Now’s the Time to Remember Lee Atwater

I’m not always sure that we’ve come a long way, but I hope that we’ve come far enough that the long-term strategy of race-baiting to win elections won’t work as easily as it used to. As the Republican National Convention opens this week in Florida, we’re coming off a week where the soon-to-be nominated candidate “joked” to a crowd that “no one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate” — a statement met with cheers from the (white) crowd. And even as I write this, ads are running that decry a false change to welfare aimed at convincing white voters that the Federal government is taking “their” money to pay off welfare recipients.

This issue was already on my mind because we’ve just announced Streaming for Change, the first-ever Funding Exchange virtual film festival. We’ve got a great lineup of films, including the masterful Boogie Man: the Lee Atwater story. You may not have heard the name Lee Atwater in a while, but you’ve heard of his work: he’s the mastermind behind the racist “Willie Horton” ad campaign of 1988, a mentor to Karl Rove and a man willing to manipulate racism for gain who rose to become the head of the Republic National Committee.

In an election season where one strategy will be to play the race card — a play directly out of the Lee Atwater playbook — I’m glad that we’re able to bring the film Boogie Man: the Lee Atwater Story to our supporters, along with five other insightful and provocative documentaries. This film is one of three in the festival produced with the support of the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media, and all the films cover complex topics with thoughtfulness and professionalism.

We have a long history of helping folks shine a light on tough issues. I hope that when you want to learn the real story about Lee Atwater and what a modern “negative” campaign looks like, you grab the chance to see this film in early October.

In the meantime, don’t spend so much time watching the convention that you miss out on the waning summer sun!