Ronald Dellums, a black, and openly socialist democratic member of the senate, began his campaign to end US support for the South African regime for apartheid in 1972.

By 1986 he had put together the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Bill which had the full support of both sides of the house, both Democratic and Republican.

However, the then President Ronald Regan vetoed it and then the veto was overturned by house.

Why did President Ronald Reagan exert his veto on a bill, which the subsequent history was on the right side of history?

Edit: from Wikipedia, the reason given by Reagan, was that it would mostly hurt the impoverished black majority and lead to more civil strife.

closed as off-topic by Giter, Pieter Geerkens, José Carlos Santos, user22735, KillingTime Jul 17 at 21:14

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  • 3
    Note that for the veto override, the Democrats (who controlled both houses) were mostly unanimous while the Republicans were split. Wikipedia gives Reagan's official reasoning Keep in mind that the parties were less divided from each other than they are today, and thus you didn't see such kneejerk support for the a party's own president as today. – Gort the Robot Jul 17 at 4:19
  • @Steve Burnap: One of the roles that History has is to peer behind the ‘official’ reasoning. Where would we be if we had to believe every piece of official reasoning? History is about plotting the truth behind many kinds of discourses - official and unofficial. It doesn’t surprise me that the Republicans were more split on this issue, nevertheless, on the whole they supported it, otherwise the Presidential veto would not have been overturned. – Mozibur Ullah Jul 17 at 4:26
  • Probably for the same reason(s) he and his predecessors took similar measures against other left-wing political groups. – Lucian Jul 17 at 10:44
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    If Wikipedia cites the official reasoning, isn't this question too basic? At a minimum, omitting the official reasoning makes this sound more like a push question than serious historical enquiry. – Mark C. Wallace Jul 17 at 10:50

If I remember correctly, the white apartheid government was pretty clever at making the "it's us or the Communists" argument. That would have immediately fixated Reagan's opposition. Remember, at the time, there were a number of West-vs-Soviet flashpoints in Africa.

Now, I am not actually supportive of that argument, and certainly history hasn't turned out that way. But it's not uncommon for countries to avoid US condemnation by playing to US fears and perceptions.

Add to it that Reagan was not exactly at the forefront of progressive racial relations himself, "welfare queens" was one of his well-known campaign dog whistles. However, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume that the main reason was the Communist angle, which is more in line with what he actually did while in power.

As far as the officially-given reason, "sanctions would hurt the people", that is an objection that is quite often voiced in similar cases. Both from those who would be at the receiving end of sanctions. And those that do not wish to impose sanctions, for whatever reason. Taking it at face value can be risky.



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