Racial politics has permeated American presidential campaigns for more than half a century. From John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush, presidents-to-be and their adversaries have dealt with the problems and the opportunities presented by America’s bitter racial divide. Some chose to embrace racial progress, others to play to the white backlash, and still others attempted to do both, often with surprising success.
Jeremy D. Mayer has studied every presidential race from JFK’s campaign in 1960 to George W. Bush’s in 2000 and the crucial difference the black vote has made in each election.
Mayer discusses in detail:
• The 1960 election, where John F. Kennedy brilliantly straddled the civil rights issue. In an effort to satisfy white southerners, he spoke appeasing words to segregated white audiences, and to attract black voters, he called Coretta Scott King while her husband was imprisoned.
• The 1976 primary race between Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford--the last time the black vote mattered for Republicans. Since then, the Republican path to the presidency has been almost entirely white, allowing Republicans to continue rightward on race without costs. Every Republican victory in the modern era has been a product of the incorrigibly white Republican coalition, a coalition nurtured even today by Bush’s ambivalence toward the Confederate flag in 2000.
• "The odd silence of Ronald Reagan,' who was known as a leading opponent of almost every civil rights bill and yet in his 1980 and 1984 campaigns largely avoided the topic. Mayer explains why Reagan’s strategy was so successful.
• the cynical exploitation of the fear of racial violence as a means to keep black voters loyal to the Democratic Party in the presidential elections of 1980, 1996, and 2000. Mayer shows how both parties have learned to play the race card with vicious effectiveness.
By looking at this all-important aspect of our political life and coming up with new information, Mayer offers fresh insights into one of the most significant factors in our process of determining who governs us.
About Jeremy D. Mayer
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Published August 15, 2002
by Random House.
History, Political & Social Sciences.