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It’s rather unusual for high-profile columnists at the same newspaper to engage in a public quarrel, but the NYT’s Paul Krugman and David Brooks have been subtly going at it for days.
In a recent column about race and politics, Krugman noted the Republican Party’s use of the Southern Strategy to pit whites and blacks against one another. It’s an argument Krugman also emphasized in “The Conscience of a Liberal.”
Republican politicians, who understand quite well that the G.O.P.’s national success since the 1970s owes everything to the partisan switch of Southern whites, have tacitly acknowledged this reality. Since the days of Gerald Ford, just about every Republican presidential campaign has included some symbolic gesture of approval for good old-fashioned racism.
Thus Ronald Reagan, who began his political career by campaigning against California’s Fair Housing Act, started his 1980 campaign with a speech supporting states’ rights delivered just outside Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered.
David Brooks responded this week, without mentioning Krugman by name, but nevertheless slamming his colleague for his use of the Reagan anecdote.
Today, I’m going to write about a slur. It’s a distortion that’s been around for a while, but has spread like a weed over the past few months. It was concocted for partisan reasons: to flatter the prejudices of one side, to demonize the other and to simplify a complicated reality into a political nursery tale. […]
Still, the agitprop version of this week — that Reagan opened his campaign with an appeal to racism — is a distortion…. It’s spread by people who, before making one of the most heinous charges imaginable, couldn’t even take 10 minutes to look at the evidence.
Krugman returned the volley on his blog yesterday, refraining from mentioning Brooks’ name, but nevertheless driving his point home nicely.
Over to you, Mr. Brooks.
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