tv Frank Rizzo and White Working- Class Voters CSPAN May 5, 2018 9:25pm-9:51pm EDT
mayor frank rizzo in the concerns of white middle-class voters is the topic of the interview coming up next. american history tv was at the organization of american historians' annual meeting in sacramento, california, where we spoke with officer timothy lobato, who compares enzo politics in the 1970's to today's lyrical climate. this is about 20 minutes. -- to today's political climate. this is about 20 minutes. lombardo is avat professor of history. what is the premise of your book? the premisembardo: is a way to look at changes in working middle-class politics in the 1960's and 1970's. i used frank rizzo, a key figure in the city in that era as sort
of a gateway to look at his supporters, these people who love him and supported him through his time as police commissioner in the late 1960's and mayor in the 1970's, and i him their affiliation with to trace how they dealt with the major changes in the country in the 1960's and 1970's. everything from the civil rights movement to the broader politics of the so-called urban crisis. >> you just touch on this, but who was frank rizzo? become mayor of philadelphia, and what was his lasting legacy? dr. lombardo: frank rizzo was an immigrant's son. he came up through the streets, and he dropped out of high school, and he followed his followers' footsteps into the
philadelphia police department. he earned a reputation as one of the toughest cops on the force apparently early on. he earned the nickname cisco kid , and a television cowboys partly through his own connections and partly through dedication to police work, he rose through the ranks fairly when he wasl 1967, appointed police commissioner. deputyen he was commissioner, he was turning into a very controversial figure. in the era of, you know, civil rights and urban disorder, philadelphia had its own urban riot in 1964. he came up kind of in relation to all that, promising law and order. known for his way of
treating criminals was an italian phrase for crack their heads. while this did not win him praise among liberals and especially the african-american community, it made him very popular among those blue-collar white ethnics that clamored for law and order, same things very goldwater was talking about, richard nixon was talking about. rizzo was a local paragon of law and order, and he used it. he used his popularity as police commissioner with all these people as a springboard to a broader political career. in 1971, he ran for mayor, and he won. he was a democrat, but he still won on a platform of, you know, maintaining law and order. his campaign slogan was rizzo means business, and that meant what you wanted it to mean. it was actually a masterstroke
of political double meaning. it could mean he brings prosperity but also that he was going to deal with these people who bring trouble. for two terms as mayor of philadelphia, he divided the city in a lot lot of ways. he broke with his own party in 1972 in the campaign for next in. he opposed everything from affirmative action to public housing to cool desegregation, and he did so very flamboyantly -- pool desegregation, and he did so very flamboyantly. , hisghout all of it supporters supported him, so much that he survived a challenge to the democratic primary in 1975. he survived a recall challenge in 1976 and almost managed to change the city charter so he could run for a third term in 1978, and that movement only fell apart when he told an all-white audience in northeast
philadelphia to vote white for charter change. through it all, he was controversial and hated, but he was loved by these people who saw him as one of their own, the working-class kid, sun of immigrants who dropped out of high school and worked his way up to this top position in philadelphia. responded towho that is who i write about. >> and want to come back to that, but what happened after he left city hall? he left, but he kept trying to come back. he ran again as a democrat and love -- lost to philadelphia's african-american mayor. he ran again as a republican in 1987. he lost that as well. he ran one more time in 1991 as a republican, and when a lot of people start to think he would win, he died on the campaign trail in 1991.
hope.er really gave up until he died, he kept trying to get that position back. >> let's go back to the 1970's. you mentioned richard nixon, famous for the silent majority, white working class. archie bunker, "all in the .amily," very popular how did this all play out in this key voting block? dr. lombardo: archie bunker would have felt right at home in frank rizzo's philadelphia. nixon sought rizzo as part of his urban strategy. nixon was a strategist. white voters' allegiance was really up for grabs after the 1960's. he saw rizzo as a way of getting this constituency that had for decades voted democratic, and he saw frank rizzo as key to it. rizzo and nixon were allies.
rizzo made a spectacle of himself in a lot of ways campaigning for rizzo. conference with a rubber chicken with a mcgovern sticker on it. to mock him. as nixon had his so-called southern strategy, he also had his urban strategy to do this with these blue-collar whites that really has not been looked at as much. >> was he a racist? dr. lombardo: he would not say so. he would say he's not. --zo was very fond of saying these accusations dr. him throughout his career from police to mayor, and when asked, he would very much save, "the last thing i am is against somebody for being a different
color than me," but at the same hee, all of the policies championed, all of the things he is doing say something else. inican-americans philadelphia absolutely believed he was racist, and his reputation preceded him. when stokely carmichael, the leader of the student nonviolent coordinating committee came to philadelphia in the 1960's, specifically came to protest "racist rizzo." one of the arguments i make in the book is that this process of anying racist motivations is big part of blue-collar conservatism. >> when supporters set in 1971 that frank rizzo is "one of us," what are they referring to? dr. lombardo: one of my favorite stories in the book, and is the one that directly opens the book, is that rizzo shows up at this columbus a concert -- columbus day concert.
he says he's there to hear the music and celebrate his italian heritage and all that, but he stands out. he is a hard guy to miss. and this is in south philly, so people just clamored around him. makes his way out to the little corner bar, and he is talkingar, and he to people, shaking hands, and he raises a toast, and then he leaves. a reporter hangs around to talk what you likeasks about him, and they say they like him because he is not a phd. us. say, "rizzo is one of he came up the hard way." then that he is from a south philadelphia road home. in the context of the election, he was up against the president of the chamber of commerce, who was a there he wealthy
individual. rizzo did not have wealth, that was true. .e was a cop first and foremost one of the things i say in the book is when it came to blue-collar professions and blue-collar jobs, few in philadelphia were more blue-collar than police officers , and that mattered to people, that relate ability mattered .eeply >> what did he sound like? uh, baritone? hard to describe. baritone voice. steve: he seems like he was a pretty gruff guy. dr. lombardo: yes. i would not say he sounds uneducated, but he sounds unpolished. he very much is a guy who says the first thing that comes to mind, write? he's the type of guy that in an interview -- and i have watched
several of them in which he walked out because he is confronted with some of these things -- he just says what he is going to say, and sometimes it gets him in trouble. he says a lot of things throughout the 1970's that get him in trouble. famous incidents, he is at one point accused of using the police department as a personal's firing spy on his enemies. a democratic by committeeman. there's this big, open feud between him and this guy. decidesadelphia press to get involved and they say they are going to give everybody involved in this polygraph test to see how it works out. and rizzo agrees. immediately before he takes the exam, he points to what he says, if this machine says and man
lied, he lied. of course, he failed, and his opponent passes. this is the kind of way he talks, how he shoots from the hip. received tons of letters from philadelphians talking about how the media trick him -- tricked him. the liberal media is trying to take down the working man's man. no matter what he did, in certain circumstances, he could not lose their loyalty. steve: you are a historian, but i have to ask you about the current occupant of the white house. are there any parallels? if frank rizzo were alive today, would he feel comfortable in donald trump hoss white house? trump's white house? dr. lombardo: i think so, but i would not be the first to make that comparison. meeral people reached out to during the election.
they had a very similar style, sort of unpolished campaign style. at one point, i say people who talk about trump, one of the things they say they like about him is he tells it like it is. he follows a very similar script. in fact, his son, donald trump, jr. had campaign stops and des calling hisept father a blue-collar billionaire. jerry falwell said the same thing at the republican national convention. the same thing. blue-collar in this instance has nothing to do with wealth. it has to do with cultural identity. donald trump was very, very good at using those -- at least in the campaign. his policies have not really followed through on that, but the way he talks about coal mining.
famous picture of him in the truck outside of the white house. when he talks about jobs, he's talking about manufacturing jobs. he's talking about blue-collar work. that do not exist the way they used to. that is the mindset he has an people here it and respond to it. steve: generally speaking, the white working class voter, if you look at the trends, went for lyndon johnson in 1964, richard nixon in 1972, reagan in 1980 reagan4, the so-called democrats, then went back to clinton in 1980 -- 1992, barack obama in 2008 and generally speaking, donald trump in 2016. is that correct? dr. lombardo: for the most part. one of the things to understand about clinton and obama is one of the things we often overlook is how much the democratic party
shifted since the 1960's. the democratic party of bill clinton is not the democratic party of lyndon johnson. it is bill clinton who ends welfare as we know it. they turned this back into a far stillentrist party that feels that, and clinton has that style. he was able to do that. is big one you talk about reagan, and the reagan democrat -- for all intents and purposes my book is a study of people who would later be called reagan democrats. before they were reagan democrats in philadelphia, people were already calling them crats. steve: what is it about the white working-class voters?
what do they want from politicians? difficultdo: that is to say. they are not a monolithic group, and we should not treat the white working class as if they are this amorphous blob of interests. is an economic vulnerability. they are not opposed, at least the people i write about a not entirely opposed to government programs, to economic programs, to taxation and things like that. they just want the recipients who get these things to have torned" their right to them, have worked hard for them, and what they begin to argue in the 1960's and 1970's or they begin to believe that the people who are getting things like public housing or school integration or affirmative action, that these are special privileges, and these are not going to people
who deserve them. that is their argument. they want a government that functions for the working class, but their working-class. steve: another pop-culture question, but is it "roseanne" meets archie bunker and "all in the family?" dr. lombardo: i've been thinking about that quite a bit lately. i think roseanne is following the script, this blue-collar conservative script. i don't think it is in any way intentional, but i watched the first few episodes of the show, and, you know, there's the confrontation between her and jackie that has been, like, the centerpiece of all the talk, her sister asking how could you vote for that man, and they never mention his name, and she responds by talking about jobs. he's going to shake things up. this language is what is key in my book. this is what makes it what i
call blue-collar conservatism, this language of class, this language of blue-collar authenticity, this language of jobs and on top of that, class is a means of saying it is not about race. that is what they are doing in the 1960's and the 1970's. it's not about race, it's about class. it's about blue-collar values. family in this new iteration of the show's multicultural. she has a gender nonconforming grandson. this isd of like saying about class, it's about jobs, not about what a lot of people , as pointed to as trumpism racial resentment. steve: your book comes out in september 2018. you teach at the university of south alabama, but you are a philadelphia native. dr. lombardo: i am. born and raised. family still there. steve: how do they help you
prepare for this book? dr. lombardo: in every way possible. this book took a lot of research. i'm a philadelphia native, but i tried to put myself as an andider to make sure i dug did not let what i think i know , but i'm city ruin it from there. i stayed with my sister for months while i was researching the book. to an extent, there's a lot of things i fundamentally disagree with frank rizzo about. though the book takes place largely before i was born, most of it -- the last chapter and a half, i was an infant -- this is in large part the story of my extended family. steve: did they tell you stories about that time period? dr. lombardo: most of them are
not around anymore. when i first started this project, i was at my grandmother's house. my grandmother was not well enough off to really talk about it, but i told her i was starting a project about frank rizzo, and she got a little tear and she said, "we could really again." like him i didn't have a hard to disagree with her at that point. i just said, "ok, grandma." one of the things i want to do in the book is not treat these people like caricatures. the way that the white working class has usually been written about is almost like reactionaries or foils in the standard narrative of civil and great society liberalism.
they pose those things, but the last thing i wanted to do is treat them like monsters. they are humans, and even if you disagree with them and do not like the things they say or believe, they have human feelings and personalities, and i wanted to bring those people humanity,ow their even if you don't agree with everything they say. steve: the book is titled " blue-collar conservatism: frank philadelphia." thank you for joining us. we appreciate it. dr. lombardo: thank you very much. >> live sunday morning on "1958: america in turmoil," we look at the impact of the vietnam war at home. while the war was fought in the jungles of vietnam, student marches and acts of civil disobedience on american streets dominated the headlines. ,oining us to talk about that
doug stanton, and a filmmaker whose recent project with ken burns was a 10-part documentary "the vietnam war." watch live sunday at 8:30 eastern on c-span's "washington journal" and on american history tv on c-span3. >> this weekend, on american history tv, the vietnam helicopter pilot and crew member monument is dedicated at arlington national cemetery. here is a preview of the ceremony. bob, for the kind introduction. the leadership that you and your team have provided in bringing us together in the nation's to this hallowed place on holy ground. is a place that houses the
remains of over 400,000 of our nation's heroes, from presidents to privates, all who committed themselves and their lives to maintain and preserve our nation's security and independence won by our forefathers. what a beautiful day and what a beautiful setting for us to memorialize our comrades in arms . paying our respects and tribute to their sacrifices during the which is always known as the helicopter war. over 12,000 helicopters -- army, navy, air force, marine corps -- carried the fight to the enemy. it is only fitting that our monument we dedicate today bear the iconic symbol of the uh-1. over 10,000 were built for that war and 7000 saw service in the theater, flying that lugging
over 7.5 million flight hours, more combat time than any other aircraft in the history of warfare. 4901 of our pilots and crew members gave their lives. were only 19ilots years of age, and two were over 50 years of age. ceremonythe entire sunday at 11:00 a.m. eastern. american history tv, only on c-span3. "indeptharly 20 years, " has featured the nation's best-known nonfiction writers for life conversations about their books. this year, as a special project, we are featuring best-selling fiction writers. join us live sunday at noon eastern with thriller fiction writer david baldock to, whose recent book is "the
fallen," which is number one on the fiction list. he has written six novels for .ounger readers turn the program, we will be taking your phone calls, tweets, and facebook messages. with authorseries david baldock t sunday live from them to 3:00 p.m. eastern -- aldacci,ldock -- david b sunday live from noon to 3:00 p.m. eastern. >> this weekend, american history tv is featuring tyler, texas. c-span's cities tour staff recently visited many sites showcasing its history. located 100 miles southeast of dallas, tyler is considered an economic hub in northeast texas, and known as the rose capital of america. learn more about tyler all weekend here on american history tv.