Following the newly released audio recording of former President Ronald Reagan telling Richard Nixon that African diplomats are "monkeys" who are "uncomfortable wearing shoes," the Sacramento Bee — a paper based in California's capital city, where Reagan once sat as governor — ran a scathing op-ed revealing an uncomfortable truth about the legendary GOP figure.
"While some political observers wish to cast Trump as an anomaly of history, the truth is that he’s a logical heir to the bigoted lineage of his predecessors," wrote the editorial board. "In 1964, the Republican Party began using the 'southern strategy,' a ploy to win over white voters in the south by stoking racial anxiety. In 1969, President Nixon launched the drug war as a way to lock up black people, according to one of his top aides."
Reagan, too, made aggressive plays to win over racist voters. "'If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his right to do so,' said Reagan during his 1966 campaign for governor," noted the board. "As president, he notoriously embraced South Africa’s racist apartheid government. He also promoted the myth of the 'welfare queen' — a stereotype used to attack impoverished African American women." And he declared "I believe in states' rights" while launching his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi — a town where three civil rights activists were murdered in 1964.
"Democrats and Republicans alike have often elevated Reagan as an example of political pragmatism and good old-fashioned American values," wrote the board. "They hearken back to his sunny disposition and his hale, hearty image as 'The Gipper.' At a time of increasingly extreme political division, it’s tempting for some to look to the past as simpler and better. Yet we must dispose of these comforting myths. Men like Nixon and Reagan held the most powerful posts in America for decades. Their legacy lives on today in the form of crushing poverty, overcrowded prisons and a nation where racial divisions and inequities still run deep."
"Going forward, there’s no honest way to remember him without acknowledging this shameful fact," the board concluded.