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img056 - 1 14 Politics by Other Mean increases and...

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Unformatted text preview: 1 14 Politics by Other Mean: increases) and restricted the ability of local governments to issue tax-free revenue bonds. These changes in the tax code further di- minished the resources available to municipal governments. The Justice Department also attacked urban machines and bureaucra- cies by launching a series of investigations into municipal govern— ment corruption; these investigations primarily targeted large cities controlled by the Democrats.15 The attack on labor unions, political machines, and social ser— vice agencies diminished the ability of these institutions to pro- vide benefits to blue-collar voters; thus, this group’s links to the Democratic party were undermined, and Republicans seized an opportunity to capture the support of a previously staunch Demo- cratic constituency. The Republicans’ appeal to this constituency was hindered in one important way. In their capacity as workers, many urban eth— nic voters were hurt by Republican economic and tax programs, which mainly served the interests of the upper middle class and segments of the business community. Instead of trying to appeal to members of urban ethnic groups on economic grounds, the Re- publicans therefore attempted to secure and institutionalize their support on three other bases. First, they sought to link urban eth— nics to the GOP on the basis of their moral and religious convic- tions. The Republicans politicized these concerns by focusing on so—called family issues—above all, the issue of abortion. In this endeavor they sought to make use of Roman Catholic churches, which rally the faithful against proabortion candidates.16 The im- portance of this political focus became evident during the 1984 presidential election. White working-class voters who belonged to trade unions but did not regularly attend a church gave Reagan only 46 percent of their vote. By contrast, among white working— class voters who attended a church regularly but did not belong to a union, the Republicans received 67 percent of the vote. The Republicans attempted to mobilize blue—collar voters with patriotic as well as moral appeaEs. In this effort they were at times able to harness the national media, an institution whose editorial The Republican Offensive 1 15 pages and televised commentary frequently were hostile to Re- publican policies. Reagan and Bush created news events filled with patriotic symbols that the media could neither attack not ignore. In addition, where the risks of failure were low, Republican ad- ministrations used military force abroad not only to demonstrate America’s resolve to foreigners but also to reinforce national pride among Americans. The 1984 Grenada invasion and the 1986 bombing of Libya exemplify this strategy. During the 1988 pres- idential campaign, Bush sought to make political use of patriotic sentiments by charging that his Democratic rival, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, had demonstrated a lack of respect for the American flag when he vetoed a Massachusetts bill that man— dated the daily recitation of the pledge of allegiance in public schools. Finally, the Republicans made use of race-related issues to seek support from blue-collar whites. The Reagan and Bush adminis— trations opposed affirmative action and school busing plans and promoted efforts to narrow the rights that the liberal Warren Court granted to persons accused of crimes. In his 1988 presidential cam- paign, Bush made a major issue of the Virillie Horton case. Horton, a black man, had been convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Under a program supported by Governor Dukakis, Massachusetts prison authorities granted Hor- ton a weekend furlough. While on furlough, Horton fled the state and raped a white woman in Maryland. Groups supporting the Bush campaign repeatedly broadcast television ads displaying a picture of Horton and asserting that Dukakis was soft on crime. From Southerners to Evangelicals Southern whites were the fourth constituency that the Repub— licans strove to add to their camp. For a century after the Civil War, white southerners had participated in politics through the Demo— cratic party, which had defended the southern caste system. These voters were linked to the Democrats not simply by their racial at- titudes but also by local political institutions that were connected ...
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