Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum thinks America was right where it should have been in 1965.

On June 3 at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, D.C., and June 6 during his candidacy speech, he said in response to President Obama’s declaration that America is a better country because of Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment insurance, “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said amid thunderous applause, “America was a great country before 1965.”

Is this a stealth racist comment?

The farther you go back from 1965, the more favorable things were for White people—males in particular—and the worse things were for people of color.

In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, amid the turbulence of the fight to end Jim Crow segregation.

Blacks were being hosed, set upon with police dogs and brutally beaten in the South just because they stood up for themselves as citizens of the United States.

America sure was great then.

A year earlier, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which enforced the 15th Amendment of the Constitution that was ratified 95 years earlier.

This landmark legislation became law just weeks after one of the most memorable atrocities of the time.

On June 21, 1964 three civil rights activists, named James Chaney, 21, Michael Schwerner, 20, and Andrew Goodman, 24—Chaney a Black from Mississippi, Schwerner and Goodman, Jews from New York—were brutally murdered by the Ku Klux Klan for helping Blacks to register to vote.

Nobody was convicted until 40 years later.

What a wonderful place America was.

Here is where it gets tricky about the message Santorum might have been sending to his tea party faithful, which clearly has a racist element in its midst.

This lynching happened near Philadelphia, Miss., the seat of Neshoba County, the same place where then GOP candidate Ronald Reagan on Aug. 3, 1980 launched his presidential campaign with the utterance of a return to “states’ rights.”

Is this why Santorum thinks America was so great before 1965? Is it because Reagan cynically used the symbolism of such a tragedy to convert racist Southern Demo­crats, called Dixiecrats, rejuvenating the Republican Party and helping it to the plateau it holds today?

Is Santorum using the same tactic to convey to this new radicalized slice of the GOP that if we could do it in 1980, we can do it again now?

And he was saying this while criticizing the nation’s first Black president for not believing in freedom.

Santorum may as well have chanted, “I want to take my country back” as the tea partiers did boldly until the media started characterizing the chant as racist.

America is truly a wonderful country and it was a wonderful nation before 1965.

Wonderful for whom?

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)

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