In an interview last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to re-write the racist history of the Republican Party over the past 50 years. Expressing concern about the likely reaction of Hispanic American voters to Donald Trump's assertion that a judge could not be fair to him because "he is a Mexican" (actually the judge was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents), Senator McConnell compared the situation to the difficulty the Republican Party has had in appealing to African American voters since 1964 Republican Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater's opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"It did define our party, for at least African American voters, and it still does today..."
Senator McConnell has conveniently "forgotten" a few salient facts that have defined the Republican Party since 1964. True, Barry Goldwater's policy positions did not endear him or his party to many African American voters. But their distrust for and opposition to the Republican Party go far beyond and far deeper than Barry Goldwater's point of view.
Has Senator McConnell forgotten, for example, his Party's welcome mat for white racists like the late Strom Thurmond, who in 1948 bolted the Democratic Party to protest its support for civil rights and then switched to the Republican Party in 1964 because of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act? Thurmond then was elected to the U.S. Senate seven times over nearly 40 years as a Republican, and was lionized by the GOP despite never-changing his views on civil rights. And Thurmond was just one of many former Democrats who found a friendly home in the Republican Party because of its opposition to the civil rights movement.
Has Senator McConnell forgotten Richard Nixon's blatantly racist campaign for the Presidency in 1968, when he admittedly devised a "southern strategy" to attract white southerners opposed to civil rights and used thinly-veiled code words like "law and order" to scare white voters across the country about the demands of African Americans for racial justice? Nixon subscribed to the view of then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that "justice is incidental to law and order."
Has the Senator forgotten how Ronald Reagan raised the "southern strategy" to an art form in his 1980 campaign for the Presidency by beginning that campaign with a speech about states' rights (another anti-civil rights code word) in Neshoba County, MS, where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964 with the cooperation of the Sheriff's department for the "crime" of trying register African Americans to vote? Has he forgotten, also, that President Reagan, a hero to most Republicans, labeled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a communist and therefore unworthy of a Federal holiday in his honor, supported tax breaks for Bob Jones University despite its blatantly racist policies at the time, opposed renewal of the Voting Rights Act, and supported apartheid in South Africa, among other both blatant and subtle racist policies?
Has he forgotten the Willie Horton television ad that fueled George H.W. Bush's successful campaign for the White House in 1988? According to Bush campaign manager Lee Atwater, the intent of that ad was to scare white voters based on Mr. Horton's African American heritage:
"By the time we're finished," Mr. Atwater admitted, "they're going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis' running mate."
Is he blind to current efforts by Republican governors and state legislators to suppress the African American vote?
No, it was not Goldwater's opposition to the Civil Rights Act that defined the Republican Party. It was the racist policies and actions of Nixon, Reagan, Atwater, many of today's Republican leaders, and all who support them that have defined the Republican Party and alienated so many voters of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Similarly, it will not be Trump who defines the Republican Party and alienates Hispanic American voters for generations to come. It will be those, like Senator McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who have endorsed Trump despite his anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim, anti-African American, anti-Native American, anti-Asian American, anti-women, anti-physically handicapped, anti-POWs, anti-free press, violence-provoking racist and misogynistic rhetoric.
Republican political consultant Rick Wilson may have put it best with a warning to his fellow Republicans:
"You own his policies, even the ones that only last as long as the next contradiction. You own the racial animus that started out as a bug, became a feature, and is now the defining characteristic of his campaign. You own every crazy, vile chunk of word vomit that spews from his mouth...For everyone who cries wolf on racism--and there are a lot of them on the other side--they are now validated forever."