Paul Manafort, Vladimir Putin, and the Southern Strategy

Trump’s team is killing the Republican party with its own playbook.

I’m happy to be back from vacation, rested, and ready to write. I actually did a little writing over the weekend, but I see that Nancy and David have covered some of the same ground. Nonetheless, I am going to post that piece below with only some slight modifications to reflect the news broken last night by Andrew E. Kramer, Mike McIntire and Barry Meier of the New York Times.

Paul Manafort grew up in New Britain, Connecticut where his father served as mayor. Later on, he moved to Washington D.C. where he got undergraduate and law degrees from Georgetown in the early 1970s. He’s not a child of the South. Jim Crow was never a way of life for him, and that makes him different from his old partners Lee Atwater and Charlie Black. I mean, I fundamentally disagree with the politics of the Southern Strategy but I can at least understand why some (white) people raised in the South would want the South to preserve its heritage and expand its political influence. The southern takeover of the Republican Party was a triumph for those folks, and if it involved some cynical and even hateful means, at least I can understand the ends. But what excuse does a Connecticut Yankee have for this behavior:

Since the 1980s, Manafort’s business partners have included Charles Black, who helped launch the Senate career of outspoken segregationist Jessie Helms, and Lee Atwater, who was behind the infamously racist Willie Horton ads run by the George H. W. Bush campaign.

And it was Manafort who arranged for Ronald Reagan to kick off his post-convention presidential campaign at the Neshoba County Fair just outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three young civil rights workers were brutally murdered in 1964. In his relatively short speech, Reagan declared, “I believe in state’s rights…And I believe that we’ve distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the constitution to that federal establishment. And if I do get the job I’m looking for, I’m going to devote myself to trying to reorder those priorities and to restore to the states and local communities those functions which properly belong there.”

To the all-white audience at the Neshoba County Fair, still simmering about a host of federal civil rights interventions, the location of the speech and the language of “states’ rights” sent an unmistakable message about restoring an imbalance of power in their favor.

Why would Manafort even want to get in bed with the rageoholics at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi? Why would he want to empower them?

It’s this mercenary value system that explains why Manafort has made a career out of advising monstrous dictators and conscienceless oligarchs. Manipulating people’s anger and insecurities into fear and rage has been his trademark for his entire career, which is why he could not care less about Trump’s negative influence on the body politic or his incitements to violence.

He doesn’t care about anything but winning, and if his ties to Putin can help Trump, he doesn’t care about the implications of that either.

Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Mr. Manafort from Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012, according to Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Investigators assert that the disbursements were part of an illegal off-the-books system whose recipients also included election officials.

In addition, criminal prosecutors are investigating a group of offshore shell companies that helped members of Mr. Yanukovych’s inner circle finance their lavish lifestyles, including a palatial presidential residence with a private zoo, golf course and tennis court. Among the hundreds of murky transactions these companies engaged in was an $18 million deal to sell Ukrainian cable television assets to a partnership put together by Mr. Manafort and a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin.

I don’t know how anyone can not be suspicious that Manafort might have something to do with the way pilfered Democratic Party emails and text messages are being selectively released to do damage to Hillary Clinton for the benefit of Manafort’s newest client. The consensus among analysts and the intelligence agencies that Putin’s Russia is behind the hacking is very high, and obviously Trump believes it himself since he asked Russia to do more of it.

In any case, Manafort has been partnered up with folks like Charlie Black, Lee Atwater, and Roger Stone (the most notorious political ratf*ker of all time) for more than thirty years.


These guys will have their own wing in the Southern Strategy Hall of Fame in Hell.

The number of people who know this history and can connect the dots is small, but that doesn’t mean that the message and the values of these racial villains has gone unnoticed.

Earlier this week, the Republican National Committee hired three new staffers to assist with African American outreach. They will have their work cut out for them. Donald Trump’s average level of black support from four recent national polls is 2 percent, and a July NBC/Wall Street Journal battleground poll showed Trump getting exactly 0 percent support among African American voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania. And the candidate is not helping his own cause. He has demonstrated a steady penchant for resurrecting racially divisive campaign tactics of the past, tactics that simultaneously ignored black voters and used race as a wedge to attract disgruntled white voters in the South.

I’d like to point out that many of us were calling out the “White Hands” and Willie Horton and Southern Strategy stuff as morally reprehensible back when it was mainstream and standard Republican operating procedure. Trump isn’t really an outlier so much as a candidate for a time that is now in the rearview mirror. What’s different this time is that it’s not being done to empower the South or even to assist business in rolling back the regulatory state. It’s being done for no reason at all except to help Donald Trump.

And, as you can see by the alarmed response of the Republican Establishment, they have no interest in using a torn and frayed playbook to further the ambition of Donald Trump. Things would be different if it would work and if the prize were something worth having. I know this, because everyone was fine with it when another Connecticut Yankee, George H.W. Bush, used it to win power for himself and his allies. But that’s the thing.

Poppy Bush went along with empowering the South and allowing a conservative takeover of his party, but he also had real allies who benefited in the bargain.

If Trump has any allies at all, they’re his kids. And, if I were them, I wouldn’t even count on that.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.