GOP Candidate's Latest Phrase Mirrors Racist Governor's Famous Line Defending Segregation
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During a fiery inauguration speech in January 1963, Alabama Gov. George Wallace (photo, top, left) coined a phrase that would become etched in American history and forever associated with his racist bigotry.
Comparing it to "tyranny," Wallace vowed to fight the federal government's impending intervention to force integration upon the states.
"In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw a line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever," Wallace declared:
Nearly 53 years later, GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz (photo, top, right) channeled Wallace on Friday, invoking a similar phrase to emphasize his opposition to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US. And Cruz's statement came during an appearance in, of all places, Alabama.
Cruz reportedly was responding to a question about a story in The New York Times, which unearthed a memo in which Cruz advised his former boss, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, to take a softer tone on the issue of immigration. Cruz was asked Friday whether he thinks the memo would be a liability in the general election.
“My position is very simple. I oppose amnesty. I oppose citizenship. I oppose legalization … Today, tomorrow, forever," Cruz said.
According to the Times, the phrase was one example of how Cruz's rhetoric is becoming more similar to that of frontrunner Donald Trump, as the Texas senator tries to cut into Trump's lead and fend off attacks over his record on immigration from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Cruz hasn't gone quite that far — yet — but he recently began referring to undocumented immigrants as “undocumented Democrats,” according to the Times. And to use language mirroring Wallace's in Alabama sure seems like a conscious effort to appeal to racist voters.
On the 50th anniversary of Wallace's speech in 2013, NPR reported that the governor's rhetoric led directly to violence, including the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, which killed four young black girls.
"Words can be very powerful. Words can be dangerous," Georgia Congressman John Lewis told NPR. "Gov. Wallace never pulled a trigger. He never fired a gun. But in his speech, he created the environment for others to pull the trigger, in the days, the weeks and months to come."