Politicians use code words and metaphoric phrases, especially in the age of the TV sound-byte, to define themselves and their opponents so they can avoid detailed descriptions of programs and careful discussion of ideology. Republican politicians, since Richard Nixon’s 1968 Presidential campaign’s “Southern Strategy” have been using racial code words to stir up their white voter base.

In the October 6, 2005 edition of the New York Times, columnist Bob Herbert reported on a 1981 interview with Lee Atwater, a Republican Party consultant and confidant of Presidents Reagan and Bush. In the interview, Alexander Lamis, a political scientist at Case Western Reserve University, and Atwater discussed politics in the South. The interview was recorded and is available online at The Nation. I’ve redacted some of Atwater’s language, but it is clear the word he is using. “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘N—-r, n—-r, n—-r.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘n—-r’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff.” In the interview, Atwater, is very clear what the coded language means. He later was a campaign manager for George H.W. Bush in 1988 when Republicans used an ad featuring Willie Horton, a convicted Black felon, to smear the Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis as endangering the lives of white people. In another interview, Atwater explained the Bush campaign strategy, “By the time we’re finished, they’re going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis’ running mate.”

Today, Republican state governments rally racist supporters by railing against a fictionalized version of Critical Race Theory as a “monstrous evil” and passing laws to supposedly protect America’s children from indoctrination. In Texas, Critical Race Theory is banned and teachers must teach and students must learn that slavery and racism were “deviations” from the “authentic founding principles of the United States.” Another bill, not yet passed into law, would remove reference to the Ku Klux Klan as “morally wrong.”  But as Lee Atwater explained, when they shout CRT, we know what they are really shouting.

In the 1962 movie The Music Man, based on an earlier Broadway Show, scam artist “Professor” Harold Hill, played by Robert Preston, terrifies citizens of the mystical Middle America town of River City with the idea that a new local pool room will corrupt its youth. Hill wants to sell the town musical instruments and uniforms for a marching band as the antidote to poolroom corruption, instruments and uniforms that he never plans to deliver.

Hill starts his scam with a song, the movie is a musical, Trouble in River City. In response to the Republican assault on CRT and racist mobilization, a little sarcasm, Professor Harold Hill-style, seems appropriate. You can listen to the revised version of Trouble in River City, Trouble in Austin City, on YouTube courtesy of the rapper Reeces Pieces.

Trouble in Austin City — Reeces Pieces Covefe

Texas Republicans have their own version of CRT – Cynical Racist Threats.

Friends, Texas got trouble, right there in Austin City!

With a capital “T” that rhymes with “C” and stands for CRT.

Texas got trouble, right there in Austin City!

They’ve gotta figure out a way

To keep young ones ignorant in school, ignorant in school!

Governor Abbott warns the Lone Star State,

Heed my warning before too late!

Watch for signs of early corruption!

Beware an explosive education eruption!

When your child gets up in the morning,

Even while the coffee is still warming,

Does he read the news and then ask questions?

Is your daughter’s mind open to suggestions?

Do your kids think Black Lives Matter and police are out of hand?

Do they wonder why you don’t understand?

Are strange words creeping into conversation?

Words like justice, equality and information?

Are kids starting to enter unsafe ground?

Friends, the thinking brain is the devil’s playground!

Texas got trouble, right there in Austin City!

With a capital “T” that rhymes with “C” and stands for CRT.

Oh, Texas got trouble, terrible, terrible trouble,

Cause critical thinking is the devil’s tool, the Devil’s tool.

Texas got trouble, terrible, terrible, trouble!

With a capital “T”! That rhymes with “C”! and stands for CRT!!!

Follow Alan Singer on twitter at https://twitter.com/AlanJSinger1

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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