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The Ethnic Presidency by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The Ethnic Presidency:

How does race decides the campaign for the White House?

Book Description

The role that racial and ethnic issues play in influencing—and often ultimately deciding—presidential elections past, present, and future is analyzed in this explosive and hard-hitting study. The history of race on the campaign trail is addressed, with special attention paid to the last three decades of presidential platforms.

The Ethnic Presidency is an explosive look at how racial and ethnic conflict has openly and covertly played a crucial role the past three decades in influencing, shaping and ultimately deciding who bags the world’s biggest political prize, the White House. It tells how racial politics will play an even bigger role in the 2008 presidential election and future elections.

The Ethnic Presidency examines Obama-mania, the Hillary and Bill factor, the soaring Latino vote, the silent but potent Asian-American vote, the immigration wars, the GOP’s love-hate relationship with black and Latino America, and Bush’s effort to recast the GOP from a clubby, ole white guys party to a party of racial diversity.
Here is a sampling of questions The Ethnic Presidency poses and answers:

Will America accept a black president? Can Obama be that president?

Will America accept a woman president? Can Hillary be that president?

How the GOP played the Southern Strategy through Presidents Nixon to George W. Bush to repeatedly win the White House. Can and will they abandon it in 2008

Did blacks and Latinos elect Bush?

Have the Democrats taken the black and Latino vote for granted?

Why have Presidential candidates other than John Edwards avoided making poverty an issue?

Why immigration will be a stealth factor in the 2008 campaign. And did it help or hurt John McCain?


Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a nationally acclaimed author and political analyst. His columns have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post. He is the associate editor at New American Media and the author of The Assassination of the Black Male Image; Betrayed: A History of Presidential Failure to Protect Black Lives; Beyond O.J.: Race, Sex and Class Lessons for America; Blacks and Reds: Race and Class in Conflict, 1919–1990; The Crisis in Black and Black; The Disappearance of Black Leadership; and The Latino Challenge to Black America. He lives in Los Angeles.
Mr. Hutchinson established his reputation an author, a syndicated columnist, a political analyst and a commentator. He has been a frequent guest on Hannity and Colmes, The O’Reilly Factor, The Big Story, EXTRA, and numerous CNN News and Talk Shows.

Mr. Hutchinson was a regular commentator on CNBC’s The Dennis Miller Show. He has been a guest on the Today Show, Dateline, The Lehrer Hour, and BET News, America’s Black Forum. Mr. He is a frequent commentator for the American Urban Broadcast Network and Ed Gordon’s News and Notes on NPR.

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON is a featured columnist for:

He is also associate editor of New America Media. His op-ed columns appear in the Baltimore Sun, L.A. Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Christian Science Monitor, and other major newspapers.

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON is the author of nine books which include:

-Black and Reds: Race and Class in Conflict, 1919-1990
-Betrayed: A History of Presidential Failure to Protect Black Lives
-The Assassination of the Black Male Image
-Beyond O.J.: Race, Sex and Class Lessons For America
-The Crisis in Black and Black
-The Disappearance of Black Leadership

Excerpt from The Ethnic Presidency by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

It was both a glorious and daunting moment for President Lyndon Baines Johnson in June 1964. Following months of bitter Congressional floor fights, fire eating speeches, and threats of a Congressional walk-out by Southern Democrats, Johnson got what he jawboned, prodded, pleaded and cajoled Congress for weeks to do. It passed the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. The bill marked the official end of legal segregation in America. It also spelled the end of the near century long political dominance of the Democrats in the South. Johnson, the ever pragmatic politician that he was, knew his civil rights victory came with a steep price.

The price was that race would play a colossal role both overtly and covertly in massaging and shaping American politics for years to come. In a memorable and visionary quote that would ring true for the coming decades, Johnson told an aide after he signed the bill, “I think we delivered the South to the Republican Party for your lifetime and mine.” In the five decades before Johnson’s smash victory over Republican presidential candidate Goldwater in November 1964, the Democrats had carried Southern states more than 90 percent of the time in presidential elections. After his election, and for the next three decades, it was almost the exact opposite. They lost the South more than 70 percent of the time.

Johnson need look no further than his own landslide election victory in November 1964 for proof of the dramatic reversal of political fortunes for the Democrats in the South. Of the six states that Goldwater won, five were in the South. In Mississippi the vote against Johnson was even more lopsided than his national wipe-out of Goldwater. The GOP candidate got seven times more votes than Johnson in the state as late as 1964. They were all white votes. Most blacks were still barred from the polls in the state. They were also GOP votes. In reality they were white protest votes. The protest was against Johnson’s tout of civil rights. Race mattered a lot to white Mississippians and other white Southerners. In fact, it appeared that it was the only thing they cared about.

Johnson was undaunted by the rise of the GOP and the racial polarization that figured so heavily in that surge. He continued to push Congress on civil rights. It passed the voting rights act in 1965, and, stirred in part by the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., passed another civil rights bill in 1968. He prodded Congress to earmark millions of dollars to fight a war on poverty. Many Southern whites and conservatives saw it as a massive government giveaway of their tax dollars to subsidize undeserving poor blacks and Latinos.

The rage of white Southerners and conservatives over the perceived giveaway to the poor, the expansion of government bureaucracy, the urban riots that rocked America’s big cities and black militant protests prompted an even bigger exodus of whites to the GOP in the late 1960s. Nixon, and later Reagan and Bush Sr. masterfully tweaked, honed, and fine-tuned a public weariness over civil rights concessions, righteous indignation over big government, and rampant government spending on social programs, into a coherent political strategy to attack the Democrats. That further shaped and defined the national political debate.

They also coined well-crafted code words, euphemisms, smear attacks on special interests, and the Democrats. That transformed the GOP into the emerging GOP majority. The Democrats were clueless at how to counter the GOP racial endgame. They fought back with a weak and hapless defense of government social programs, lapsed into silence, or tried vainly to mimic the GOP on racial matters. That played into the GOP’s hands and further guaranteed its political dominance for the decade of the 1980s.

Clinton read the political leafs and figured out that to beat the GOP he’d have to rip big pages from their playbook. He openly admitted that he had to lop off a big segment of the suburban middle-class to win. Clinton deftly repackaged Nixon’s angry and alienated forgotten Americans who were always a euphemism for white workers, ethnics, and the middle-class, into the abandoned middle-class. He twisted Nixon’s cry for law and order into a demand for thousands more cops, tougher laws, and an expanded death penalty. Clinton transformed Reagan’s blister of welfare queens into a call to mend a broken welfare system. He redefined Regan’s trickle down economics into a call for a third path on economic restructuring and fiscal conservatism.
Yet despite the naked co-opt of the GOP’s best political lines, he was still a Democrat and there were stylistic differences in how Democrats and Republicans approached their constituencies and who their constituencies were. In the case of the Democrats they still had to pay lip service to civil rights and social programs. Clinton parlayed his gift for gab, personal charm and infectious charisma, not to mention the ravenous hunger of blacks to get a Democrat back in the White House after the Reagan and Bush years, into a political swoon for him among blacks. His political one-upmanship of the GOP earned him the eternal hatred of Republicans who perceived that he was beating them at their own game.

By the end of the Clinton White House years in 1992, Bush Jr. realized that racial issues, subtle and overt, were still a powerful, defining force in American politics. The Southern Strategy was still the GOP’s political ace in winning the White House. But the changing ethnic demographics in America, along with more blacks expressing anger and disgust at abortion, gay marriage, and crime, as well as the surge in Latino voters opened up fresh political possibilities for the GOP.

The GOP could even have it both ways. They could employ the Southern Strategy to maintain the firm backing of Southern white males. At the same time, they could court blacks and Latinos. They’d make their standard religious and moral values appeal to Southern whites and conservatives while subtly playing on their unease and fear over welfare, crime, affirmative action, and black political control. It could flip the political card and make the same religious and moral values pitch to conservative blacks and Latinos, as well as pump small business, homeownership and promise to increase the number of black and Latino appointments. This would marginally increase its black and Latino support. . .

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