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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/12/18

Donald Trump and Paul Manafort Revived Nixon's Race-Based Hate Strategy for the 21st Century

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After the notorious political hatchet man Lee Atwater joined Manafort's firm, Atwater masterminded the infamous "Willie Horton" attack ad for George H. W. Bush that doomed Michael Dukakis's race for the presidency.

Atwater summed up the Reagan/Bush version of Nixon's Southern Strategy best, in 1981, when he pointed out to a group of Republican political operatives that, in the 1950s, white politicians could simply use the N-word, repeatedly.

"By 1968," however, Atwater explained that instead of the N-word, white politicians instead used terms like "forced busing, states' rights, and all that stuff," including "economic things" like "cutting taxes" a byproduct of [which] is blacks get hurt worse than whites."

When Paul Manafort moved from being Trump's business associate to being his campaign manager, Trump began using more subtle racist appeals, straight out of Nixon's Southern Strategy.

These include Trump echoing Nixon to the word, saying he'd protect (white) Americans from threats to "our way of life"; exploiting exaggerated fears of crime; and even proclaiming himself the "law and order" candidate, just like Nixon.

The result? Southern states provided more than half of Trump's electoral votes, and he won white voters by 21 percent, according to Facing South (whose work by Facing South's Sue Sturgis we've cited extensively).

Donald Trump's words and actions continue to this day to echo the racial politics of 1968, from his support of the Charlottesville racists to his public support by former Klan leader David Duke. Just like Nixon, Trump combines the more refined Southern Strategy of Nixon with the populist platitudes of George Wallace, to pander to bigotry and create fear of minorities in white working-class voters -- all while enriching himself and his cronies.

As in 1968, creating such an atmosphere is dangerous, since it helped lead to the assassination of Martin Luther King. Just as conservative politicians easily use racism to generate votes, power, and money, King's murder was also the result of racism for profit and political gain.

As we extensively documented in our book Legacy of Secrecy, Martin Luther King's assassination resulted from a bounty on his life put out by four Georgia white supremacists, led by Joseph Milteer.

For years, Milteer and his associates had been collecting money weekly at one of Atlanta's largest factories (whose peak employment was over 7,000), promising the white factory workers a plot to kill King, who was also based out of Atlanta.

By late 1967 and early 1968, Milteer's contributors were getting anxious: Not only was King still alive, but no serious attempt to assassinate him had been reported in the press. (That was because Milteer and his associates had been using the money not to kill King, but to buy up large tracts of undeveloped mountain land in North Carolina.)

Eager to placate their contributors, but unable to find a hitman on their own, Milteer turned to the Mafia for help, according to Justice Department files that were previously withheld from congressional investigators.

Those Justice Department files say that "a well-placed prote'ge' of [godfather] Carlos Marcello in New Orleans" revealed that that Mafia in New Orleans "agreed to 'broker' or arrange the assassination [of King] for an amount somewhat in excess of three hundred thousand dollars" on behalf of "an elite" group of "wealthy segregationists," and specified Milteer's tiny hometown of Quitman (not a typo), Georgia, as their base.

In addition, Milteer had ties with Marcello's organization going back to 1963, when Milteer accurately predicted JFK's murder on a Miami police informant tape less than two weeks before the crime, saying that JFK would be shot "with a high-powered rifle from a tall building" and that authorities "will pick up somebody within hours" just to throw the public off." Milteer even mentioned an earlier plot to kill King on that same 1963 police undercover tape.

In late 1967 and early 1968, James Earl Ray was a very low-level drug runner involved with Marcello's organization, according to government files and the congressional investigation. Other files say the King contract had two parts, one for the actual shooter and a smaller amount for a "spotter," to track King's movements, so the shooter could remain out-of-sight until the last possible moment. It's not clear to this day if Ray was hired as the hitman or the spotter.

Tragically, while the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated Milteer and Marcello for JFK's murder (and concluded that "Marcello had the motive, means, and opportunity to assassinate President Kennedy"), the Committee -- chaired by Rep. Louis Stokes -- didn't include Marcello or Milteer in their investigation of King's murder.

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)

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