Trump, white supremacy and the American voter

Barbara Steinberg | 7/5/2018, 11:43 a.m.
My friends cry into a towel making unintelligible animal sounds as they read the news and perceive American democracy slipping ...
White supremacists in Charlottesville CNN photo

My friends cry into a towel making unintelligible animal sounds as they read the news and perceive American democracy slipping into fascism. However, the sounds and pictures of crying children at the U.S. southern border have shocked the conscience of the nation. A friend asked me, “How did we get here?”

In trying to answer his question, I started making a timeline.

What I found was a pendulum of sentiment that swung from the politics of white supremacy to the politics that fought it. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was in a boxing match with gerrymandering. Fundamentalist right-wing voters filled most of the seats.

So, I started in 1965.

1965: The Voting Rights Act is signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson to enforce the 15th Amendment of the Constitution. It was the culminating achievement of the American Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King was present.

Section 4: No “test or device” (such as a literacy test) can be used to deny a U.S. citizen’s right to vote on the basis of race or color.

Section 5: Covered jurisdictions need “preclearance” from the federal government to ensure that any change in their voting procedures is not discriminatory.

1968: Martin Luther King is assassinated. Richard Nixon becomes president.

1969: Richard Nixon coins the term, “silent majority.”

1969: Kevin Phillips publishes “The Emerging Republican Majority,” after analyzing voting patterns for Nixon in the South and coming up with the “Southern Strategy.”

The Southern Strategy predicted a conservative realignment, based on racism. 

The Southern vote would offset the vote in Northeastern cities.

Republicans would never need more than 10 percent to 20 percent of the Black vote, because the more Blacks filled Democratic ledgers, the more whites would join the Republican Party. 

1971: To enforce Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional, the Supreme Court introduced “desegregation busing.” Federal courts could use busing as a tool to integrate the public schools in the South (Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education).

1974: The Supreme Court ruled that busing could be used when segregation existed across multiple school districts (Milliken v. Bradley). This decision brought busing to the North and generated resistance groups, such as “Restore Our Alienated Rights” in Boston.

1974: School board member Alice Moore, who requested and received all 325 recommended textbooks, said she found quotes from Malcolm X, Alan Ginsberg, Sigmund Freud and Black Panther members Eldridge Cleaver and George Jackson. On May 23, Moore came to the school board meeting and charged that the textbooks were “filthy, disgusting trash, unpatriotic and unduly favoring Blacks” (Foerstel, Herbert N. “Banned in the U.S.A.,” Greenwood Press, 1994. p. 1-7) Fundamentalist pastors and parents in Kanawha County, W.Va., closed the schools to protest books they said were un-Christian, unpatriotic, destructive of the family and constituted an incitement to racial violence.

1978: State legislatures start redrawing districts.


1979: Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich found a political action group, Moral Majority. Richard Viguerie, the inventor of political direct mail, mobilized voters around Moral Majority’s platform, which opposed, among other things: