Speaking of New York Times columnists, I like that Bob Herbert today goes beyond questions of signaling and dog whistles to look at the policies:
And Reagan meant it. He was opposed to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was the same year that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were slaughtered. As president, he actually tried to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposed a national holiday for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to get rid of the federal ban on tax exemptions for private schools that practiced racial discrimination. And in 1988, he vetoed a bill to expand the reach of federal civil rights legislation.
Congress overrode the veto.
Reagan also vetoed the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Congress overrode that veto, too.
Now whether Reagan pursued these policies inimical to the interests of black people because he didn’t like black people or because he simply adhered to free market principles whose policy upshot was inimical to the interests of black people, I couldn’t say. These days, I think a politician whose sincere views about the sanctity of the market led him to the conclusion that landmark civil rights legislation was a serious violation of the demands of political justice would just lie about it, much as Ronald Reagan never proposed eliminating Medicare though surely whatever principles drove his push to reduce anti-poverty spending (and if you look at the poverty numbers, you’ll see that poverty in the Reagan-Bush years was consistently worse than under Nixon-Ford-Carter or Clinton-Bush) would also have indicated that Medicare should be gotten rid of.