By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Right about Reagan

Journalist Lou Cannon, a biographer of Ronald Reagan, sets the record straight in today’s New York Times: Despite what David Brooks and James Taranto seem to think, Reagan’s appearance in Neshoba, Miss., near Philadelphia, was a huge issue in the 1980 presidential campaign. Cannon writes:

In the wake of Neshoba, Mr. Reagan’s critics pounced. President Carter’s campaign operatives portrayed Mr. Reagan as a divisive racist. At a money-raising event in Chicago, Mr. Carter told his audience: “You’ll determine whether this America will be unified, or, if I lose this election, Americans might be separated black from white, Jew from Christian, North from South, rural from urban.”

Cannon’s purpose is to absolve the charge that Reagan was a racist, or that his 1980 victory was based on racist appeals to white voters. In doing so, however, Cannon confirms that Brooks and Taranto are wrong to claim such accusations are a recent invention of liberals aimed at tarring Reagan’s memory.

Discover more from Media Nation

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


Chris Lydon’s re-return


Carole Simpson and J-school ethics


  1. Steve

    “Despite what David Brooks and James Taranto seem to think, Reagan’s appearance in Neshoba, Miss., near Philadelphia, was a huge issue in the 1980 presidential campaign.”Well of course it was, and you don’t need Lou Cannon to have to tell you that. Anyone who lived through that election and was paying attention knows it was. I have no idea why Brooks and Taranto want to make apologies for it, but they’re simply being dishonest pretending it wasn’t an issue.

  2. Anonymous

    So it was an issue because Carter said it was? Sounds like someone is blaming the victim on this one. If you hate Reagan, that’s fine. But using “fake but accurate” rhetoric is not the way to get at him. Hollywood actors are not typically known for racism. Knock Reagan for being less of an intellectual than the “nucular engineer” with whom he competed, if you like. But presuming he was a racist because he didn’t fit your political template is just intellectually dishonest. Every campaign has its share of ruthless (pragmatic?) operatives. Think Carville would like to have 100% of his work subject to historical scrutiny?

  3. jvwalt

    Aw, geez, “Anonymous” the brave. We’ve been through this before. Nobody is saying that Reagan was a racist, any more than he was a Nazi because he went to Bitburg. What we’re saying is that Reagan knowingly and willingly SOUGHT the white racist vote in the South. He was perfectly happy to have white racists vote for him, and didn’t really care if he lost the black vote. This is a well-documented historical fact.

  4. Anonymous

    Just to point out, it really doesn’t matter whether St. Ronald was a racist himself. What matters was whether he was pandering to racists, and whether that might affect his policies.As an analogy, it was reported a number of years ago that George Wallace was not particularly racist himself. But in one election he was defeated by someone who was far more segregationist than he, and he vowed that he would never again be “out-segregationed.”–raj

  5. Anonymous

    Funny how Mike Nifong doing the same thing didn’t stir up quite the same outrage around here. Guess the end justifies the means when reparations are being attempted….

  6. jvwalt

    There are two perfectly legitimate answers to this Mike Nifong post: — What the hell does Mike Nifong have to do with whether Ronald Reagan pandered to the racist vote? — You don’t think Nifong has suffered for what he did? He committed an egregious act of prosecutorial misconduct, and (at the very least) lost his livelihood and reputation because of it. I guess, unless Dan Kennedy gives him a good tongue-lashing, Mr. Nifong has gotten off way too easy.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Heck I had to Google “Nifong” just to remind myself who he was.

  8. amusedbutinformedobserver

    Can you say “southern strategy?” Sure you can.

  9. Anonymous

    The Nifong question didn’t just come out of left field, it came from the bull pen. It made no sense whatsoever.–raj

  10. Anonymous

    JV and raj, against my better judgment:Your post presumes that Nifong did it alone. He didn’t. (I’m guessing it didn’t strike you that Nifong was “pandering to (a) racist vote” either. Presuming all racists are white, as Duke’s “Committee of 88” would have you believe, you’re correct.)DK, with all due respect, as a respected academic in America’s biggest college town, you should OWN a copy of Stuart Taylor’s “Until Proven Innocent”. It not only CAN happen here, it eventually will, in a way that may impact on your students. We should learn from the mistakes made by others. Racial demagogues and shaky police work are not exactly unheard-of in this town.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 4:47: Is owning it sufficient? Do I have to read it, too?Seriously, I have very high regard for Stuart Taylor.

  12. Anonymous

    Anonymous @ 4:47PMPlease re-read my comment. I said nothing about the appropriateness of Nifong’s actions. My comment was regarding the question of a previous commenter aboutNifong. Surely you can understand the difference. It sincerely if that previous commenter had explained the context of his or her question. As it is, the comment made no sense and it still doesn’t. Maybe the commenter should learn something of exposition.–raj

  13. Anonymous

    ” It sincerely if that previous commenter had …”” Maybe the commenter should learn something of exposition.”You said a mouthful!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén