Thursday, 13 Dec 2018

How is Willie Horton's publicity reflected in George H.W. Bush's legacy

The death of former President George HW Last Friday, at the age of 94, Bush elicits praise from all political parties, remembering him as a public servant, a man capable of working from the other side as president and a graceful state man in his post-presidential life.

For many black Americans in particular, however, the legacy of former President Bush is tainted by the fact that part of his candidacy for the presidential election included the following. one of the most infamous political advertisements in history, inspiring racial stereotypes that continue to shape criminal justice policy. years later.

Most of Bush's memories come from prominent African-Americans, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who chaired the Bush administration chief of staff. .

The advertisement was part of a broader Bush strategy during his 1988 election campaign to portray his Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, biting the crime.

At the time Mr. Dukakis was governor, Massachusetts offered some inmates a temporary leave program, a common practice in the rehabilitation efforts of state and federal penitentiary systems. William Horton, a murderer sentenced to life imprisonment in Massachusetts, was granted weekend leave in 1986 but did not return to jail. Nearly a year later, he arrived in Maryland, where he had tied up, gagged and stabbed a man at his home, raped his fiancée and then escaped in a car belonging to l & # 39; man.

The "Willie Horton Advertisement" entitled "Weekend Passes" was deployed as an independent expense to support Bush's campaign. Before his broadcast, Bush often spoke of Horton by mentioning Dukakis' record of crime. Here's what The Post wrote about Bush's rhetoric in June 1988, a few months before the ad was released:

When Vice President Bush chose the Massachusetts "Prison Delivery" program as a rhetorical hammer to criticize Governor Michael S. Dukakis, his likely opponent in the fall presidential campaign, he seemed have an almost perfect campaign problem. The idea of ​​giving "weekend passes" to imprisoned murderers seemed simple enough to explain in one sentence – just for the newscast – and it seemed to place Dukakis well to the left of the mainstream.

In fact, the question of admission to prisons, which Bush has repeatedly mentioned this week, is one of the most complicated aspects of criminology, with enough conditions and qualifications to keep both candidates on the table. Presidency for months if they decide to continue the debate. And, according to academics and government students who study prison policy, Dukakis' support for the concept of residence permits places him firmly in the thick of things, now among the heads of correctional services. country.

The Bush campaign claimed that it had nothing to do with advertising, although it did broadcast one, "Revolving Doors".

Critics have accused the pro-Bush political action committee responsible for advertising of playing racial stereotypes among voters about black men as sexualized brutes waiting to attack innocent white women. Some political strategists believe that it is advertising that has put the nail in the coffin of the Dukakis campaign. Years later, shortly before his death, from cancer, Bush's campaign director, Lee Atwater, apologized for declaring that he would "make Willie Horton [Dukakis’s] race partner. "

This is how the Marshall Project, in a long and detailed retrospective, describes the long-term effects of strategy and strategy:

Horton advertising has surprised the country at a time of growing crime, panic fear and political climate characterized by repression between Republicans and Democrats to prove their qualities against crime. Over the next few years, a dozen states eliminated parole, which was a long-standing way for inmates to obtain a release with re-education and good behavior. The liberation of work, commutations, conjugal visits, holidays – the myriad liberation valves that had served both as an incentive and reward for repentance and change – have all been eliminated or severely curtailed.

The approach of the Atwater campaign continues. A week before the mid-term elections of 2018, President Trump effectively reintroduced Horton's announcement into a thematic conversation by tweeting an announcement blaming the Democrats for the criminal activities of Luis Bracamontes, an undocumented Mexican immigrant and deported twice who murdered two law enforcement officers.

Aaron Blake of The Fix wrote by comparing the two commercials:

It then follows a growing trend to rather shameless inaccurate statements and even dog whistles that GOP candidates and the party as a whole seem all too happy to associate with – as they had recognized Trump's success with this approach and decided to do the same. themselves and possess it.

In the days following Bush's death, many pointed out that these racist campaign tactics did not begin with Trump, but were rooted in a strategy deployed years ago by those who supported Bush's presidency.

And it's not just the Horton announcement that many black Americans are thinking about Bush's presidency, but also the appointment of Clarence Thomas, arguably the most conservative racial justice in the Supreme Court. Also on the list: Bush's opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act which would have made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race and the poor reply the crack and cocaine epidemic that is sweeping the city centers and harming black Americans.

Bush was easily defeated by Bill Clinton in 1992, but in the following decades his reputation and his statehood legacy were strengthened. However, as our Post colleague Carlos Lozada points out, Bush has never apologized for the Horton tactics used in his campaign. "Bush 's only admission of something unseemly appears in a footnote describing Atwater' s tactics:" He was young, aggressive (some would say no mercy), and brilliant in politics. "And Bush brilliantly, some would say without mercy, looked away."

While some are reluctant to see historians, activists and other left-wing parties stressing this part of the Bush presidency's impact on black Americans, others argue that it is essential to present a vision. more complete the legacy of a political leader.

The next few days will be devoted to fondly recalling when a president could not turn to social media to attack Americans who were protesting racism on the football pitch or when presidents reprimanded white supremacists with harshness that seemed sincere.

But that does not mean that the Bush presidency does not have the accusations of racism that have led so many black Americans to look at the GOP in a negative light then and perhaps even more today. And for many of these black Americans, understanding why so many members of their community view Trump's party in a negative way begins with turning to past GOP leaders.


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