Trump’s Convention May Be The Culmination Of Decades Of Republicans’ Dirty PoliticsRoundup
tags: Republican Party, Lee Atwater, Republican National Convention
Julian Zelizer is a political historian at Princeton University. He is author of Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party.
On Monday, the Republican National Convention begins. With memories of “Lock her up!” and a schedule of D-list celebrities, right-wing memes and trolls, everyone paying attention knows this will be a raucous event. President Trump already offered Americans a taste of his campaign last week when he delivered a fusillade about an undocumented immigrant who robbed and critically injured a woman while on a jobs program that Sen. Kamala D. Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, helped launch in California as San Francisco’s top prosecutor. He also falsely accused Democrats of taking the words “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance. Trailing in the polls and fresh off a successful Democratic convention, Republicans might be even more emboldened to trot out outrageous, false attacks against presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Somewhere, Lee Atwater must be smiling.
The 2020 Republican campaign will be built on the foundation that Atwater created.
Atwater, a South Carolina Republican and former rock-n-roll-loving frat boy, was one of the fiercest campaign consultants ever to enter the business. The “Babe Ruth of negative politics” started out as an intern for the segregationist senator Strom Thurmond and moved his way up to Ronald Reagan’s political director in 1984.
Atwater was to campaigns what Newt Gingrich was to Capitol Hill. As Gingrich elevated his smash-mouth partisanship to the highest level of congressional politics in the same period, Atwater began to mainstream his vicious brand into the highest levels of electoral politics. He compared politics to professional wrestling. He relied on character assassination, distorted information and made-for-television spectacle to manipulate the crowd into hating Democrats. Chaos was a good thing.
When politicians like Richard Nixon had used dirty tricks in an earlier period, the guardrails in American politics forced them to do so secretly.
Atwater, however, threw out the rule book. While he understood the value of coded language, he urged clients to say almost all of the silent parts out loud.
comments powered by Disqus
- With Students Back on Campus, Faculty Push Back Against COVID Policies They Consider Inadequate
- How Hong Kong's Elite Have Embraced a Shifting Narrative on Tiananmen Square
- Discovery of Human Footprints Pushes Back Date of Earliest Humans in Americas
- Ghana, WEB DuBois Museum Foundation to Partner on Museum, Research Center
- George Holliday Dies at 61, Taped LAPD Beating of Rodney King
- The Curious Task of Preserving Darwin's Beans and Butterflies
- Local Professor Building History of San Diego's Japanese Americans
- Art History Prof. Recognizes Lost Masterpiece in Local Church
- Rebel is Right: Reassessing the Cultural Revolution
- US COVID Death Count Surpasses Estimates of 1918 Influenza