How Reagan Repudiated the Klan
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All Donald Trump had to do was to say he didn’t accept the endorsement of former KKK Grand Wizard and Louisiana gubernatorial candidate David Duke. But when CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump about Duke’s support as well as that of the Klan, Trump refused to issue a condemnation:

I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups. I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. You may have groups in there that are totally fine — it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.

Only in Donald Trump’s universe are there racist organizations that are totally fine. If Ronald Reagan were alive and saw this sorry spectacle, the Gipper would lay into the Donald with righteous fury. Ronald Reagan would have not hesitated to condemn the Klan.

After all, Reagan’s parents taught him to abhor racism and anti-Semitism — central tenants of Klan ideology. As Reagan wrote in his 1990 autobiography Ronald Reagan: An American Life:

My parents constantly drummed into me the importance of judging people as individuals.There was no more grievous sin at our household than a racial slur or other evidence of religious or racial intolerance. A lot of it, I think, was because my dad had learned what discrimination was like first hand. He’d grown up in an era where some stores still had signs at their door saying, NO DOGS OR IRISHMEN ALLOWED.

Reagan’s parents practiced what they preached. His father, Jack, once refused to stay in a hotel after a clerk boasted the hotel didn’t serve Jews. Jack Reagan would spend the night sleeping in his car during a blizzard. Indeed, Reagan believes this principled stand would take a toll on his father’s health and would contribute to his first heart attack. 

Years later, when Reagan played with the football team at Eureka College, the team stopped for the night in his hometown of Dixon, Illinois. When the hotel refused to admit the team’s two black players, Reagan invited them to stay with his mother Nelle. While the Eureka football coach was skeptical of the plan, Reagan knew there would be no problem with his mother. “She was absolutely color blind when it came to racial matters; these fellows were just two of my friends, “ Reagan wrote, “That was the way she and Jack had always raised my brother and me.”

Reagan’s upbringing would serve him well when the KKK endorsed his candidacy for the White House in both 1980 and 1984. While Reagan opposed affirmative action and support for states’ rights, the Klan apparently mistook his opposition to these policies as an endorsement of their point of view. They could not have been more wrong.

In August 1980, Reagan stated at a press conference in New York, “I have no tolerance with what the Klan represents and I want nothing to do with it.” Evidently the KKK was somehow unmoved by Reagan’s rejection and endorsed him again in April 1984. This time Reagan penned a letter to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (so perhaps it could preserved for an occasion such as now) which read:

Those of us in public life can only resent the use of our names by those who seek political recognition for the repugnant doctrines of hate they espouse.

The politics of racial hatred and religious bigotry practiced by the Klan and others have no place in this country, and are destructive of the values for which America has always stood.

This would be the same Ku Klux Klan that Donald Trump claims to know nothing about and needs to do some more research.

Ronald Reagan knew what evil was, be it the Kremlin or the Klan. Reagan thoroughly understood Edmund Burke’s pearl of wisdom. “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is when good men do nothing.” Where Donald Trump is concerned, unless someone criticizes him, he sees no evil and hears no evil.

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