Bush’s patrician civility is supposed to stand in contrast to Trump’s gutter racism. But Bush, for all his decency, fully embraced the GOP’s post-Lyndon Johnson southern strategy, using racism to rally white conservative voters around white supremacy — all in the interest of solidifying his own political power. His infamous 1988 Willie Horton ad, which blamed his opponent Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis for a murder committed by a black parolee, was a grotesque dog whistle linking racism and crime.
Nor was that an aberration in his career, as Rebecca J. Kavanagh, senior staff attorney at The Legal Aid Society in New York City, pointed out on Twitter. Bush attacked the Civil Rights Act in 1964 to curry favor with Texas conservatives. As president, he vetoed a civil rights act that would have prevented discrimination in employment, and a voter registration bill intended to register millions of minority voters.