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Est. April 5, 2002
June 08, 2017 - Issue 702

Donald Trump
Today’s Jim Crow
Goldman Sachs Republican Party
Part One

"...the Black vote is now
the balance of power
in the Democratic Party."

This essay is the introduction to a larger political analysis that seeks to explain how the modern Republican Party has utilized political racism over the past six decades to empower itself, the corporate oligarchy that it serves, and the racial bigots, euphemistically called “white nationalists” who have flocked to its side. It also tries to locate Trump’s election to President within the larger historical context of an American political system which, from the dawn of the Republic, has been shaped by the political exploitation of Black people in general and the Black political body in particular. So let us review that history which we were not taught in school…

1. The South’s Slave Power

Charles W. Mills, in his 1999 book, The Racial Contract, explains how the South, at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, extracted several concessions from the North that enabled it to govern the country. Slave-owner after slave-owner was President. They restricted the number of Senators a state could have to two, regardless of its population. But most importantly was “the federal ratio” that gave the South three-fifths of a vote for every slave it owned. Thus, beyond the economic benefits of slavery, there were political benefits as well, because with the political exploitation of the Black body, the South ruled the land.

And when the demographics went against them in the 1850s and threatened their rule, when there were 20 million people in the North and 12 million in the South - four million of whom were slaves - the South seceded and started the Civil War because even the racially slanted Electoral College and the federal ratio could no longer ensure Southern rule.

2. Reconstruction, Neo-Slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Democratic Party

After the Civil War and the passage of the 13th and 14th Amendments abolishing slavery and giving Southern Black men the right to vote, the South responded by organizing the Ku Klux Klan and enacting what Douglas Blackman defined as “neo-slavery” in his path-breaking book, Slavery by Another Name:

Under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged with the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible “debts,” prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries, and farm plantations… (emphasis mine)

And the freedom supposedly conferred upon us by the amended Constitution, was also canceled by what Ralph Ginsburg in his 1962 book calls A Hundred Years of Lynching. Yet, despite those thousands of murders, America was never able to pass an anti-lynching law! (What, then, does this failure signify for a nation that boasts “no man is above the law”?)

It was primarily southern Democrats, or, more accurately, the southern “Dixiecrats,” who blocked the anti-lynching legislation, utilizing the Democratic Party for decades as the political arm of the Klan. In the Sixties, however, when Democrats passed the Civil Rights Bill and the Voting Rights Act, the white, formerly Democratic South, turned to a welcoming Republican Party who eagerly embraced the longstanding southern persona of militarism, anti-feminism and, of course, racism.

3. Enter the Race Card – Again - This Time with Republicans

Richard Nixon affirmed this new Republican identity in 1968 when he ran for President on his “southern strategy” ticket, calling for “law and order” - as did Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace, the other two presidential candidates. The uniformity on this issue in all the campaigns reflected America’s determination to put Black people “back in their place” after Blacks had erupted in the inner cities in police-provoked rebellions (which America defamed as “riots”).

It is also Nixon who gives us our first real insight into the immorality of Republican politics when, to be sure he would be re-elected in 1972, his White House authorized the nighttime break-in of the Democratic National Committee’s Watergate office in Washington. That scandal, and subsequent attempts to cover up a horde of other illegal activities, forced Nixon to resign in 1974 to avoid being impeached. But the fact that sixty-nine members of Nixon’s administration were indicted demonstrated the organic corruption of his White House. (See the classic film All the President’s Men, based on the 1974 book of the same name by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.)

Influenced, no doubt, by the Watergate revelations of Republican misrule and recognizing the significance of the South, the Democratic Party fashioned its own southern strategy and nominated Jimmy Carter, a southern politician, for President in 1976. As they later would Bill Clinton, the Governor of Arkansas in 1992.

But Carter’s election was only a temporary setback for Republicans, since Ronald Reagan, keeping to the racist script, kicked off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi where the three civil rights workers, Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman, had been murdered in 1964.

This was a racist message so outrageous that many people were appalled and yet the flagrant act did not keep Americans from electing Reagan. Nor did it keep him from continuing his racist outreach to the white electorate by vilifying Black people as non-working parasites living off government handouts.

With the customary Republican racist smokescreen, Reagan coded his reference to Blacks by excoriating a mythical “welfare queen.” (At the time, however, the average person on welfare was a white woman with two and a half kids.) But the facts then, as now, do not dissuade racist mudslingers.

Following Reagan into office was Republican George H. W. Bush, who copied Reagan’s tactics of tarring Democratic opponents with a racist brush, and tirelessly blamed his opponent, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, for a Massachusetts prison furlough program from which a convict named Willie Horton escaped and, allegedly, sexually assaulted a white woman - the everlasting accusation against Black men.

The fact that Dukakis had inherited the program from his gubernatorial predecessors was not clarified by the media, allowing Bush’s campaign manager, Lee Atwater, to boast, “By the time we’re finished, they’re going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis’ running mate.”Accordingly, Bush won the 1988 election.

So for twenty-four years, from 1968 to 1992, minus Jimmy Carter’s four years, the Republican Party essentially relied upon tying the Democratic Party to Black with the un-discussed result that no Democratic Party presidential candidate, so racially stigmatized, has won a majority of the white vote since LBJ in 1964.

The corollary consequence of that white flight to Republicans is that the Black vote is now the balance of power in the Democratic Party. Democrats can lose elections with the Black vote but cannot win without it. (Thus the great voting fraud lie to justify Black voter suppression.)

Obama, for example, won 39 percent of the white vote in 2008 and 41 percent in 2012. He was elected by Black people, Latinos, Asian-Americans, and young whites. But the earlier lesson for Republican strategists was Clinton’s two victories in 1992 and 1996 without a majority white vote. They then realized that new tactics were called for. Now, the most glaring (and successful) appearance of the new tactic, i.e., voter suppression, was in Florida in the presidential election of 2000 with Republican candidate George W. Bush (the younger) versus Clinton’s Vice-President, Democrat Al Gore.

Bush won the election with the 25 electoral votes that he won in Florida where his brother, Jeb, was Governor and the Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, his co-campaign manager, purged 181,173 eligible votes as “spoiled”, mostly, of course, African American. Her maneuver, along with the Republican-dominated Supreme Court who stopped the vote recount in Florida, handed the victory to Bush.

Investigative reporter Greg Palast’s book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, exposed the conspiracies that Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris, Florida Elections Unit Chief Clay Roberts, together with the Choice Point corporation, “rigged the ballots of presidential elections 2000 and 2004” primarily by disenfranchising Florida’s Black voters. Their trick, which was soon to become Republican national strategy and called Cross Check, was to match voters by race by selecting names like “Johnson” or “Jackson” which they assumed were Black; label them felons, and then deny them the right to vote. They also changed voting locales without public notice, gave the wrong date for elections, and failed to send sufficient voting machines to “Democratic” (i.e., Black and brown precincts). (Remember those long lines at the 2000 election?) They also used police or Republican flunkies to harass and intimidate voters and they gave voters “provisional” ballots that were never counted.

They also targeted Latinos and Asian-Americans by adding names like Garcia and Park (a common Korean name) to their Cross Check list. So, although we greatly appreciate President Jimmy Carter’s myth-shattering evaluation of the political system that he made on the Thom Hartmann Radio Program in August of 2015, we must add the racial component to his observation to paint the whole corrupt picture. To wit, “The U.S. is an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.”

One would have thought that the media would publicize such loaded and truth-telling criticism. But, of course, the media, controlled by five corporations, does not.

End of Part One

BC Editorial Board Member William L. (Bill) Strickland - Professor Emeritus of political science in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he was also the Director of the Du Bois Papers Collection. The Du Bois Papers are housed at the University of Massachusetts library, which is named in honor of this prominent African American intellectual and Massachusetts native. Professor Strickland is a founding member of the independent black think tank in Atlanta the Institute of the Black World (IBW), headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Strickland was a consultant to both series of the prize-winning documentary on the civil rights movement, Eyes on the Prize (PBS Mini Series Boxed Set), and the senior consultant on the PBS documentary, The American Experience: Malcolm X: Make It Plain.  He also wrote the companion book Malcolm X: Make It Plain. Most recently, Professor Strickland was a consultant on the Louis Massiah film on W.E.B. Du Bois - W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices. Click here to contact Mr. Strickland.




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