tv Frank Rizzo and White Working- Class Voters CSPAN March 23, 2019 3:38am-4:01am EDT
from here on, it's up to us. . [music] on suspend, gilabrant holds a campaign rally in front of trump hotel in new york city. she announced her bid the week before. live coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. eastern on cspan next, a conversation about frank rizzo and the concerns of white working class voters in the 1970s. this interview was held at
american historians annual meeting in sacramento, california. it is about 20 minutes. lombardo is a professor of history at south alabama, book coming out in september "blue color." what is the premise of the book? >> the premise of the book is a way to look at changes in white working class -- middle class politics in the 1960s and '70s. i use frank rizzo, a key figure in the city in that era as sort of a gateway to look at his supporters. these people who loved him and supported him as police commissioner and mayor in the 1970s and i use their affiliation with them to trace
how they dealt with the changes, the major changes in the country in the 1960s and the '70s. everything from the civil rights movement to the brooder politics of the so-called urban crisis. >> you touched on this. who was he and what is his rise to politics? why is he mayor of philadelphia and what is his lasting legacy? >> so, frank rizzo was a immigrant son. born in a south philadelphia row home. and he, he came up through the streets and he dropped out of high school and he followed his father's footsteps in the philadelphia police department and he earned a reputation as one of the toughest cops in the force, fairly early on and he earned the nickname of ciscoe kid after a television cowboy.
and he just through dedication through the police department he rose through the ranks rapidly until 1957 when he was the police commissioner. and, as police commissioner he quickly -- even when he was deputy commissioner he was turning into a controversial figure. in the era of, you know, civil rights and urban disorder, philadelphia had its own urban riot in 1964. he came up in relation to all of that. promising law and order. he was very fond of saying that the way to treat criminals was "crack their head" italian phrase. it did not win him many favors through liberals and especially the african-american community it made him popular among the blue color white ethnics that clammerred for law and order. the same thing with berry cold
water was talking b richard nixon was talking about rizzo was local pirate on law and order. he used it. he used his popularity as police commissioner with all of these people as a springboard to a brooder political career in 1971. he ran for mayor and he won. he is 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. a masterstroke of political double meaning because it could mean, he is going to bring prosperity but it means he is going to deal with these people causing trouble. and, for 2 terms as mayor of philadelphia he sort of -- he divided the city in a lot of ways. he broke with his own party in 1972, a campaign for nixon.
he opposed everything from affirmative action to public housing to school desegregation and he did so flamboyantly. his controversial statements of series of scandals but throughout all of it, his supporters supported him. and they supported him so much that he survived a challenge to the democratic primary in 1975. he survived a recall challenge and he almost managed to change the city charter in 1978. that movement fell apart when he told an all white audience in northeast philadelphia as vote white for charter change. through it all, i mean, he was controversial and he was hated. he was loved by these people who saw him as one of their own. the working class kid, son of immigrants, who dropped out of high school and worked his way up to the top of the position of philadelphia.
and that. those people who responded at that. >> back to that in a moment. what happened after he left city hall? >> well, he left but lekept trying to come back. he ran again as a democrat in 1983. he lost to philadelphia's first african-american mayor. he then ran for player again as a republican in 1987. he lost that as well and he ran one more time in 1991 as a republican again and when a lot of people were starting to think that he was going to win, philadelphia has not had a republican mayor since 1938. he died on the campaign trail. he died in 1991. so, after he left he never really gave up hope. until he died he kept trying to get that position back. >> let's go back to the 1970s
-- rizzo was found of saying he -- he was -- when he -- he had activations throughout his career. from the police to mayor. and, when he was asked he was to say, he would say the last thing i is against somebody for being a different color than me. but at the same time, all of the policies he has championed. all of the things he is doing say something else. african-americans in philadelphia absolutely believed he was a racist. and, and his reputation proceeded him when -- when
carmichael, the leader came to protest quote unquote racist rizzo. but, one of the arguments actually made in the book is that this process of denying racist motivations is a big part of blue color conservatism. >> when his supporters said that frank rizzo is one of us, what were they referring to? >> one of my favorite stories in the book t opens the book, is that rizzo shows up at this columbus day concert. he says he is there to celebrate his heritage and he is 6 '2, a hard guy to miss. this is in south philly. people just clammered around him. he calmed the crowd down and he makes his way to a corner bar.
he is in the bar and he raises his -- talking to people, shaking hands and he raises a toast. then he leaves. political reporter hangs around to talk to people. and they said what do you like about him? he said we like him because he is not a phd. 11th grade drop out is going to straighten things up. he is one of us, came up the hard way. when they said that, when they said he is one of us, they meant he is from a south philadelphia row home in the context of the election. he was up against a -- president of the chamber of commerce, a wealthy individual. and, rizzo did not have that. that much was true. he was a cop. he was a cop first and foremost. when it came to blue-collar professions and jobs few in philadelphia were more blue color than police officers,
and, and that mattered to people, that relatability mattered deeply. to a lot of his people. >> what did he sound like? >> baritone? hard to describe. baritone voice. just -- he seems like he was a pretty gruff guy. >> yes. i would not say -- i would not say he sounds uneducated but sounds unpolished. and he very much is a guy who says the first thing that comes to mind, right? he is the type of guy that in an interview and i have watched dozens of them which he walks out because he is confronted with some of these things, he just says what he is going to say, sometimes it gets him in trouble. he says a lot of things throughout the 70s that get him in trouble. one of the famous incidents he
is at -- at one point accused of using the police department as a personal spying ring, spying on his enemies, he is accused by a fellow democratic committee man. there an open field between him. the philadelphia press decides they will get involved and get everybody involved in this. a polygraph test to see how it works out. and, rizzo agrees. immediately before he takes the exam, he ponents to it and he says if this machine says a man lied, he lied. he fails, his opponent passes. he shoots from the hip. he received tons of letters from philadelphiaians about how the media tricked him.
-- philadelphians, about how the media tricked him. he could not lose their loyalty. >> i have to ask you, with the current white house if rizzo was alive today would he feel comfortable in president trump's white house? my think so. i would not be the first person to make that comparison. several people before me, several journalists reached out to me during the election, a similar style of approaching, that will be sort of unpolished campaign style. the say it like it is. at one point i say, the people talk about trump, one thing they say he tells it like it is. and frank rizzo they might of called him one ever us.
you know, his son, donald trump jr, campaign stops in des moines and pittsburgh and other areas like this kept calling his father a blue-collar billionaireit was said at the republican national convention, the same thing, blue collar in this case has nothing to do with wealth it is the cultural identity. and donald trump is very, very good at using those. not a good follow-through on that. the way he talks about -- he talks about coal mining. he has, you know, the very famous picture of him in the truck outside of the white house. when he talks about jobs he is talking about manufacturing jobs, blue-collar jobs, jobs that do not exist and people
hear it and respond to it. >> generally speaking, the white working class voters, you look at the voting trends, johnson in 1964, richard nixon in 1972, went for reagan in 1980 and '84, the reagan democrats, then went back to clinton in 1992, barack obama in 2008 and then to trump in 2016 is that correct? >> for the most part. one thing to understand about the clinton and barack obama is that one of the things we often overlook is how much the democratic party shifted since the 1960s. the democratic party of bill clinton is not the democratic party of johnson. it is clinton who says the big era of big government is over. ends welfare as we know it. they turned us back into a
centerrist party. and clinton had that, you know, that style. he was able to do that. as for -- the big one you talk about is reagan. and the reagan democrat. for all intense and purposes my book is a local study of people who later be called reagan democrats. in fact, one of the lines in the book is before people called them reagan democrats in philadelphia they were calling them rizzocrates. it was less about the party and more about the person. >> let me take it one step further, what is it about the white working class voter. what did they want from the elected officials, the mayor of philadelphia or the president of the united states. it is difficult to say. >> you are right. they are not a monolithic group. we should not treat them as if they are, you know, as if they are this amorphous blob of interests. the way i see it there is an
economic vulnerability. they are not opposed, at least the people that i read about are 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 get quote unquote earn the rights for them and work hard for them. what they begin to see or argue in the 1960s, 1970s is or they begin to believe people who are getting public housing or school intergraduation or affirmitive actions are special privileges and not going to people that deserve it. they won it for the working class but their working class. >> another pop culture question, but is it rosanee meets archie bunker and all in the family? >> i have been thinking about
that lately. i think roseanne is following the script. this blue-collar script. no way intentional but i watched the episodes and the confrontation between her and jackie that has been the centerpiece of all of the talk is jackie, her sister asking how can you vote for that man. they never mention him, not his name. she was talking about jobs, shaking things up. and yeah, this language is what is really, i think, key in my book. this is what makes it what i call blue-color conservatism. language of class. the language of blue color authenticity and jobs and on top of that, not only is it class in means of saying it is not about race. that is what they are doing in the 1960s. that is what they are doing in 1970s. it is into the race.
it is blue color values, roseanne's family in this new part of the show is multicultural. a gender nonconforming grandson. it is about class, about jobs, not what a lot of people have pointed to as trumpism. >> your book comes out in september. >> yes. >> you teach at the university of south alabama. but you are a philadelphia native? >> i am born and raised. >> family still there. >> and how do they help you prepare for this book? >> oh, in every way possible. i mean, i -- this book took a lot of research. i am a philadelphia native but i went at this -- i tried to put myself as an outsider to make sure i thought -- like i dug and did not what i think i know about the city ruin it. but, i am from there. i stayed there, i stayed with
my sister for months while i was researching the book. -- and they to an extent -- there is a lot of things that i fundamentally disagree with frank rizzo about. and the book takes place largely before i was born, most of it, over the last chapter and a half i was an infant or a very small person. but this is the, in a lot of ways, this is a story of my extended family. my extended family were rizzo fans. >> did they tell you storys? >> well, they are not around anymore. most of them are not around anymore. but my -- when i first started this project i was at my grandmother's house and my grandmother was not well enough to talk about it. but, i told him, about a
project for rizzo and she got a little tears, she said we can use a man like him again. and i -- and i it not have the heart to disagree with her at that point. i just said, okay, grandma. so one of the things i wanted to do with the book is -- it is not treat these people like caricatures. the way they are usually written, civil rights and great society liberalism. they oppose it but i don't -- last thing i wanted to do is treat them like monsters. they are humans, even if you disagree and you don't like the things they say and believe, they have human feelings and personalities and i wanted to bring those people out to show their humanity even if you
don't agree with everything they said. >> the book is titled matthew for the associated press. you can follow him on twitter. matthew daly, thanks so much. >> thank you. coming up, american history tv on c-span3. as part of our lectures in history series we take a look at political advertising in the 1950s and dwight eisenhower's presidential campaign. later, a lesson on abraham lincoln and the 1860 election. and we will hear from president ronald reagan on his final days in the white house. next, on lectures in history. purdue university professor kathryn brownell teaches the class about