Richard Nixon, the Last Liberal President (R), took some time off from such activities as “working with Strom Thurmond to gut the Voting Rights Act” to have this charming conversation with the definer of the contemporary Republican Party:
The day after the United Nations voted to recognize the People’s Republic of China, then–California Governor Ronald Reagan phoned President Richard Nixon at the White House and vented his frustration at the delegates who had sided against the United States. “Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,” Reagan said. “Yeah,” Nixon interjected. Reagan forged ahead with his complaint: “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” Nixon gave a huge laugh.
The past month has brought presidential racism back into the headlines. This October 1971 exchange between current and future presidents is a reminder that other presidents have subscribed to the racist belief that Africans or African Americans are somehow inferior. The most novel aspect of President Donald Trump’s racist gibes isn’t that he said them, but that he said them in public.
This is exactly right. There’s a direct line to be drawn from William Buckley’s defense of Jim Crow to Reagan’s comments to Shelby County to Trump’s comments about Baltimore. They’re all from influential Republican elites, and all reflect the view that black people are not fit for self-governance. Trump is working well within the Reaganite tradition.