“In the United States, racism has taken an insidious form which has conditioned the economic policy of the Republican Party since the 1960s”

Chronic. The propetanist rhetoric of the presidential candidate Eric Zemmour shocks and sparks a lot of ink. In the same way as that, xenophobic, of candidate Donald Trump during the American presidential election in 2016. Do these rhetorics mark a real break in the political landscape? Or are they just the worsening of a trend that started decades ago, but in a much more subtle way?

In the United States, racist views of African Americans were the norm in political discourse until the mid-20th century.e century. In the south of the United States, at the end of the civil war, the so-called “Jim Crow” laws hindered the exercise of the right to vote by blacks and formalized the segregation between blacks and whites. “Jim Crow” is the title of a popular song in which the performer dressed up in black to make fun of African Americans. The segregationist system was only dismantled thanks to the Civil Rights movement and the ratification of the Civil Rights Act by Congress in 1964. Since then it has become politically unacceptable to use openly racist rhetoric. No candidate has risked it. Even Donald Trump never gave a directly aggressive speech towards African Americans.

“The segregationist language creeps mainly in the discourse relating to the policies which concern the African-American minority”

But racism and segregationist views have not gone away. They simply took another form, hidden and insidious, which has conditioned the economic policy of the Republican Party since the 1960s. This is revealed by the statistical analysis of all speeches in the American Congress since 1947 by the economist. American Chris Becker (« The Rise of Jim Crow Rhetoric in Republican Economic Speeches », Stanford Mimeo, 2021).

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First, the author identifies the key phrases that characterized the speeches of segregationists. Among these are references clearly racist, but also more abstract, to the rights of the American federated states and to anti-federalism. Then, he studies the use of these key phrases in economic policy speeches over time. Of course, the language has changed a lot since the 1950s, and some phrases are no longer used at all. However, the data clearly shows that from the 1960s onwards, these phrases abound in the economic speeches of Republicans, compared to those of Democrats, but in their abstract form rather than directly. racist. This is all the more paradoxical since before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it was the Democrats of the South who defended the segregationist system. This recovery of a speech which, even in an apparently innocent form, nonetheless calls for racist values, has undoubtedly enabled Republicans to capture the voices of former Democrats disappointed with the “betrayal” of the Civil Rights Act.

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“In the United States, racism has taken an insidious form which has conditioned the economic policy of the Republican Party since the 1960s”

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