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June 14, 2004


George brings up a good point with his three references:

Perhaps useful: Jack White's Time article "Lott, Reagan and Republican Racism," Steven Hayward's National Review article Reagan, Lott, and Race Baiting" and Kevin Baker's Harper's review "The magic Reagan: more misguided arguments for his greatness"

Before I go there, I find it interesting to note that I am Enneagram 9w8, which means that very little of this caca fazes me. Or as Phife says, "I wear New Balance sneakers to avoid a narrow path". So in the midst of strife, I tend to see things a different way.

To the heart of the matter, I still believe we are talking about rhetorical patronage. While many folks are ready to suggest that Reagan courted the white racist vote, they also say that Reagan did little to help poor whites. This underscores my point. As the Great Communicator, Reagan appealed to a wide spectrum of Americans, and while he lowered the tax rate dramatically for the very wealthiest Americans, he wasn't exactly evenhanded about it for the poor. So the same headscratching that goes on about what he actually did for poor whites, should go on about what he actually did for racist whites.

I happen to believe this argument is a standard part of the 'racist, sexist, homophobic' cluster bomb thrown by the Left to tar Reagan.
But how much of that sticks when it comes to policy? Is Reagan sexist because he opposed passage of the ERA? So I will continue to ignore the labels and continue to respond to the real effects of real legislation passed by Congress.

Posted by mbowen at June 14, 2004 06:57 PM

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Tracked on April 1, 2005 09:15 AM


This is an excellent "beginning." For the last several years I've actually strayed away from making ontological arguments about who people "are." That is, I don't call people "racist" or "sexist" anymore. In our show about Reagan for example I just talked about what came as a RESULT of Reagan.

Be prepared though. It is possible that there are certain classes of blacks that succeeded under Reagan BECAUSE of his policies. But it is also possible that black people unevenly suffered. Regardless of how cool you think he might be.

Posted by: Lester Spence at June 14, 2004 09:57 PM

Quite frankly, I don't think Reagan is half as cool as William F. Buckley. Buckley, however would have been insufferable as president. I am taking your clue as regards 'lived policy'. We may get some other bills besides HR7152 talked about yet.

Posted by: cobb at June 14, 2004 10:15 PM

Oops. I meant the rhetorical "you" above.

Posted by: Lester Spence at June 15, 2004 06:27 AM

What President Reagan arguably did for racist whites, and that trouble me as a libertarian:

-- staunchly supported South Africa's apartheid regime, and opposed the Anti-Apartheid Act. He wanted a "go-slow," "constructive engagement" approach in South Africa, while taking a "go fast, crush 'em" approach for communism in Eastern Europe. Why was freedom and democracy for South Africa's blacks expendable, but not for European whites? To a libertarian, both are highly problematic. Sanctions only occurred because of Congressional veto.

-- vehemently opposed the Dr. King holiday, and claimed that Dr. King was a communist. It was ONLY due to FIERCE backing from citizens and Congress (including many Republicans) that he finally relented and signed the holiday.

-- opposed welfare (as he should), but did it by playing the race card. Meanwhile, he was awfully silent on corporate welfare. Welfare in both forms should go

-- extended sentences for mere drug possession (instead of cracking down on sale), setting the racist War on Drugs that still remains today. Not to mention, allowing the flow of drugs into America -- particularly urban communities -- to go unchecked

-- gutted the Civil Rights Commission and vehemently tried to water down the Voting Rights Act when it came up for extension. Again, only through folks fighting tooth and nail did Reagan sign the latter's extension.

While President Reagan wasn't able to achieve some of his goals, it surely wasn't due to lack of effort. Folks fought tooth and nail to prevent rollbacks. And don't dismiss the rhetorical patronage either. That alone made racism OK and black folks' civil rights (here or abroad) expedient in quite a few quarters.

He gets cool points from me in various areas, but I'm also miffed that most conservatives and libertarians are unable to self-critique about his weaknesses -- including, yes, pandering to racist whites by playing the race card and working overtime to roll back civil rights.

Posted by: shay at June 15, 2004 08:50 AM

During Reagan's term, complaints to the EEOC went up.

During Reagan's term, civil rights enforcement went down.

During Reagan's term, his gutting of civil rights enforcement allowed discrimination against Black farmers with farm loans. They claim, as did J.C. Watts, that the racism involved in the farm loan process, caused many Black farmers to go belly up.

Posted by: DarkStar at June 15, 2004 06:50 PM

I do not have much to add re. Reagan and South Africa per se, but wish to offer some perspective I've read from others who also advocated the "go slow" approach. At the time Soviet expansion in Central America and Africa was very strong and the ANC already had known ties to USSR and strong Communist leanings. There was concern to make sure the USSR was not in a position to rapidly gain influence over one of the most prosperous nations in Africa, especially one that occupied strong influence over strategic waters. On a personal note I know that SA later came clean that they had, at that time, posessed nuclear weapons and later dismantled them of their own accord. I don't know if the US government was aware of it at the time, but if so that might very well have contributed to our desire to limit Soviet influence in the area.

Posted by: submandave at June 15, 2004 07:49 PM

I get wanting to limit Soviet influence in South Africa. However, the ANC was not the end all and be all of the country's anti-apartheid movement. How about supporting other pro-democracy movements there? That Reagan supported a racist totalitarian regime on the one hand while opposing the same in Eastern Europe is appalling. It was then, and was now. BOTH should've been opposed in my libertarian mindset.

Posted by: shay at June 15, 2004 08:48 PM

The US Government cannot acknowledge any political party not in power. This is an old and good idea. But I'm surprised that nobody here has bothered to talk about Reagan as 'in the pocket of corporate interests' and instead say that he was purposefully satisfying a racist constituency. Ridiculous.

Read here some original commentary against the American investment:

I excerpt.

The United States is South Africa's largest trading partner, its second largest foreign investor, and the source of one-third of its international credit. US investments in South Africa, including investments made through subsidiaries, are estimated at $4.4 billion. In addition, US investors hold approximately $8 billion in shares in South African mining companies. US companies engage in $4.8 billion in trade with South Africa, and US bank loans to South Africa now stand at $4.5 billion.

US corporations control almost half of the South African oil industry, 75 percent of the computer industry, and 23 percent of the auto industry. Leading US exports to South Africa included in 1983 $218.4 million in aircraft and aircraft turbines -- 60 percent of South Africa's supply -- and $122.2 million in computers and computer parts -- 35 percent of South Africa's foreign supply. The US imports one-third of South Africa's total Krugerrand gold exports, a critical source of foreign exchange earnings.

It was money that kept America in South Africa, it was the Sullivan Principles that kept American money honest.

A little too much credit to the Klan, here.

Posted by: cobb at June 15, 2004 09:11 PM

The fear of communism was not really an issue. It was clear that the ANC didn't embrace communism, they embraced the support of their cause.

Posted by: DarkStar at June 15, 2004 09:11 PM

It was money that kept America in South Africa, it was the Sullivan Principles that kept American money honest.

Boycotts finally forced many American companies out of South Africa. That more than anything else helped change the structure of the South African government.

Posted by: DarkStar at June 15, 2004 09:14 PM

American investors were afraid that a black majority govern would nationalize companies with their money. And yes they were scared to death of Joe Slovo. This is why Thabo Mbeki as a number two was so important to the transition. Mbeki was a handsome face who spoke English fluently and had a capitalist outlook. He charmed the pants off of foreign investors and assured them their money would be safe.

Posted by: cobb at June 15, 2004 09:17 PM

Anybody actually BEEN TO SA recently? Got an unvarnished look at infrastructure? Do the elevators and roads and runways get fixed?

Posted by: True_Liberal at June 16, 2004 07:08 AM

A friend of mine is an exec down there. He took his family a couple years ago. Everything works. There are extremes. You have comfortable suburbs but you need security. There are something like two levels of poverty below what we see in the states. If you can imagine that a taxi driver there is a kind of middle class - or that is, anybody with a vehicle.

If you go into the rural areas, there are still shanty towns, highway robberies and carjacking. They don't seem to have the abduction problems of Mexico City, but still the affluent suburbs are locked compounds.

He hasn't written me in a while.

Posted by: Cobb at June 16, 2004 11:12 AM

I have 3 family members who visited there. All three were impressed. One went for vacation. The other two went there for "get away" trips from their work activities in near by countries.

Posted by: DarkStar at June 16, 2004 04:02 PM