I have, in the past, been known to argue that the role of race per se in the GOP “southern strategy” has often been overstated by liberals. Bob Herbert disagrees and would seem to have the proverbial telling quote:
In 1981, during the first year of Mr. Reagan’s presidency, the late Lee Atwater gave an interview to a political science professor at Case Western Reserve University, explaining the evolution of the Southern strategy:
“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ ” said Atwater. “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”
Now that said, Herbert’s more recent examples of “sustained mistreatment by the Republican Party” of black people mostly involve efforts to prevent black people from voting, which I’m fairly sure they do for purely partisan reasons than out of racism as such.