Will Trump’s anti-Latino statements hurt the GOP?

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tags: election 2016, Trump



Eric Schickler is the Jeffrey & Ashley McDermott Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and author most recently of “Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932-1965.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently worried publicly that Donald Trump’s attacks on Latinos could damage the Republican Party, saying that when the 1964 presidential nominee, Sen. Barry Goldwater, voted against the Civil Rights Act, it “did define our party, for at least African American voters, and it still does today. That was a complete shift that occurred that year, and we’ve never been able to get them back.”

That’s often the story told about the civil rights realignment: National party leaders set off a dramatic reshuffling of coalitions. In this story, Lyndon Johnson’s aggressive push for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 redefined the Democrats as the party of racial liberalism, at least comparatively speaking, while Goldwater’s opposition turned the GOP into the party of racial conservatism. These changes reverberated down through the party system, as activists and voters followed their leaders’ cues.

But that’s backwards.

In “Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932-1965,” I argue that top Democratic and Republican leaders were actually among the last to shift. Johnson’s civil rights stance acknowledged how Democratic activists and voters had already changed his party over the preceding 30 years. Goldwater’s alliance with Southern racial conservatives could happen only because the mass and mid-level of his party had already shifted in that direction. This has important implications for how we understand Trump’s influence on the future of the GOP. 

When the New Deal was launched in 1933, most Democrats did not view civil rights as part of the liberal program. The most radical New Dealers sought to transform America’s political economy by taking on corporate power, not Jim Crow. When white liberals attacked President Franklin D. Roosevelt for his timidity, they pointed to his failures to back organized labor, to rein in business power and to fund recovery efforts — and said nothing about how he avoided civil rights.

But while parts of the New Deal perpetuated racial discrimination — leaving farmworkers and domestics out of Social Security, for instance, which meant most Southern blacks fell through the safety net — Roosevelt’s program offered real benefits to many Northern African Americans, from WPA jobs to labor protections. As a result, those Northern African Americans voted decisively for Roosevelt in 1936 and stuck with the president for the rest of his time in office. That new voting bloc motivated at least some Democratic politicians to support civil rights. ...




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