The late, legendary campaign consultant Lee Atwater explains in an exclusive audio obtained by The Nation via Jimmy Carter’s grandson James Carter IV, how Republicans can win the vote of racists without sounding racist themselves. This seems relevant to today’s politics, as we witness the Ann Coulers raging about Democrats just wanting “free stuff.”
Warning: This is really offensive:
?You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
The Nation reports:
The back-story goes like this. In 1981, Atwater, after a decade as South Carolina’s most effective Republican operative, was working in Ronald Reagan’s White House….
In the lead-up to the infamous remarks, it is fascinating to witness the confidence with which Atwater believes himself to be establishing the racial innocence of latter-day Republican campaigning: “My generation,” he insists, “will be the first generation of Southerners that won’t be prejudiced.” He proceeds to develop the argument that by dropping talk about civil rights gains like the Voting Rights Act and sticking to the now-mainstream tropes of fiscal conservatism and national defense, consultants like him were proving “people in the South are just like any people in the history of the world.”
And this is rather telling:
Then Atwater, apparently satisfied that he’d absolved the Southern Republican Party of racism once and for all, follows up with a prediction based on a study he claims demonstrates that Strom Thurmond won 38 percent of South Carolina’s middle-class black vote in his 1978 Senate campaign (run by Atwater).
“That voter, in my judgment,” he claims, “will be more likely to vote his economic interests than he will anything else. And that is the voter that I think through a fairly slow but very steady process, will go Republican.” Because race no longer matters: “In my judgment Karl Marx [is right]… the real issues ultimately will be the economic issues.” He continues, in words that uncannily echo the “47 percent tape” (nothing new under the wingnut sun), that “statistically, as the number of non-producers in the system moves toward fifty percent,” the conservative coalition cannot but expand. Voila: a new Republican majority. Racism won’t have anything to do with it.
(my bold, for the irony of it all)
And at the present time, the Voting Rights Act is going to the Supreme Court for review. Voter ID laws are being established by today’s Republican Party, using the justification of mythical voter fraud — recently we’ve determined cases of voter fraud from their own base, but it’s the scary black people doing it. In fact, it’s the scary white people trying to shift elections in their favor.
Read the rest of The Nation’s article here.