Here is some interesting commentary on the use of racism by conservative politicians.
Krugman says that he doesn’t think most conservative politicians are racist or even care much about the race issue, but they do realize many of their base is racist and/or cares about the race issue. Because overt racism stopped being acceptable, conservative politicians just started using code words. I’ve noticed a number of commentaries recently pointing out how Reagan became president by provoking racism. So, racism is apparently a major reason for how the Republican party held so much power in the last several decades. Only now is racism as a ploy becoming less effective because the younger generations (that have become an increasing voting force) are the complete opposite of racist and also because whites are losing their majority position.