With an assist from Charles Pierce, I came across an article in Vanity Fair that details allegations made in court filings against Robert Mercer by a former business associate named David Magerman. I am not surprised by Mercer’s banal views on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its effects, but I am relieved to see Mercer’s views on what’s “not important.”
In court papers filed on Friday, Magerman argues that following a pair of phone conversations in which Mercer expressed arguably racist opinions, Magerman felt obliged to inform the press about his boss’s viewpoints—and that he received verbal assurance by Renaissance C.O.O. Mark Silber that the statements he intended to make were “permissible under company policy.” Those racist opinions, according to Magerman, included comments such as: a) The United States began to go in the wrong direction after the passage of the Civl Rights Act in the 1960s; b) African Americans were doing fine in the late-1950s and early-1960s before the Civil Rights Act; c) The Civil Rights Act “infantilized” African Americas by making them dependent on government and removing any incentive to work;d) The only racist people remaining in the United States are black; and e) White people have no racial animus toward African Americans anymore, and if there is any, is it not something that the government should be concerned with.
The best part of the filing, at least to us, was that when Magerman “point[ed] out that society was segregated before the Civil Rights Act and African Americans were required to use separate and inferior schools, water fountains, and other everyday services and items,” Mercer allegedly responded that “those issues were not important.” In a subsequent phone conversation (the “white supremacist” one), Magerman claimed Mercer initially “disputed that he had said such things, although he did not actually deny saying them” and “in the course of rehashing the conversation . . . repeated many of these same views, and even cited research that allegedly supported his opinion that the Civil Rights Act harmed African Americans economically.” (A spokesman for Renaissance declined to comment.)
I’ve heard many conservatives argue that blacks were infantilized by government assistance that arose out of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. I haven’t really seen the Civil Rights Act itself blamed before. But the basic argument isn’t novel or particularly unusual in Republican circles. It’s just that they usually have the good taste not to blame equal citizenship for this infantilization. They normally stay focused on the idea that poverty assistance had a perverse and unintended effect.
Robert Mercer may be the first person I’ve heard argue that all the depredations that blacks suffered under the Jim Crow regime were “not important.” His reasoning seems to be that blacks were “doing fine” under that regime when compared to what came after the major civil rights legislation of the 1960’s.
Even if you could find some metrics to support this argument, it’s unusual to say that the Civil Rights Act was to blame.
But this is allegedly how Robert Mercer feels, and that probably explains why he funds Breitbart News and is Trump’s biggest benefactor. The view that blacks were better off when they lacked full citizenship and that their welfare had nothing to do with their ability to vote or find housing or have equal access to public accommodations, these are not mainstream Republican or conservative views. They take a noxious and highly contentious set of beliefs about government programs and put them on racist steroids.
With this set of beliefs, you could justify doing almost anything to the black community on the premise that they’d actually be better off.
I see no particular reason to believe that Steve Bannon and Donald Trump don’t share these views with Robert Mercer, and I’d like to see them deny it.