would have gradually faded away on its own, without government interference.

Everybody knows that kids don't grow up steeped in the values and habits of their parents, so of course the laws which prevented African Americans from voting couldn't possibly have reinforced the white supremacist values those parents had. Those kids would have grown up in a society that valued African American equality even though the law devalued it. So naturally, those kids who grew up under Jim Crow would have been unlike every other generation that grew up under that evil system, because they would have voted to extend African-American equality to voting, and then to intermarriage, without any interference at all from government at any level.

Mississipi would have led the way, in fact: it was the Big Government interference exemplifed by Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney, in fact, which held back the good people of Mississippi from this natural course of spontaneously overturning 400 years of history and culture in a single generation.

It's not an unanswerable question: you just have to TRY to answer it. That'd have been your answer, right Jon?

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 14, 2007 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

And I thought I was getting long winded.

I'm not sure how many times I'll need to say it, but the original comments Kevin linked to asserted that Reagan's States Rights language was new in 1980 and therefore proved this was nothing more than a play for racist southern votes on Reagan's part. I have offered an alternative suggestion that Reagan had a far longer record of federalism, thus undercutting that argument.

And I have acknowledged that an impact of following the conservative line in the 60s would likely have led to a slower destruction of Jim Crow-era laws, but maintained that this was not the reason folks like Reagan advocated that conservative line (going back again to their established federalist philosophy that extended beyond racial issues). It turns out that respecting all Constitutional rights (or limits on government) while seeking to undo racism and discrimination does in fact take longer than doing so at the expense of some Constitutional rights (or limits on government). What a shocker.

Likewise, respecting all Constitutional rights while fighting discrimination in housing also takes a lot longer than fighting discrimination in housing at the expense of some of those rights. Just because people held strong beliefs about the value of those rights doesn't mean they were racists eager to prolong Jim Crow. It simply means they were not willing to take the short cut, no matter how noble the goal.

Moreover, I already accepted several times that there were electoral advantages reflected in some of these decisions and that Reagan and others were certainly aware of that. However, my point was that the position these men took was consistent with a federalist position that they had long adhered to (and on many issues that had nothing to do with race). As for agricultural subsidies, Jerry was referring to a program initiated in the 1930s and a court case from he mid-1940s. I have no idea why (or if) Reagan took no stance against it (though the list of folks opposed to farm subsidies is pretty small, unfortunately). Call him a hypocrite on that if you wish, but Reagan's broader federalist philosophy is pretty solid. And long predated 1980 which was the entire original point here.

If it makes you feel any better, it is undeniable that the decisions made in the 1960s successfully (and thankfully) took down the Jim Crow-era laws that had for so long disenfranchised and suppressed black Americans. It also opened the door for new and growing federal intrusions in to state and individual affairs that soon expanded beyond the original parameters they were intended to deal with. Even Jerry has noted some of those problems. I would submit, in the end, that the opposition from folks like Reagan was grounded in concerns about the later and not the former.

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 14, 2007 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I gotta say, I was hoping that this would lead somewhere. Hack, I think you are unreasonably intransigent on this point. An ideology is responsible for the real world consequences of the policies that it supports. If you believe there was a principled constitutional opposition to VRA (which I do not believe you have established--because why oppose that, which is firmly grounded in the 15th amendment, with SO much greater force than opposition to any number of other non-racial intrusions that were less constitutionall grounded and more intrusive into personal conduct and property rights), you have to examine how this would have played out in the real world, which is precisely what Americanist is pushing you to do. WHAT exactly would have happened if RR's argument against the VRA had carried the day?

It is precisely the question the right loves to ask about nuclear disarmament and mondale in 1984, and it is a fair question. Your inability to even frame this answer reminds me of how Marxists respond when confronted with the obvious poverty their policies produce: "but it works in theory! And we didn't WANT poverty--we were motivated by principle!" Great--but at a certain point, even the most committed communist or strict constructionist is responsible for defending the outcomes of their theories as applied.
I know it is not allowed to concede a point on the blogosphere, but you are rapidly running out of legs upon which to stand.

Posted by: Jerry Mayer on November 14, 2007 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks jon,

theAm - the argument behind VRA and the court decision that supported it was that the "Congress had found that case-by-case litigation was inadequate to combat wide-spread and persistent discrimination in voting, because of the inordinate amount of time and energy required to overcome the obstructionist tactics invariably encountered in these lawsuits."


In other words, the original (and conservatives at the time would have argued proper) challenge to Jim Crow was too hard so they authorize the executive powers over the state that previously didn't exist (Section 5 of the VRA which empowered the executive, rather than judicial, branch to review and approve the constitutionality of state voting laws - please correct me if I'm wrong about that Jerry if you're still around). As the The Hill article from this October makes clear, the debate over the constitutionality of Section 5 continue to this moment:


It only serves to underscore that the debate (at least where folks like Reagan and Goldwater were concerned) was not about the need to get rid of Jim Crow laws but rather the propriety of doing so in an un- or extra-constitutional way.

Posted by: hacksaw on November 14, 2007 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Oh you are there,

Jerry, I already conceded the point that an effect of Reagan's stance would likely have been delaying the take down of Jim Crow laws. To which I added the crucial point that this wasn't the objective of Reagan's position but probably an unavoidable consequence of it.

As for opposition to VRA versus Wickard, well that was the issue of the day (along with housing and other civil rights issues). Ag subsidies had been in place for what 25 years by then. I would argue that Reagan's broad concerns about the proper balance between the federal government and state and individual rights encompassed the kinds of expansions of federal power that Wickard led to.

In any event, I thought I had made clear my recognition that "if RR's argument against the VRA had carried the day" it is likely that Jim Crow-era laws would have taken longer to destroy. I presume that something along the lines of Section 2 of VRA would have been fine and that the fight against Jim Crow would have continued in the courts. Would it have taken 20 years longer? I have no idea, no one can.

As I said before, it is impossible for an American today to argue a virtue in that even if one agrees broadly with the constitutional/limited government concerns that were raised at the time or even if one agree with the current constitutional concerns about VRA or CRA for that matter. That's why I think it is a loaded question. But it is also besides the point when evaluating whether Reagan's motives in 1960 were racist or not.

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 14, 2007 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Just to finish grinding off Hacksaw's teeth:

1) You've conceded that Reagan was not motivated by principle in supporting Jim Crow states' rights, because (as you acknowledge) he did not support states' rights on principle in other more clear Constitutional issues: killing Jim Crow has the 15th amendment, executive intervention in agricultural markets has no Constitutional basis.

2) You've further conceded that what was different about perpetuating Jim Crow "on principle" against the clear language of the Constitution, was electoral advantage.

3) You've conceded that you would have perpetuated Jim Crow yourself -- on principle, of course.

4) You've refused to answer questions directed at testing your principles in practice. You've further acknowledged these questions make you uncomfortable.

5) So you've conceded your refusal to test your principles is based on... principle.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 14, 2007 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry theAmericanist that after all this time you have not bothered to read a thing I've written.

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 14, 2007 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

So what do you think RR's motivation was? Do you really buy the principle argument on the VRA? I think it was political expediency, playing up to the racist White South. I think I've introduced a lot of factual reasons for so believing, and for rejecting your suppositions as to why it was principle.

Here's how I see it: you have massive increases in federal involvement in a whole host of areas from 33-65. While the 1964 CRA, predicated as it was on the commerce clause (see Heart of Atlanta, or any of the major CRA SC cases for just how invasive), was much more constitutionally suspect, and thus I tend to trust Goldwater was acting on principle, the VRA was so firmly embedded in the constitution that I simply cannot with intellectual integrity accept at face value the claims by Strom Thurmond and Ronald Reagan that their opposition was based on principle, when they did NOT object to non-racial (shit, I'm not even going to type it again). This is particularly true when we consider the HUGE electoral benefit to taking that position. I suppose it is possible that Reagan was not thinking of the politics when he took his stance. It's also possible OJ didn't kill Ron and Nicole...

Incidentally, the VRA still has judicial oversight embedded in it. The Justice Department gets first crack at new election laws and procedures in covered polities, but they are subject to judicial review by special 3 judge panels, if memory serves.

Posted by: Jerry Mayer on November 14, 2007 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK


Couple of things before we lose this thread.

First, I think it's simply not true to suggest Reagan did not object to non-racial "shit" when it came to State's rights. He may not have addressed agriculture specifically but his comments on federalism were broader than simply the issues of CRA, VRA, and so on.

Second, I agree than VRA in general was constitutional (Congress was authorized to legislate to enforce the 15th Amendment, which itself affirms most of what VRA did). The constitutional issue, which persists to this day, revolved around Section 5 which empowered the federal executive to in effect manage the voting procedures of some jurisdiction.

And third, it isn't clear to me why appealing to the racist white South was particularly important to Reagan as he was running for governor at the time. I have previously accepted that the racial benefits (as they were) of his positions must have been factors in what he did, just that they weren't the driving factors. So I'm not sure there was a HUGE electoral benefit he derived in 1966 from opposing VRA.

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 15, 2007 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

"So I'm not sure there was a HUGE electoral benefit he derived in 1966 from opposing VRA..."

How about that he had already decided to run for President? He was a candidate in 1968, carryign the Goldwater flag he picked up in 1964.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 15, 2007 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

That's a fair enough question, theAmericanist, though it is also fair to note on fair housing, for example, Reagan as governor took a far less aggressive stance against it then he did as a candidate for governor. I mention housing because VRA wasn't an issue in 1968 as far as I can tell. Moreover, Reagan came late to the 1968 race and didn't really compete in the Southern states if memory serves. So I'm pretty sure his position on VRA in 1966 were not taken with the 1968 presidential race in mind. And his actions in his first 2 years as governor moved away from rather than closer to 'race baiting' stances such as repealing the Rumford Act (for fair housing).

By the way, Jerry, I found this in a Reagan speech from April 1967 which touches on the federal government and its impact on farming:

"We will work also to make the state an effective bulwark between the people and an ever-encroaching Federal government. That government is best which remains closest to the people, but almost daily the Goliath that is the Federal government moves to gather more power unto itself and to minimize the functions of both the Congress and the states. In recent weeks, the Secretary of Labor has set discriminatory minimum farm wages - $1.50 in California … as low as $1.00 elsewhere. Yet, California farmers are expected to compete under this differential on the national market despite the additional high cost of shipping produce from the West Coast. Only two weeks ago, the President called the governors together to tell them the Federal government wished to work more closely with the states in distributing Federal monies and Federal programs. This was obviously an attempt to minimize efforts in the Congress to provide string-free money to the states. If Congress were to take this action, only Congress could repeal it. But what the White House gives, the White House can take away without regard to the Congress or the states."

Posted by: Hacksaw on November 15, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK



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