ON AUGUST 4, 1964, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents recovered the mangled bodies of three civil rights workers beneath an earthen dam near Philadelphia, Mississippi....
Sixteen years later, the national spotlight shone on Philadelphia, Mississippi, for a much different reason. In 1980, Ronald Reagan launched his presidential campaign at the Neshoba County Fair. Addressing a crowd of more than fifteen thousand enthusiastic supporters, Reagan invoked a mantra that had sustained a generation of southern segregationists. “I believe in states’ rights,” he told the crowd. Reagan pledged that, if he were elected, he would “restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them.” The candidate’s remarks were prepared beforehand and were not a part of his regular campaign speech; reporters following Reagan could not remember him using the term before Neshoba County. Republican officials in Mississippi had designed the visit to Neshoba County to reach out to what the Republican national committeeman in Mississippi described as “George Wallace inclined voters.”
Was Reagan a racist? I don't know. I can't see what is really in his heart. What I do know is that he played off the racist sentiments in certain parts of the country (mainly the South) as part of his Southern Strategy to win over disaffected conservative Democrats like Nixon and Goldwater before him. To these politicians racial tension was seen as an opportunity.
Before the Democrats took ownership of the Civil Rights movement, the GOP was a party without a base. They were Whigs of old. A party for country clubbers and elitists with very little populist appeal. With Democrats taking up the cause of equality the Republican party saw their opening, and the rest is history.
Romney is not so unlike his predecessors. He is a country club type in search of a base. Unlike McCain though, Romney has no qualms doing what is necessary to appeal to racists in the conservative movement, whom are uneasy with a black President (now known as the Tea Party).
And like Reagan, Romney gave a whistle to a predominately white crowd that was filled with hatred for "the other":
“I love being home, in this place where Ann and I were raised. Where both of us were born...No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”Let's be honest. No one asks to see Romney's birth certificate (Bush's, Clinton's, Reagan's, or Carter's for that matter) because Romney is white and Obama is black, especially considering that Romney's father was also born outside the country.
Romney has spent this entire campaign portraying Obama as "the other." Not like you. And last week he took it a step further by making racist jokes. Do I think Romney himself is a racist? I don't know. I can't see what is really in his heart. What I do know is that he played off these racist sentiments to shore up his base. The Southern Strategy lives on...