50 Years of Angry White People: Dividing the Democrats

In 2016 angry white people were in the news.

Why were they angry?

Michael Kimmel, a Professor of Sociology, called it an aggrieved entitlement.

A November 2015 survey of 3,257 US adults conducted by Esquire and NBC produced the following bits of data: white people are more likely than black people to say their current financial situation isn’t what they thought it would be when they were younger, and they were also more likely to put that down to difficult circumstances rather than “wrong choices”.
When asked whether they ever hear or read anything on the news that makes them angry, white respondents were more likely than black ones to say they felt angry at least twice a day. There were gender differences too – men were more likely than women to say that they felt angry about the treatment of white men.”Esquire

In the 1960s, Southern whites were angry about integration and desegregation.

They hated John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson for using the power of the Federal Government to protect the civil rights and the safety of black students who wanted to enroll in school.

Art by Rob Goldstein
Wanted poster from Dallas, Texas, November 1963.

When President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, angry white people decided the Federal Government was a ‘problem.’

The Government was too big, they said.

The Government had no respect for individual liberty (white privilege).

In 1969, GOP strategist Kevin Phillips wrote The Emerging Republican Majority.

 

Newsweek called The Emerging Republican Majority the political bible of the Nixon Administration.

Kevin Phillips stated to New York Times Magazine in 1970:


“All the talk about Republicans making inroads into the Negro vote is persiflage. Even ‘Jake the Snake’ Senator Jacob Javits of New York only gets 20 percent. From now on, Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote, and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”
New York Times Magazine

In my research of Kevin Phillips and the Southern Strategy, I found image files at the New Yorker website of a 1971 Memo to H.R. Haldeman from Pat Buchanan. Pat Buchanan wrote ‘Dividing the Democrats anonymously. 

George Packer, a columnist at the New Yorker, describes how he got the memo:

“I wanted to hear tales of the Nixon years, and Buchanan—between writing his syndicated column and getting ready to drive to the studios of MSNBC for a televised political talk, which he called “bread and circuses”—was happy to oblige. After all, he’d been present at the creation of the themes and tactics that led to forty years of conservative domination of American politics, and he was proud of it. At one point, he mentioned a memo that he’d written for Nixon in 1971 under the heading “Dividing the Democrats.”

Art by Rob Goldstein


Packer describes Dividing the Democrats as a Machiavellian primer on the vulnerabilities of the New Deal coalition.

“It reminded me of how relatively gentle and civilized the supposedly vicious campaign of 2008 has been.“  George Packer

Art by Rob Goldstein


Dividing the Democrats was the foundation of the Republican Southern Strategy to stoke racism and division to turn White Southerners against the New Deal.

Journalist Dan Baum wrote in the April cover story of Harper’s about an interview with John Ehrlichman in 1994 while working on a book about drug prohibition.

“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” Harpers

Dividing the Democrats Screenshot 4

In 1980 angry white people elected Ronald Reagan.

They got their wish, and the government shrank.

Reagan cut funding for public education.

He closed community colleges.

He ended federal grants and scholarships to the poor.

He cut funding for community mental health programs.

Art by Rob Goldstein


When President George Herbert Walker Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992, angry white people got even angrier.

They didn’t like Bill Clinton.

They didn’t like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

They didn’t like AmeriCorps and the idea of public service. 

And they really didn’t like his uppity feminist wife who wanted to give universal health care to the undeserving (black people).

So they organized, and in 1995, they elected a GOP House that did everything it could to destroy Bill Clinton.

The ‘Gingrich Revolution’ also did everything it could to further destroy economic opportunities for the poor:

More cuts to education.

More cuts to community mental health.

More cuts to federal vocational programs.

Lifetime limits on access to welfare.

In 2000 angry white people fought recounts in Florida to prevent a Gore Presidency:

“As angry as conservatives have felt over the nearly three weeks since Election Day, a clear turning point in this remarkably twisting story line came Friday, when Joe Lieberman stepped up to liken GOP protesters in Miami-Dade County to a “mob” trying to “intimidate” vote counters. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan) chimed in, saying the Miami-Dade rally had a “whiff of fascism.” Conservatives see these statements – along with other Democrats’ invoking of the Voting Rights Act – as efforts to silence protests against recount outrages.” The Brooks Brothers Riot

At last, angry white people thought they had a ‘Southern’ President to make sure that no part of the government would go to the undeserving (Black people).

But something went wrong.

An African-American, Barack Hussein Obama, became President in 2009.

He spoke of a nightmare scenario of healthcare for everyone, including the undeserving (Black people).

When the Affordable Care Act was passed and signed into law in 2010, angry white people got furious and formed an angry right-wing Tea Party Movement. 

In 2014, with a combination of right-wing activism and liberal apathy,  the Tea Party Movement helped elect a partisan hard-right House and Senate.

Angry white people had a racist House and Senate that was openly hostile to the first African-American President. They had Fox News to tell them the lies they wanted to hear, and they used the power of their local governments to make sure that no one in their states got anything they didn’t deserve, and the lives of angry white people got worse, not better.

They have shorter life expediencies. 

They have less education, and their children are more likely
to grow up in poverty, sick, and malnourished.

Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote:

“…social collapse in the white working class is a deadly serious issue. Literally. Last fall, the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton attracted widespread attention with a paper showing that mortality among middle-aged white Americans, which had been declining for generations, started rising again circa 2000. This rising death rate mainly reflected suicide, alcohol and overdoses of drugs, notably prescription opioids. (Marx declared that religion was the opium of the people. But in 21st-century America, it appears that opioids are the opium of the people.)
And other signs of social unraveling, from deteriorating health to growing isolation, are also on the rise among American whites. Something is going seriously wrong in the heartland.”
 
On Invincible Ignorance

In 2016 the Russian Federation under Vladimir Putin launched a psychological attack on the United States and our 2016 Presidential elections.

Putin had a preferred candidate, and it wasn’t that uppity feminist, Hillary Clinton.

Putin’s preferred candidate won.

The nation’s angry white people finally have a president as white, and as dishonest, and as racist and angry as they are.

His lies have killed 200,000 thousand Americans.

He helps tyrants murder journalists and allows Vladimir Putin to place bounties on the lives of our soldiers.

He disparages members of our armed forces as dopes and losers.

He uses Russian propaganda to pervert the Constitution and subvert the rule of law.

He has destroyed the economy, alienated our allies, compromised our National Security, and brought the United States to its knees.

In 2016 Terrance Heath, a writer for the Huffington Post, compared America’s angry white people to two-year-olds:

“The behavior we’re seeing is basically the extreme of the Republican base kicking and screaming because they believe that if they throw a big enough tantrum, they can hold off change, turn back the transition period already begun, and keep things the way they are — or go back to the way they were.”

He suggested we pick them up and carry them forward with us:

“…we pick up the tantruming toddler under one arm — in such a way that he doesn’t hurt himself or anyone else — and carry him forward with us. It doesn’t mean the tantrum ends right away.”
Terrance Heath The Tyranny of the Tantrum

But we have not carried our nation’s angry white people forward; they have dragged us backward and are driving us our graves.

It is 2020.

America’s angry white people are still angry.

And we are dying.

 

First published March 28, 2016-Revised and updated September 20, 2020

(c) Rob Goldstein 2016 – 2020 All Rights reserved

Header image by Rob Goldstein

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Guest Blogger, Rena Korb: Fighting for a More Perfect Union

This guest post is from Rena Korb.

Rena is a professional writer and editor, and one of many extraordinary volunteers working with #DemCastUSA to get out the vote.


Ronald Reagan plays a starring role in my political awakening.

Believe me, I take no pride in these words.

My first memory of Reagan dates back to seventh-grade sewing class. A voice breaks across the loudspeaker, over the clacking of 30 machines, to announce an attempt has been made on the president’s life. He has been shot and injured, taken to a hospital in Washington, D.C. To this day, I can recall my crushing sense of disappointment.

Fast forward two years. Now it’s ninth grade and I’m sitting at the back of the Los Angeles city bus with my friends, a group of smart but cocky misfits. We are scheming to kill Ronald Reagan. We whisper possible ideas and plots. Every one of us declares our willingness to go to jail to do service to the country.

By the time I’m in high school, college, the Reagan Era is entrenched. Tax money is being spent on defense to pummel the USSR. Conservatives have unleashed an anti-abortion campaign that seems nothing less than an attack on women. A generation of kids is scarred by the post-nuclear TV movie “The Day After” (my school is near an air force base and though jets were forbidden to break the speed of sound, they did so with regularity, jolting me awake with fear that a nuclear bomb was about to drop). As governor of California in the 1960s, Reagan took one of the best-performing public school systems and turned it into one of the worst. Now he was doing the same with the country.

Like him or not, as the president of my generation’s youth, Ronald Reagan defined many of us who came into political awareness at an impressionable age. To this day, when I think back on that period, I recall how it seemed that no matter what we did, we had no impact. Republicans continued cutting taxes for the wealthy, depleting the treasury on machines of war, attacking the poor, and lying to Congress. My friends and I became cynical, apathetic, and disaffected, a state that did not lift even when Reagan was out of office.

Under these circumstances, by rights, I should have given up, become one of those people I knew who paid little attention to anything beyond their immediate concerns. But that never happened. I have phone banked and canvassed for many candidates in red states and red districts, even though I am a hardcore introvert. I have attended rallies and marches from New York to Hawaii, even though I hate crowds. I binge watch MSNBC. I argue politics even when it may ruin the social vibe — don’t get me started about those men, newly interested in politics since Trump’s election, who felt they could explain Hillary Clinton and 2016 to me.

You could say I was destined — some might say doomed — to become a civically engaged person. I was raised by a single mom in the 1970s. My mom was a quiet feminist. She wasn’t vocal about her views, but they were apparent in everything, from taking me to defend an abortion clinic when I was 16 to the cardboard mobile hanging in her office with red letters stacked like a pyramid spelling out, “I AM WOMAN,” plastered with pictures of Helen Reddy.

So should I thank my mom for my civic engagement? But maybe it was connected to growing up in Los Angeles, which was full of one-parent families, artists, actors, gays, pot smokers, and people who, in some way, lived outside the norm.

Or maybe it was just a quality of something in myself, some part of me that cared about learning about and challenging the world that existed around me. I have never liked being told what to do.

Or maybe the reason that I give a damn doesn’t matter at all.



Jump forward. It’s August 2020, less than three months remain before the next presidential election. Since Reagan, because of Reagan, I still fill out every ballot with a sense of despair, imagining the future loss. Every single election seems to be more important than the one before it,  this time, that sentiment is actually true.

I’m still delving into my political past, trying to answer the question of what citizenship means to me.

There’s the simple answer: Being informed, being active, voting.

Since I was a pre-teen, I’ve vacillated between thinking we could change the world and feeling profound disgust for my own country. Bill Clinton, who was supposed to represent a new dynamic in politics, ended up following the old playbook cherished by too many men in power. Barack Obama, by far the best president I have ever known, could have pushed Mitch McConnell harder over revealing the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Every silver lining has its cloud, as it turns out.

Now we have lived through almost four years of Trump. After the election, I didn’t really want to be here. I tried to persuade my husband, who is Australian, to move back. But when my family shot me down, I faced the decision of keeping my head down and trying to get through it — like many people I know chose to do — or fighting back.

“Citizenship is a full-time job.”

Fighting for a better country is what true citizens do. Remaking our country into a far more perfect union is what true citizens do.

Years of Trump’s cruel policies and corrupt acts and attacks on the Constitution have reawakened countless Americans to their civic and moral duty. This is, of course, a good thing. But while I see more engagement than I have ever seen, there are still people who “don’t do politics.” a sentiment I can’t understand.

Not doing politics means refusing to be part of your community and your country. Not doing politics means ignoring who your leaders are and who sets your values. Not doing politics means making do and giving up.

So maybe it does matter what inspires Americans to become engaged citizens. Nature or nurture? If we knew, we could instill in our children and young people a desire for activism, involvement, and making their world a better place. But unfortunately, and despite the many hours I have devoted to solving the question of why I am a person who cares about what’s going on around me, I still am no closer to finding an answer. My biggest hope now: that my own kids — only 12 years old — will pick up the torch one day and, of course, that well before that, we resoundingly vote Trump out of office.

Recently I heard this quote from Dan Pfeiffer of “Pod Save America”: “Citizenship is a full-time job.” Imagine if everyone took these words — and this duty — seriously. If everyone respected citizenship, our country would have leaders who all considered it their jobs to build a better country, not just their own bank account or political capital. We would be in a position to continue making progress to that city upon a hill, one that has a home for every American. And we could all take a little time off.

(c) Rena Korb, 2020

You can read this and other writing by Rena Korb on DemcastUSA. 

Rena Korb is a professional writer and editor. Her publications span from children’s books to political commentary. She volunteers as a DemCast California captain and as a leader with her local Indivisible chapter. She also is a lifelong activist, attending her first protest when she was 16. She lives in San Mateo with her family and, in non-pandemic times, enjoys playing Ultimate frisbee.

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America’s Nightmare Continues

It Is What It Is

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~~Ellen Launches #BeKindToElephants Campaign~~

~~Published on Nov 16, 2017~~

Following the ‘so-called president’s’ decision to allow hunters to bring “trophy” elephants into the U.S., Ellen stood up for the majestic creatures and called on viewers to help her raise awareness for her cause using #BeKindtoElephants on social media.

For everyone who reposts or retweets her photo, we’ll make a donation to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

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#044–Why don’t they call white male mass shooters “terrorists”?

Excellent post, found via Opinionated Man.

The Chatty Introvert

(Photo Credit: nbcnews.com)

I am so sick of this crap.

I’m sick of these killings.

I’m sick of these “woe is me” stories of a guy who can’t hack it and says “screw the world, I’m taking you all down with me.”

I’m tired of white men (NOT BOYS, DAMMIT!) who haven’t figured out that sitting on your ass and being a white male isn’t going to get you very far anymore, be it job related or dating related.

And I’m really sick of the media and government not calling it like it is. I’m tired of them not calling these white male shooters “terrorists.”

I think its a simple formula: if your object is to maim or kill complete strangers that mean nothing to you and have never personally wronged you, because of some supposed belief you hold (whether nurtured, cultural, religious, etc.) and you find a way to…

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