Former President George H. W. Bush passed away last night at the age of 94. While listening to pundits describe his legacy, what they omit is just as important as what they describe. Some of them inevitably make comparisons to the current occupant of the White House, Donald J. Trump. They talk about the late President’s grace and empathy, placing him in stark contrast with Trump who possesses neither. Yet Bush helped lay the foundation that allowed a President Trump to be. It was the same roadmap that every recent Republican President followed to get to the Oval Office. The Southern Strategy.
For all the negative things that can be said about Donald Trump, in some ways he’s little different than those who came before. Before Muslim bans, Mexican rapists, and black thugs… there were Ronald Reagan’s welfare queens and Bush’s Willie Horton. Trump gets credit for expanding fear of black and brown men to the midwest. He didn’t invent the strategy.
Donald Trump is every bit the racist, xenophobic, homophobic bigot he’s made out to be. Let’s not pretend though, that the party that has institutionalized voter suppression and utilized fear of minorities as a means to hope to win elections with a dwindling percentage of the populace, isn’t complicit with his values. 49 Republican Senators were ready to give a lifetime appointment to the Federal bench to Thomas Farr, who wrote voter suppression laws designed with “surgical precision” to restrict black votes. Only because of Jeff Flake for reasons of his own and the lone black Republican Senator, Tim Scott drew a line he would not cross, did Farr not yet get his appointment. In January when the Republican Senate majority grows by two, Farr may be nominated again and breeze through. This is who they are.
Donald Trump is a vile creature, yet he did not evolve in a vacuum. He frankly isn’t bright enough to have developed these policies on his own. Making healthcare and housing less affordable, favoring corporations over people, giving tax breaks to the rich. Trump didn’t invent those, he’s just doing what they’ve always done.
There are good things that can be said about George H.W. Bush, all the networks are spending all day reminding us. We can remember those without forgetting his other legacy. The fear of a black man that Republicans since have honed to an art form.