Although Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hails from Queens, NY, his politics mirrors the Southern strategy where Republican Party candidates leveraged racism against African Americans to gain political support.
Trump’s rallies are now more infamous for their violence and mistreatment of protestors, specifically protesters of African descent, than his presidential platform. A man who attended Trump’s rally in North Carolina was arrested and charged with assault after sucker-punching a Black protester. According to CNN, the assailant later said, “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”
Earlier this month, another African American protestor was shoved out of a Super Tuesday rally in Louisville, Kentucky. According to University of Louisville student, Shiya Nwanguma, several men pushed her while calling her a “c*nt” and “n*gger.” Just last December, a Black Lives Matter demonstrator was dragged out a Trump rally as people yelled, “light the motherf***er on fire” and “kick his ass.”
Needless to say, the Source Awards have flowed more peacefully than a Trump rally. The presidential candidate is usually front and center at his podium inciting the violence, arguably his presidential platform, which polarizes America. So much to the point where he might be facing criminal charges for his behavior.
Trump’s racist rhetoric is nothing new to the political landscape. The only difference is that now his Southern strategy has evolved to include Mexicans and Muslims.
Historically, the Southern strategy existed to counter the success of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. When The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, African Americans now had lesser barriers to vote and could elect candidates who had their best interests in mind. Racist white politicians weren’t having it because it threatened their power; hence, the emergence of the Southern strategy to garner the votes of racist white Southerners.
Fast-forward to Obama’s first presidential inauguration in 2009. The Tea Party was developed with the sole purpose of undermining Obama’s agenda. According to Gallup.com, 24% of Americans support the Tea Party.
Trump isn’t the first Republican presidential candidate to play upon racist fears. Nixon’s political strategist, Kevin Philips, is noted for popularizing the term, “Southern strategy.” In a 1970 New York Times article, Philips stated:
“From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that…but Republicans would be short-sighted if they weakened enforcement of The Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the Blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”
In essence, Philips acknowledged that there is political profit in appealing to racists. Nixon would later win reelection for the presidency in 1972, and resign in 1974 after the Watergate scandal. Trump is cashing in on racism.
According to the Associated Press, for the Republican Party Trump won the following states in Super Tuesday: Alabama (43.4%), Arkansas (32.8%), Georgia (38.8%), Hawaii (42.4%), Kentucky (35.9%), Louisiana (41.4%), Massachusetts (49.3%), Michigan (36.5%), Mississippi (47.3%), Nevada (45.9%), New Hampshire (35.3%), South Carolina (32.5%), Tennessee (38.9%), Vermont (32.7%), and Virginia (34.7%). Trump’s supporters are largely whites with less education, religious, and who have a median household income of about $50,000, according to USnews.com.
During the 1972 presidential primaries, Nixon also won Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vermont, and Virginia. Nixon and Trump’s similarities aren’t serendipitous; they’re strategic.
Nixon’s supporters, known as the silent majority, were mostly blue collar white people who weren’t politically active. Nixon executed divide and conquer tactics and promoted “positive polarization” to mobilize his voters. He echoed the fears of his constituents, that being the erosion of American society. For Trump, it’s, “Make America Great Again.”
This fear that the country is being overtaken by Mexicans, Muslims, lions and tigers and bears, oh stop it. Black Lives Matter supporters, and anyone who cares about fellow humans regardless of their race, are finding themselves in the same shoes as their parents and their grandparents.
History repeating itself isn’t just an adage; it’s a formality of fate. Scenes of Black and brown bodies being manhandled at Trump’s rallies hold an eerie similarity to those of the desegregation efforts in the South during the 1960s. Trump’s “white fear” political strategy parallels Nixon’s Southern strategy. Both Republican presidential candidates are practically winning identical states with the exception of Massachusetts. Nixon lost Massachusetts, Trump won. Just on the tail-end of the first Black president’s term, a racist presidential candidate is gaining notoriety and even more dangerous, votes. Southern strategy wasn’t put into practice until Blacks acquired the right to vote.
It’s uncomfortably clear that the legacy of racism isn’t done with America, but like any legacy, it can be stopped with a generation.
Terrence Chappell surfaced on Chicago’s media scene as UR Chicago Magazine’s online fashion editor. Since then, he has worked and contributed to various media outlets such as Michigan Ave. Magazine, CS Magazine, and The Men’s Book. Currently, Terrence serves as editor-at-large for ChicagoPride.com, the city’s largest LGBT entertainment and news website where he writes “Chappell Confidential,” a nightlife and society column. Terrence also heads “Chappel on Community,” the site’s newest editorial monthly series that profiles the LGBT community’s most innovative leaders.