Have you been hearing something weird from Conservative pundits lately about “The Southern Strategy”? Have they been saying “The Southern Strategy” never happened? Or that “The Southern Strategy” is a lie pushed by Communists?
Well, let me give you a quick list of things that have really happened in American History:
1.) The O.J. Simpson trial.
2.) In the 1980s they released “New Coke” and then discontinued it.
3.) In the 1960s, Richard Nixon reached out to racist, Southern voters in an effort to win the Presidential Election. He noted how previous Republican candidates for the Senate and the House were able to win significant electoral victories by appealing to White Southern Evangelical voters and members of the KKK. As the Republican Party began to direct their campaigns to segregationists, racists and White Supremacists, Southern Democratic voters quickly began to vote Republican.
All of those things are real.
How do we know? Some important history:
Both Democrats and Republicans were very different parties in the 1950s and 60s. Many of the Democrats were not at all interested in the equal rights of Black People, many did not support the 1964 The Civil Rights Act, and many were full-blown members of the KKK. But once Nixon signaled to racist, Southern, Democratic voters that he was against desegregation and Civil Rights, those Democratic voters quickly defected to the Republican Party. This transformed the Republican Party from a party of equal rights and desegregation into a home for racists, Neo-Nazis, and White Supremacists. In response, the demographics of the Democratic Party solidified it into one permanently dedicated to fighting for Civil Rights.
That was it. That’s a fact. That was how it went down. It’s a matter of history, not opinion.
So, how do you debate someone who says “That never happened?” What do you say to someone who says “Oh, that murder I committed? That never happened. That person is alive.” when you were just at the victim’s funeral?
The answer is: you can’t.
Conservative pundits such as Dinesh D’Souza, Ben Shapiro, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh and others are working overtime to hammer home the lie that “The Southern Strategy” never happened. After all, Richard Nixon did help to draft the 1957 Civil Rights Act while working under President Eisenhower. But, as you’ll see, Nixon did not remain committed to this path and ultimately sold out the Republican Party out of political expediency. Rather than address this fact, Conservative pundits attempt to discredit it or simply ignore it to advance their agenda.
It is a blatant exercise in cherry-picking and Confirmation Bias that is nothing short of Revisionist History.
For example, Conservatives have an almost pathological fixation on the fact that the Democratic Party was almost solely responsible for founding the KKK in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1865. That is, and has always been, 100% True. It’s a fact. It’s an historic fact.
So, for anyone wishing to argue that the Democratic Party has always been the party of Civil Rights, desegregation, abolishing Jim Crow Laws, and fighting racism, they would be sadly mistaken. Conservatives can’t help but to drool and touch themselves whenever they utter this talking point.
However, what Republicans habitually fail to mention is that between the founding of the KKK in 1865 and the 1964 Presidential Election, those ninety-nine-years brought about a hell of a lot of change. It was during this period that Republicans and Democrats abandoned their Party-line, long-standing positions on social issues. Some moved forward to support Civil Rights and others moved backward to oppose Civil Rights. But none of them stayed where they were on the issue.
But before we get into The Southern Strategy, let’s air more of the Dems dirty laundry, just to get it all out in the open: in the 1900s, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson was, arguably, the most racist President in America’s history. Hands down. He was the first (and only) President to premiere “Birth of a Nation” at the White House. Think of how insane that would be today! (Well, given the current administration, not that outlandish.) The film is essentially an unabashed piece of racist propaganda, depicting evil, soulless Blacks trying to rape, pillage and destroy White People; all while the noble, heroic KKK members (carrying crosses, representing Christianity) rode in on horseback, fighting, and killing them. The film was so powerful and so revolutionary for its time that it cemented racist narratives into our national consciousness for generations to come.
That film, the most powerful piece of racist propaganda of all time, was premiered by a Democrat. A Democrat did that. And Republicans love to point that out
But, again, a hell of a lot changed between 1900 and 1964 and Republicans seem to have amnesia. Their pundits certainly do.
Here’s another crucial Conservative talking point in the “Dems are Racists” diabtribe, and perhaps the most relevant: the percentage of Democrats voting against Civil Rights legislation was higher than Republicans in the 1950s and the early 1960s. This is also true.
You can reference any fact-checking website you want, and the result will be the same. Like it or not, many Democrats voted against Civil Rights legislation in the 50s and 60s, while a larger percentage of Republicans voted in favor of it.
Perhaps many of us have forgotten, but the Democrats of the 1950s consisted of a number of White, Southern, Evangelical Christians who, for generations, ardently supported segregation, Jim Crow Laws, and racist institutions. Their most devoted member, Strom Thurmond, actually filibustered against the Civil Rights Act of 1957. His filibuster lasted for 24 hours, the longest filibuster in American History. It was also during this period that Southern Democrats wrote “The Southern Manifesto” in opposition to the ruling of “Brown v. The Board of Education”, stating that segregation in schools would lead to the “mongrelization of the White Race”.
That’s as racist as racist can be. No doubt about it. Those were all Democrats.
Pretty damning stuff, right?
Sure. If you ignore everything else that’s happened since then, yes, you’d definitely conclude Democrats are the “Racist” party and were never a party of Civil Rights.
But that, of course, simply isn’t true. Ya know…because of history.
Remember how I mentioned “The Southern Strategy”? Good. Because, that’s the sole reason Conservatives want American History to stop at 1964. It marked a terrible shift in Republican policy that essentially acted as a declaration war on Black People and human rights. To date, it has succeeded in a very dangerous, efficient, and revolutionary way that, for the most part, flipped the allegiances of both parties.
Just as the Democrats can’t stand that their Party was responsible for the KKK, Jim Crow, and opposing Civil Rights legislation, Republicans can’t stand that they created, and followed up on, The Southern Strategy. Their paid pundits simply cannot stop denying that it ever happened.
Let’s take a good, long look at The Southern Strategy:
In the 1950s and 60s, we know that White Supremacists, KKK members, and Neo-Nazis were madly in love with the Democrats. They were almost synonymous with one another.
But in 1964 there was a major, revolutionary change in the Democratic Party: the majority of the Democrats voted in favor of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (proposed by Democratic President John F. Kennedy in 1963) opposing the wishes of a dwindling portion of racist Democratic lawmakers.
80% of Republicans voted for it and 70% of Democrats did.
There. Did you see that? Did you see where the Republican argument just totally fell apart? Let me repeat that last sentence: 80% of Republicans voted for it and 70% of Democrats did.
That’s right. 70% of Democrats voted in favor of The Civil Rights Act of 1964.
A question should be emerging in your mind at this point: if the Democrats were considered the party of diehard segregation, racism, and White Supremacy (as today’s Republicans claim) then why would the majority vote in favor of preserving the inalienable rights of Black People?
Answer: because, by 1964, they no longer supported those ideas. They opposed them. Racism in the Democratic Party was dying a painful death. In fact, it had been dying as early as 1948 when Democratic Senator Hubert Humphrey gave a landmark speech opposing segregation and denouncing racism. From that point forward, the Democratic Party was split, with the majority opposing segregation and decrying racist policies.
As difficult as it is for Republicans to admit, at this point in history, the Democratic Party was majority pro-Civil Rights and minority racist. This split within the Party was divided along the Southern, White, Evangelical Democrats who supported segregation and racism and the Northern, Non-Denominational Democrats who opposed segregation and racism.
Incidentally, quite a few White, Souther, Evangelical Christians belonged to the Republican Party at this point as well.
This is no small matter. By being divided within their own Party, the Democrats demonstrated that, by the late 1940s, one’s Political Party was no longer the key indicator as to whether or not they (or their voters) would cast a vote in favor of a racist policy.
So, if Party was no longer an indicator of racism by the late 1940s, then what was? The key indicator became whether a voter was Southern or Northern, and whether they were Evangelical or Non-Denominational.
Again, Conservatives never seem to mention that. Never.
Republicans also conveniently forget to mention that Democrats began to call the racists in their ranks the derogatory term “Dixecrats”. This, of course, was a reference to racist Democrats mostly living in the “Land of Dixie” in the South (home of the KKK).
Thus, by 1964, racism could no longer be localized to the Democratic Party. Instead, it could be found, almost exclusively, within a single, well-defined Demographic:
Southern, White, Evangelical Christians
And, sadly, it has remained there ever since.
It’s a tough concept for Republicans to accept, and Conservatives start screaming and yelling if you break the news to them, but as far as racism after the 1940s, the Dems pretty much had nothing to do with it.
Still don’t believe me? Then ask yourself some questions:
What Party did the majority of Southern White Evangelical Christian Segregationists vote for after 1964? Answer: Republicans.
Before that? Democrats.
What Party did the majority of Southern White Evangelical Christians, and KKK members, vote for in 2016? Answer, again: Republicans.
Who did Black Civil Rights leaders and most Black voters vote for in elections from 1964 to 2016? Democrats.
Final question: if 80% of Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Democrats were known to be racists, then why would wealthy, White, Evangelical KKK members, Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists start start voting for Republicans in the midterm and Presidential elections throughout the 1960s?
Answer: Because the Republicans devised a racist strategy to win their votes.
And what was that strategy called? Let’s all say it together:
“The Southern Strategy”.
It was created by Richard Nixon’s Chief of Staff, Harry Dent, and it impacted the Republican Party for generations to come. Once Republican Barry Goldwater opposed The Civil Rights Act of 1964 in an effort to appeal to racist Democrats and Republicans in the South, and actually succeeded in securing the votes of several Southern States (a feat that had not occurred since The Civil War), the 1968 Nixon campaign realized that the impenetrable voting block of Southern, White, Evangelical racists could actually be swung from Democrat to Republican.
White, Southern, Evangelical voters had hated the Republicans ever since The Civil War. After all, it had been Republican Abraham Lincoln that waged war against the institution of slavery. But, after Goldwater picked up many racist, White, Southern Evangelical votes, Nixon’s campaign realized that all the Republican Party needed to do to win votes in the Southern States was to send one very simple, very powerful signal to racist voters: we support racism.
Kevin Price Phillips, Richard Nixon’s political strategist for the 1968 Presidential Election, gave a brief account of the reasoning behind The Southern Strategy. In a 1970 interview, Phillips states:
“All the talk about Republicans making inroads into the Negro vote is persiflage. Even ‘Jake the Snake’ [Senator Jacob Javits of New York] only gets 20 percent. From now on, Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote, and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”
Thus, not only was the passage of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and The Voting Rights Act of 1965 regarded by Republicans as an effort to discredit the Democrats who helped to pass it in the eyes of Southern White voters, but the entire enterprise was also performed in the interest of securing those Southern White Evangelical Racist votes.
To Nixon and his team, “Civil Rights” had little to do with it. It was mostly a political tactic.
Nixon’s Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman wrote in his office journals:
“The President emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the Blacks. The key is devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to…He pointed out that there has never in history been an adequate Black nation and they are the only race of which this is true. He says Africa is hopeless, the worst there is Liberia, which we built.”
Haldeman references what is referred to today as “dog-whistle politics”, where coded language spoken by politicians and lobbyists serves as a signal to a specific group of voters (typically racists and anti-Semites) letting them know that they are secretly on their side.
But the most damning account of all (arguably the worst support of institutionalized racism since The Civil War) came from Republican Chief Strategist Harvey Lee Atwater, who served under President Ronald Reagan in the 80s and President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
In a 1981 interview in the publication “Southern Politics” Atwater responds to his interviewer:
“Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry Dent and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [Reagan] doesn’t have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he’s campaigned on since 1964 […] and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster…
Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?
Atwater: Y’all don’t quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like ‘forced busing,’ ‘states’ rights,’ and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now that you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is that blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’”
There you have it. On tape and in print. The full breadth and ugliness of Republican hypocrisy concerning racism is laid bare in this stunning interview. Here, we see a Republican strategist speaking comfortably about using coded language to appeal to racist, White voters in order to advance their interests and ruin the lives of Black People.
But Atwater’s racist policies were not being carried out in the distant past of the 1950s and 60s. No. When Atwater gave his interview, it was in the 1980s – and Atwater went on to serve with George H.W. Bush into the 1990s.
You’ve got to admit, the racism of Republicans in the 1990s is a hell of a lot closer and more relevant to present-day policies than, say, the founding of the KKK in the 1860s after The Civil War, or a minority of Dems opposing Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s.
Did I mention it was a minority of Dems in the 40s, 50s, and 60s? Because it was. Again, Republicans don’t like to mention that.
It is important that Atwater mentioned Nixon’s Chief Strategist, Harry Dent. Dent began as an assistant to Democratic Senator Strom Thurmond. You might remember Thurmond from earlier. He was the KKK member who filibustered the Civil Rights Act and The Voting Act. It was Thurmond, along with his assistant Dent, who became the first Democrats to officially defect to the Republican Party. (Many others retained their Democratic Party loyalty, but directed every single vote against their own Party.)
If one doubts the fact that Republicans were appealing to the KKK and White Supremacists in the 1960s, one need only look to where the most devoted KKK members like Strom Thurmond felt most welcome. Hint: it rhymes with the word “Spreepublicans”.
With the assistance of Thurmond and Dent during the 1964 election, Nixon was finally able to win South Carolina and made major headway in many of the Southern States. After Thurmond and Dent defected to the Republican Party, they remained staunch advocates for Nixon, stumping for him every chance they got and assuring that the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and White Supremacists in the South knew that Nixon was on their side.
Once Nixon was elected, he promoted Harry Dent to Special Counsel and Chief Strategist. Dent’s implementation of The Southern Strategy soon became Party Line politics for the entire Party. After that, Harry Dent became known universally as the architect of The Southern Strategy.
As Atwater alludes, it continued well through the 1980s and 1990s.
So, there you go. There it is. It’s real. It really happened. It’s on Nixon’s tapes, it’s in writing, and it’s in recorded interviews from Nixon’s own people.
Harvey Lee Atwater explained it all quite thoroughly.
So the Party responsible for pandering to racists and carrying institutionalized racism into the 21st century certainly isn’t the Democrats.
And, given the long-standing history of this Nixon-style, under-the-radar, folksy, religiously-pandering style of racism, it is not at all unreasonable to infer that this level of racism is still part and parcel of the Republican Party today.
How do we know? Just ask the pundits. Ask Dinesh D’Souza, Ben Shapiro, Laura Ingraham, or any other Conservative pundit who gets on TV and pukes out the phrase “Democrats are the real Party of Racism!” They’re educated people. They know they’re not telling the whole story. That’s how you know that everything dribbling out of their slathering chops is complete and utter bullshit.
D’Souza, himself, actually went out of his way to state that slaves in America were “treated rather well” because their owners considered the property, and did not want to “damage” them.
Think about that. Think about how sick that is.
Well, the Republican Party, and its Conservative pundits, have been like that for over seventy years now. One needs only to take two seconds, read and listen to the Conservative pundits carefully, and think.
“America First”? Goddamn, man! That’s the original slogan of the Ku Klux Klan!
So, with all of this said, it’s pretty obvious why Black voters have allied themselves with the Democrats for decades on end and, quite frankly, should continue to do so. Based on history, and based on the facts, it sure as hell isn’t because they’re “The Party of Racism”.
Like it or not, there are no “two sides” to this story, folks. Sadly, right now, Republicans are still racist as hell. This is true no matter how much they claim that they’re not. To quote James Baldwin: “I cannot believe what you say because I see what you do.”
You can see what they do. You can see it in their policies, their rhetoric, and in the tweets of our current President.
And until someone really calls them out for it, really pushes back against them, and until all Americans take a serious, defiant stand, they will continue to level the charge of “racism” at everyone but themselves – all while stabbing America in the back.
The Republicans are full-blown racists. It’s a fact. They cannot lie to you forever. You have history on your side.
Take a stand.