Lou Cannon’s explanation for Ronald Reagan starting off his 1980 general election campaign near the site of a famous civil rights triple murder with a speech about “states’ rights” is that Reagan — who was 69 years old at the time and had served eight years as a governor in addition to making political speeches for conservative causes for two decades by then — was just a blunder by a poor young country boy who “had not yet become the skilled operator the nation would see as president.”
According to Cannon, Reagan had a “showmans superstition that it was bad luck to cancel an engagement once it was booked.” Too bad he didn’t have some sort of superstition that would have convinced him to support the right of black people. Cannon’s quick to make the point that Reagan was no bigot, it’s just that he was “understandably anathema in the black community not because of his personal views but because of his consistent opposition to federal civil rights legislation, most notably the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.” Well, that clears things right up He wouldn’t say anything bad about you to your face. He might even shake your hand. But he wouldn’t support your rights.
Unless you were a state, that is.