TRUMP PICK FOR TOP CIVIL RIGHTS ENFORCER HAS MADE A CAREER OF FIGHTING DISCRIMINATION CLAIMS: In one case, Eric Dreiband argued that a commission established to defend religious liberty had the right to discriminate based on religion. (11/3/2017)
SPECIAL REPORT – Paul Manafort’s role in the Republican’s notorious ‘Southern Strategy’
By Sue Sturgis
As part of the ongoing probe into Russian efforts to help Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Special Counsel Robert Mueller this week handed down criminal indictments of three Trump campaign associates, among them former campaign chair Paul Manafort of Virginia.
In a 12-count indictment that also named his business partner, Manafort was charged with conspiracy to launder money, serving as an unregistered agent of a foreign power, making false statements and other crimes. The charges relate to his laundering through foreign shell companies millions of dollars made lobbying for a pro-Russia party in Ukraine — work he failed to properly disclose — and using it to buy luxury goods and property while avoiding taxes. Manafort surrendered to the FBI, pleaded not guilty and was placed under house arrest. If convicted, the 68-year-old faces up to 80 years in prison.
The charges against Manafort — a Connecticut native with business and law degrees from Georgetown University — cap off a controversial career in politics. Much of it he spent lobbying for notorious human rights abusers such as Angolan anti-communist rebel leader Jonas Savimbi and dictators Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Mohammed Siad Barre of Somalia and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
But before he was advocating for human rights abusers on the world stage, Manafort was helping the Republican Party gain advantage by embracing the politics of racism at home.
After launching his political career in 1976 as a delegate-hunt coordinator for the President Ford Committee, Manafort went on to co-found a political consulting firm. In that capacity he served as Southern coordinator for Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, in which he exploited the GOP’s “Southern Strategy” — an effort to build political support for the Republican Party among white Democratic voters in the South through dog-whistle appeals to racism against African Americans. It can be traced back to Republican Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential run and was used with great success by the Nixon campaign in 1968.
Two weeks after Reagan became his party’s nominee at the 1980 Republican convention in Detroit, Manafort arranged to have him speak at Mississippi’s Neshoba County Fair, a traditional forum for right-wing politics. The visit was hosted by Trent Lott, at the time a Mississippi congressman who would go on to serve in the U.S. Senate only to lose his leadership position in 2002 after praising the segregationist politics of former Dixiecrat-turned-Republican U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.
The Neshoba County Fair takes place just seven miles from the county seat of Philadelphia, Mississippi. That’s where during Freedom Summer of 1964 members of the Ku Klux Klan with help from the local sheriff and police murdered James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, young civil rights workers who had been registering rural black residents to vote.
Mississippi declined to prosecute anyone involved in the killings at that time, so the federal government stepped in. After a lengthy battle, U.S. prosecutors finally managed to indict 18 people on federal charges of depriving the victims of their civil rights by murder. Held before an all-white jury and a white judge with a record of hostility to the civil rights movement, the trial resulted in convictions for seven men. None served more than six years in prison, so it’s possible they attended the fair to hear Reagan speak.
In that historically and racially charged setting, what was the Reagan campaign’s message to the overwhelmingly white crowd of 10,000? “States’ rights” — the rallying cry for secessionists during the Civil War and for segregationists during the civil rights movement. Reagan said:
I believe in states’ rights. I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level, and I believe we’ve distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the Constitution to that federal establishment.
He went on to pledge to “restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them.” As Bob Herbert of the New York Times wrote years later in response to Republican efforts to cast Reagan’s Neshoba County appearance in a more benign light, “Reagan may have been blessed with a Hollywood smile and an avuncular delivery, but he was elbow deep in the same old race-baiting Southern strategy of Goldwater and Nixon.”
A more abstract racism
Reagan went on to win a landslide victory over incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter of Georgia and racked up a record hostile to civil rights.
He cut funding for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He sided with the Christian fundamentalist Bob Jones University in South Carolina in a case over whether institutions that discriminate on the basis of race can get federal funds. He even vetoed the Civil Rights Restoration Act requiring publicly funded institutions to comply with civil rights laws, though Congress overrode him.
The day after the 1984 general election, in which Reagan won a second term in an even more overwhelming landslide, Republican political consultant and White House political aide Lee Atwater of South Carolina became a senior partner in Manafort’s consulting firm.
Atwater was known for his use of aggressive and racially charged tactics in his work with congressional campaigns, such as fake surveys implying an opponent was a member of the NAACP. In his work with Manafort’s firm, Atwater masterminded the racially charged Willie Horton attack ads run by the George H. W. Bush campaign in 1988 accusing Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis of being weak on crime.
Atwater had discussed the origin and thinking behind the Southern Strategy in a 1981 interview with a political scientist. It surfaced in an audio recording obtained by The Nation magazine in 2012. In it he said:
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.”
Before he died in 1991, Atwater apologized for the tactics he used, noting that while he didn’t invent negative politics he was “one of its most ardent practitioners.” Manafort, though, has offered no apologies.
Making a monster
The racially divisive tactics pioneered by Manafort and his colleagues remain a feature of U.S. politics today, though they’ve been adapted to the times by exploiting white resentment toward Latinos and immigrants as well as African Americans.
After Manafort joined the Trump operation as chair in March 2016, political observers noticed a change in the campaign’s tone… (Click here to continue reading.)
(To comment on or to share this story, click here. White House photo of President Ford and Manafort via Wikipedia.)
INSTITUTE INDEX – The N.C. legislature’s hostile takeover of the courts
Year Republicans won majorities in both chambers of the North Carolina legislature for the first time since Reconstruction, allowing them to draw new legislative district maps: 2010
Year Republicans extended those legislative majorities to veto-proof supermajorities attained through electoral maps that the courts have since ruled to be illegal racial gerrymanders: 2012
Amount N.C. Republican lawmakers have spent over the last five years defending in court their controversial laws on everything from legislative districts to voter ID to transgender people’s use of public bathrooms: more than $10.5 million
Number of actions they’ve taken in recent years to change the makeup and independence of state, district and local courts: at least 12
Date on which the N.C. legislature sustained a bill eliminating judicial primary elections that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper had vetoed: 10/16/2017
Days later that they introduced a bill to wipe out the terms of all state judges, from the N.C. Supreme Court to the district courts, at the close of 2018 and require them to run again: 1
Number of years that local, district and state judges now serve: 4 or 8
Years they would serve should the bill become law, thus intensifying the demands of the electoral cycle: 2
Number of other states with two-year terms for judges: 0
Date on which former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, a Republican, called the proposal “wrong” and “an effort to intimidate the judiciary”: 10/17/2017
Spending on ads last year for a single N.C. Supreme Court race, which was technically nonpartisan but which the Democrat won, shifting the court’s partisan balance: $2.8 million
Weeks after that election that the N.C. legislature required state Supreme Court candidates to run in partisan judicial elections, which create barriers for unaffiliated candidates and which a 2012 study found are connected to greater political spending: 5
Months after that move the legislature extended the partisan election requirement to North Carolina’s superior and district court judges: 3
Year in which a state last moved to partisan elections for judges: 1921
Number of seats by which the N.C. legislature shrank the state Court of Appeals in order to deprive Gov. Cooper of naming replacements for retiring Republicans: 3
Month in which N.C. lawmakers drew new boundaries for judicial districts statewide to make it easier for GOP judges to win: 10/2017
Percent of current district court judges who are double-bunked in the proposed map, meaning they’d have to run against another sitting judge: 32
Percent of women district court judges who are double-bunked: 37
Percent of black district court judges who are double-bunked: 53