My September Book Report: “It Was All a Lie”

Here at Happy Acres, we have a book club. We don’t all read the same book. Instead, we pick a topic for each monthly meeting, and everybody who chooses gives a report on a book related to that topic. Our topic this month was politics and race relations. For reasons that will become apparent, I have embellished this post with songs that were popular during the last year when a majority of white people voted for the Democratic candidate for president.

Here is the report.

My book is It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, by Stuart Stevens. The book was published this year.

Mr. Stevens is 67 years old, Since the 1970’s, he has worked as a political consultant for a wide variety of Republican candidates. His Republican consultant career culminated in his role as chief political strategist for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign in 2012. Stevens opposed Trump’s nomination in 2016.

At some recent point, after some 40 years as a Republican strategist, Mr. Stevens took a stroll down the road to Damascus, whereupon he miraculously acquired the blinding insight embodied in the book’s title: speaking of three decades of Republican propaganda, It Was All a Lie.

At the age of 67, Mr. Stevens apparently does not believe that his career of public service has come to an end. In a recent TV interview, I saw him express a desire for future gigs as a consultant to candidates of theDemocratic Party.

The report continues:

Mr. Stuart’s books is well written, and progressives will revel in what he has to say. Let me read a passage in which Stuart explains where the rubber truly meets the road.

Before 1964, Republican presidential candidaes could expect to get between 30 and 40 percent of the African Ameerican vote. … In 1964, Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act, and his black support plummeted to 7 percent. Since 1964, no Republican presidential candidate has broken 17 percent with African American voters, and by 2016 only 3 percent considered themselves Republican.

Politics is in many ways a perfect marketplace. Candidates and parties learn very quickly what works and what doesn’t and focus time, energy, and money on the share of the marketplace that pollsters tell them is accessible to persuasion or motivation. Since 1964, Republicans have learned that they will have little success in appealing to black voters. It’s not that most campaigns didn’t make at least some effort, but it was always done with the knowledge that breaking 10 percent would be a significant achievement.

What happens if you spend decades focused on appealing to white voters and treating nonwhite voters with, at best, benign neglect? You getg good at doing what it takes to appeal to white voters. That is the truth that led to what is famously called “the southern strategy.” That is the path that leads you to becoming what the Republican Party now proudly embraces: a white grievance party.