Identity Politics: The Southern Strategy, Because “By 1968 You Can’t Say Nigger”

“You start out in 1954 by saying, Nigger, nigger, nigger. By 1968 you can’t say nigger—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a by product of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites and subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But, I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract and that coded, uh that we’re doing away with the racial problem one way or another you follow me cause obviously saying we want to cut this, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than nigger, nigger, you know? So, any way you look at it race is coming in on the back burner” — Lee Atwater (1981), strategic advisor to President Ronald Reagan and President George H. W. Bush

 

 

What is Identity Politics? 

Identity politics is an American tradition. In fact, the writers of the United States Constitution organized with a focus around their social group. In other words,  identity politics has played a role in American politics since its founding.

Identity Politics Defined 

Identity politics refers to a range of political activities and strategies used by social groups with the intent to (a) establish and keep political power and to (b) redress historical grievances, imbalances of power and constitutional violations that are attributable to government action. To be clear, identity politics is an American tradition. An example of identity politics is the Southern Strategy. 

What is the Southern Strategy?

The Southern Strategy refers to a Republican electoral strategy used to strengthen political support among white voters in the South by appealing to racism against African-Americans:

You start out in 1954 by saying, Nigger, nigger, nigger. By 1968 you can’t say nigger—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a by product of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites and subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But, I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract and that coded, uh that we’re doing away with the racial problem one way or another you follow me cause obviously saying we want to cut this, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than nigger, nigger, you know? So, any way you look at it race is coming in on the back burner — Lee Atwater (1981)

These are Lee Atwater’s words. He made this statement in 1981 during an interview with Alexandar Lamis.

Who is Lee Atwater? 

Lee Atwater (1951-1991) was a strategic advisor to President Ronald Reagan when he did the interview. In 2012, The Nation published the forty-two minute interview for the first time. During the interview, Lee Atwater explains how “Republicans can win the vote of racists without sounding racist themselves.” Click here to listen to the interview. 

Identity Politics is an American Tradition

Identity politics is an American tradition. For example, the writers of the United States Constitution organized with a focus around their social group. Meaning, identity politics played a role in American politics long before Republican’s used the Southern Strategy.  While the US Constitution established America as a system of government based on the guarantee of citizens’ individual rights, “Citizens” — at the Nation’s founding — referred to white, property holding men.  

America’s History of Identity Politics 

The writers of the US Constitution organized with a focus around their social group. Historically, America’s government has operated as a system of government based on group rights, not individual rights. That is, citizens’ rights have been based on what we are (group rights) and not individual rights based on who we are. Therefore, to redress historical imbalances of power, grievances and constitutional violations that are attributable to government action, historically marginalized groups (US citizens) engage in identity politics to assure the guarantee of their individual rights.  

Resources: Identity Politics in Action  

1. Journal Article: [Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” and Forces against Brown].

2. Timeline: [History of Racism and Immigration Timeline: Key Events in the Struggle for Racial Equity in the United States]. 

3. Video: [ Political Right Since the 1960’s].

4. Article: [Living the Legacy: The Women’s Rights Movement (1848-1998)].

5. Article: [Genocide and American Indian History].

6. Article: [Japanese Internment Camps].

7. Video: [Marriage Equality].

8. Journal Article: [The Devil and the One Drop Rule: Racial Categories, African Americans, and the U.S. Census].

9. Annotation: [Three-Fifths Compromise — Digital History]. 

About the Author

Olivia P. Walker is a public affairs strategist and writer. Prior to these roles, Olivia served as governance consultant for the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE). Before that, she worked as government affairs and public policy analyst for WellCare Health Plans, a Fortune 500 health insurer. Olivia holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of South Florida School of Public Affairs. In 2016, Olivia was duly initiated into Pi Alpha Alpha, the Global Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration.  She  is a member of the American Society for Public Administration and a member of the ASPA Section on Public Law and Administration

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Treason or Hypocrisy? Pick your Poison, Re:Featured image for Midterm Elections 2018: Treason or Hypocrisy, Pick your Poison.

Commentary: Midterm Elections 2018, Treason or Hypocrisy? Pick Your Poison

Midterm Elections 2018: Treason or Hypocrisy?

Do you prefer treason or hypocrisy? This is a question many Americans will answer when voting in the 2018 midterm elections. Personally, I’m struggling; I’m keenly aware of what’s at stake here. I voted. But here’s the deal, I don’t give away votes.

The Democratic Party

There are serious problems in the Democratic party, the party:

  • Fails — abysmally — to meaningfully act on behalf of the poor and people of color.
    • As a bi-racial millennial woman, I need to remind the Democratic Party: We are NOT your pawns.
  • Needs to grow some balls — the holier than thou approach is ineffective and condescending.
  • Fails to acknowledge the hypocrisy permeating the Party.
  • Must stop suggesting ‘racism’ is unique to republicans.
    • While some republicans are racists, so too are some democrats.
    • Racism is alive and well in both Parties.

[WellCare Health Plans Paid For My Silence]

Trump’s Republican Party

There are profoundly disturbing facts about Trump’s Republican party, the party:

  • Consistently violates laws and administrative codes of ethics.
  • Engages is blatant racist, bigoted and divisive rhetoric (among other things).
  • Lies, cheats and uses deceptive practices.
    • To be clear, the lies and deceptive practices will — irreparably — harm many republicans (and people in general). It will however, take time to realize their detrimental impact.
  • Russia…Enough said.
  • Has taken — quantifiable —action to prevent Native Americans, poor people, African-Americans, and other social groups from voting (which is a right of American citizenship, with some exceptions).

[Watch O.W.B Videos Online]

Key Takeaway

With regard to America’s electoral system and democratic processes, They are not sustainable and certainly not ideal. Elections and government actions have consequences. Americans deserve better because the decisions made by government officials impact the realities we face everyday.

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About the Author

Photo of Olivia P. Walker, MPA

Olivia P. Walker is a public affairs strategist, campaign consultant, and writer. She launched O.W.B Public Affairs Digest in 2017.  Most recently, Olivia served as governance consultant for the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering.  Prior to these roles, Olivia worked as government affairs and public policy analyst for WellCare Health Plans, a Fortune 500 health insurer.

[Congress Proposed Change to Constitution]

Olivia holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of South Florida School of Public Affairs. In 2016, Olivia was duly initiated into Pi Alpha Alpha, the Global Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration. She is a member of the American Society for Public Administration and a member of the ASPA Section on Public Law and Administration. Olivia also holds a Graduate Certificate in Globalization Studies. The certificate is a specialized graduate-level credential reflecting knowledge of the most up-to-date research on globalization.


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Nonprofits and Democracy

Dark Money, Nonprofits and American Democracy|Part 1

Dark Money, Nonprofits and American Democracy

  • Nonprofits are tax-exempt organizations classified under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC).
    • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) classifies nonprofits into more than 30 categories. For the IRS, what is important is the exemption of nonprofits from the corporate income tax.
  • Dark money refers to political spending by nonprofits classified under sections 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5),and 501(c)(6) of the IRC, and other entities.
    •  Dark money groups — A dark money group refers to an organization which seeks to influence people to vote a certain way during elections, where donors are “not disclosed and the source of the money is unknown” (Center for Responsive Politics).
  • Nonprofit advocacy and interest group participation are rights guaranteed  by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
    • Many nonprofits are interest groups. For example, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is a membership interest group.
  • The Constitution gives Congress taxing authority.
    • The IRS is the executive authority charged with implementing tax laws enacted by Congress|Remember: Congress makes laws and the Executive Branch implements laws.

Nonprofits and American Democracy

A crucial element in a democratic society is the notion that every citizen has the right to take part in the political process. That is, a system of governance in which the ideals and preferences of all people are considered in the actions taken by government.

What is Nonprofit Advocacy?

Nonprofit advocacy describes the efforts of the sector to educate government officials, solicit broad support, and advance policy goals. Individuals cannot influence policy alone. Therefore, amassing support and resources increases the likelihood an issue makes the agenda for consideration by legislators.

How Might Nonprofit Advocacy Strengthen Democracy?

People cannot influence public policy alone. Historically, nonprofits have strengthened democracy by generating the networks, public support, financial capacity, and government commitment required to influence public policy and keep our democracy in tact. For example:

  • Nonprofit advocacy and grassroots movements led by ordinary citizens compelled President Lyndon B. Johnson to address poverty and civil rights in the 1960s.
    • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 — nominally — banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, among other things.
  • Similarly, nonprofit advocacy and the Tea Party’s grassroots movement in 2010 energized conservative voters and helped Republicans win political offices across the country during the 2010 midterm elections.

Both examples provide valuable insights about how nonprofits strengthen democracy. By generating the networks, public support, financial capacity, and government commitment required to influence public policy, citizens took part in political processes. Finally, in both cases, the ideals and preferences of many people were ultimately considered in the actions taken by government.

View O.W.B Public Affairs Digest Videos Online 

How Might Nonprofit Advocacy Diminish Democracy?

There are some ways nonprofits and nonprofit advocacy diminish — or undermine — democracy.

Dark Money

Dark money and dark money groups are examples of how nonprofit advocacy might diminish democracy.  Provided by PBS, a recently released documentary titled Dark Money, “Examines one of the greatest present threats to American democracy: the influence of untraceable corporate money on our elections and elected officials.” The video trailer is a good primer on dark money and its impact on democracy.

This article is part one of a three-part series.  Part two explores more ways nonprofits might strengthen and diminish democracy. While this article provides an introductory overview, part two offers a deep-dive into the topic.

[WellCare Health Plans Paid For My Silence]

Nonprofit Advocacy Resources 

  • Political nonprofits  — The IRS website provides definitions and resources for people who want to learn more about the various nonprofit classifications, to include information about political nonprofits and the criteria upon which nonprofits are classified.
  • Treasury Department and the IRS Announce Significant Tax-Reforms — Click the link to view the Trump Administration’s new rule (published July 2018) on dark money groups and other political nonprofits.
  • GuideStar  — GuideStar is an excellent resource for people interested in learning more about nonprofit organizations. For example, GuideStar offers website users free access reports about nonprofits:
    • IRS Form 990 — Tax-exempt organizations must file Tax Form 990. Anyone interested in viewing the tax returns of nonprofit organizations such as the NRA, Sierra Club, NAACP, and chambers of commerce can do so for free on the GuideStar website.
    • Financial Information  —  If you want to know how much nonprofit executives make, an agency’s annual  revenue, and the sources of the agency’s revenue, GuideStar is a useful resource.

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About the Author| Olivia P. Walker is a public affairs and administration professional.  Olivia’s contract as governance consultant for the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering  expired September 30, 2018. Prior to this role, Olivia served as government affairs and public policy Analyst for WellCare Health Plans, a Fortune 500 health insurer. Olivia is a graduate of the University of South Florida School of Public Affairs. She graduated from the Master of public administration program in 2015 with a 3.92 GPA. Olivia was duly initiated into Pi Alpha Alpha, the Global Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration by the USF Chapter in November 2016. She also holds a Graduate Certificate in Globalization Studies. The certificate is a specialized graduate-level credential reflecting knowledge of the most up-to-date research on globalization. Olivia is a member of the American Society for Public Administration.  
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Olivia taught nonprofits and public policy at the University of South Florida both as an adjunct faculty member and as a graduate teaching assistant.

 

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