Friday, April 6, 2012

Evans & Novak on the Brown campaign's racial calculus in 1966

As the strength of the Reagan candidacy and the power of the anti-Brown vote became more and more apparent, California Democrats were frantically scrambling for some way to preserve a third administration for the incumbent governor.  Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, reported in July '66 on some of the political brainstorming to save Brown:
As one small attempt to hold down the social temperature in the Negro ghetto of Watts this summer, several prominent Los Angeles citizens arranged for feature movies to be shown at a nominal admission price in school buildings to compensate for the absence of commercial theaters in Watts...This project might help prevent renewed Negro rioting, and its sponsors have a special reason for wanting Watts cool and calm this summer.  As backers of Democratic Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown’s uphill bid for a third term, they know that more racial conflict will propel Republican Ronald Reagan into the Governor’s chair on white backlash...But Brown was not on hand for the opening of the makeshift movie theater.  Nor, indeed, was he in any way publicly connected with the project his supporters had conceived.  For to be publicly sympathetic to the Negroes of Watts is suicide in the backlash politics of California today...Noting Yorty’s awesome vote against him in the primary election among blue collar whites, Brown felt compelled to support the anti-riot bill.  Anything less would be conceding defeat to Reagan.(Evans, R. & Novak, R. (1966, July 18). Watts' problems in cement for Brown-Reagan battle.)
So discount movies were seen as a way to "buy off" the black community, which (it seems) was otherwise presumed to be on the verge of rioting.  Worse still, according to Evans and Novak, Brown's primary concern was not so much for the justice or injustice in the black community (else, why didn't he show up for the grand opening) as it was for his own re-election efforts.  

And yet the narrative for decades has been that Republicans are stereotyping racial minorities?  Republicans are the ones accused of trying to "buy off" minority votes?  Republicans are the ones said to have no core convictions about right and wrong?  Republicans are the ones seeking to "use" people for political advantage?

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