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Are Immigrants the 2016 Version of Willie Horton?

Willie Horton

By Ed Diokno
 
It was 1988, Jeb Bush’s father George H. Bush was polling behind Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis, who had built up a 17-percentage-point lead during the summer.
 

Something had to be done to shore up Bush’s slipping campaign. The Bush campaign team, led by Lee Atwater, found Willie Horton.

 

Horton was serving a life sentence without parole in Massachusetts for killing a man. He got a weekend furlough, fled and made his way to Maryland, where he broke into a home, tied a man up and slashed him with a knife, then beat and raped the man’s fiancée.

 
Horton was Black. The couple was White.
 
As governor of Massachusetts, Dukakis paroled Horton. The mainstream media played right into Atwater’s hands, repeatedly using a menacing photo of Horton.
 
Susan Estrich, the Dukakis campaign manager, looking back on the campaign, wrote: “There is no stronger metaphor for racial hatred in our country than the Black man raping the White woman. If you were going to run a campaign of fear and smear and appeal to racial hatred you could not have picked a better case to use than this one.”
 
Bush beat Dukakis handily.
 
Presidential hopeful Donald Trump appears to have taken a page out of the elder Bush’s campaign strategy. And it appears that several of the other Republican candidates have jumped on the bandwagon, including Jeb Bush, the youngest of George Bush’s sons.
 
The intended target is the White America fearful of the demographic trends changing the face of the United States. When Republicans use the rallying cry to “Take back our country,” who do you think they are “taking” it back from?
 
The goal is to energize their base, southern Whites and disaffected, White males who although poor, in the past could always fall back on their privileged status above the “coloreds” to ease any discomfort. That top spot is tenuous nowadays.
 
Demographic evidence and White pundits keep reminding them that the day of the White majority is slipping away. By 2040, Whites will just be another under-50% ethnic group in a nation of minorities.
 
The White south, has always been used by the Republicans since Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential bid when he railed for “state’s rights” and was implicitly against the Federal orders to desegregate schools. The calculated move to shift the normally Democratic South by winning over Whites, who were angry at the Federal desegregation orders – the Dixiecrats. Goldwater’s campaign formed the basis of what was to become known as the Republican’s Southern Strategy.
 
Election 2016
 
Since then, every Republican candidate has built on the Southern Strategy and the White South, has voted for Republicans in the presidential campaigns. Ronald Reagan solidified the GOP South by launching his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, a town where three civil rights workers were murdered in the 1960s. Standing beside a known segregationist, Reagan replayed Goldwater’s “states’ rights” theme, a code for stopping African American advances. By combining anti-government sentiment with a religious message, he appealed to the evangelical movement and laid the groundwork for the birth of the Tea Party.
 
Lee Atwater, who in 1981 worked in Reagan’s White House, laid out the basic foundation of that strategy in an interview:
 
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nig**r, Nig**r, Nig**r.” By 1968 you can’t say “Nig**r”—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 “Nig**r, nig**r.”
 
Trump made it clear in his opening salvo when he announced his candidacy when he denounced Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists. Jeb Bush joined in when he linked “anchor babies” to the Asian community without specifying the “birth tourism” phenomenon in which Chinese nationals would give birth to their children in the U.S. to guarantee American citizenship.
 
Thursday (Aug. 27) Carly Florina joined in the anti-Asian attacks against so-called “birth tourism,” wherein foreign nationals visit the U.S. on tourist visas to give birth so their babies can claim U.S. citizenship. Birth tourism is a bogus issue – a distraction, really – as if ending this practice would solve the immigration problems that America faces.
 
The accidental fatal shooting of a White woman this sumer in San Francisco by a dark-skinned undocumented immigrant who had been deported several times, was perfectly timed for the 2016 campaign season and occurred right after Trump’s tirade against immigrants. Trump continues to recall “beautiful Kate Steinie” in his campaign speeches.
 
Add to this toxic stew the Tea Party and their sympathizers, pushing their Christian values and railing against big government, feminists and Planned Parenthood. That’s much more easier for the mainstream media to report and repeat and repeat and repeat; and a whole lot more socially palatable than shouting, “Nig**r, Nig**r, Nig**r!”
 

Now that Trump is the GOP frontrunner and his rivals are trying to keep pace with his ridiculous statements, the rhetoric will most likely heat up even more than it has already. It will agitate their base, embolden their supporters such as the two men who beat up a Latino in Boston last week because they believed Trump’s message. Trump initially shrugged his shoulders and called them “passionate” followers. He later denounced the violence.
 
In an article in the New Yorker last week, White power advocate Richard Spencer gave writer Evan Osnos an excellent, albeit scary, analysis of the Trump ascendency:
 
“Trump, on a gut level, kind of senses that this is about demographics, ultimately. We’re moving into a new America.” Though Spencer doesn’t think Trump himself is a White nationalist, he believes he channels “an unconscious vision that White people have—that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country. I think that scares us. They probably aren’t able to articulate it. I think it’s there. I think that, to a great degree, explains the Trump phenomenon. I think he is the one person who can tap into it.”
 
Jared Taylor of the White supremacist American Renaissance agrees. “I’m sure he would repudiate any association with people like me, but his support comes from people who are more like me than he might like to admit.”
 
It’s clear that the old-line moderate Republicans have lost control of their party with its dramatic shift to the right. Republicans may even be thinking that courting the Asian, Latino and African/American vote may be a lost cause and put all their chips on the old reliable, trusted and tested Southern Strategy that has worked so well for them in the past. If that’s the case, we can expect more of the hateful, race-baiting displayed by GOP candidates last week.
 
Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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