Race in The Reagan Era

Race in The Reagan Era - resentments that motivated some...

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Race in The Reagan Era Looking at the Past Through the Lens of Race Reagan and Racism Perhaps the least noble element of the "Reagan Revolution" was the strategic decision made by the president and his advisers to mobilize long-simmering racial controversies to build up his own base of political support. By all accounts, racial concerns were not central to Ronald Reagan's own political worldview. Fighting Communism, shrinking government, cutting taxes— these were the issues that Reagan cared about most deeply. But Reagan's top political strategists realized that many Americans, by 1980, felt a passionate anger about government racial policies like school busing and affirmative action, and that the president could use that passion to build support for his own broader objectives. A generation after the Civil Rights Movement ended Jim Crow -style segregation in the United States, therefore, Reagan perfected a sophisticated and subtle appeal to the prejudices and
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Unformatted text preview: resentments that motivated some whites in both the South and the North. In doing so, Reagan bolstered the electoral prospects of his Republican Party. More importantly, he managed to channel anti-black prejudice into a broader anti-government politics; by cultivating the impression that federal social welfare programs were mostly wasted on "undeserving" black people, Reagan built support for his own anti-government ideology. To acknowledge that this happened is not to argue that Ronald Reagan was himself a racist. Racism was not a central pillar of Reaganism, and the vast majority of Reagan's supporters were not racists either. But—as top Reagan advisers later frankly acknowledged—the president did make a deliberate decision to reach out to the minority of white American voters who were motivated by anti-black sentiment. And that decision had significant political and social consequences....
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