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It Was All a Lie

How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump

By Stuart Stevens
13-minute read
Audio available
It Was All a Lie by Stuart Stevens

It Was All A Lie (2020) is former Republican political consultant Stuart Stevens’ take on how Republican leaders, desperate for power, have mortgaged their purported values to support Donald Trump.

  • Americans disappointed by the Trump presidency
  • Lovers of well-crafted snark
  • Political junkies

Stuart Stevens is a former Republican political consultant who has worked on countless campaigns, including four presidential races. He’s a leader of The Lincoln Project, a political action committee comprised of current or former Republicans dedicated to preventing the reelection of Donald Trump.

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It Was All a Lie

How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump

By Stuart Stevens
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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It Was All a Lie by Stuart Stevens
Synopsis

It Was All A Lie (2020) is former Republican political consultant Stuart Stevens’ take on how Republican leaders, desperate for power, have mortgaged their purported values to support Donald Trump.

Key idea 1 of 8

The precedent for Trump’s coded racist language was set by the Republican Party’s favorite son, Ronald Reagan.

Trump’s appeal to the worst, racist impulses of some white voters is nothing new in Republican politics. But Trump’s white nationalist politics, viewed by many Republicans as a unique characteristic of an unconventional president, actually have deep roots in the Republican Party. One of the most surprising precedents for Trump’s racism is Ronald Reagan, heralded by many Republicans as the shining example of everything they hold dear. As we’ll see, Reagan had a dark side – darker than many choose to admit.

The key message here is: The precedent for Trump’s coded racist language was set by the Republican Party’s favorite son, Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan is revered by many Republicans as the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln. But many don’t know – or have chosen to ignore – that Reagan used race as a magnet to attract right-leaning Democratic voters. In the run-up to his presidency, Reagan often talked about African American “welfare queens” defrauding the government. This dog whistle, or subtle, racist message that resonates with racists but may go undetected by others, was well understood by many white voters, who threw their support behind Reagan.

On the campaign trail in 1980, Reagan spoke in Mississippi’s Neshoba County. His rally was held just a few miles from where three civil rights volunteers were murdered in 1964. Not only did Reagan fail to mention the murders to his predominantly white audience, he said he believed in states’ rights fully. Now, this isn’t an overtly racist statement. But by promoting states’ rights in Mississippi, whose leaders used them as an excuse to fight integration as long as they could, he was sending a clear message. It was a racist appeal to white voters in Mississippi.

There’s a direct line between Reagan’s genteel prejudice and Trump’s sputtering white nationalism. Thirty-seven years after Reagan’s speech in Neshoba County, Trump gave a speech in Alabama, a neighboring state with an equally violent history of resisting civil rights. In his speech, again to a predominantly white audience, Trump criticized NFL players for taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police killings of unarmed Black men. “That’s a total disrespect of our heritage,” he said. No prizes for guessing who the ‘we’ in that statement is.

But as we’ll explore in the next blink, Trump’s racism isn’t just an aberration. In fact, according to Stevens, it’s actually an essential element of the modern Republican Party.

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