In American politics, the Southern strategy refers to a Republican Party strategy in the late 20th century of gaining political support for presidential candidates in the Southern United States by appealing to regional racial tensions and history of segregation.
The Democratic Party in the South defended slavery before the American Civil War. After regaining power in state governments in the 1870s, Democrats imposed white supremacy. At the end of the century, southern states passed new constitutions and laws making voter registration and voting more difficult, resulting in disenfranchising most blacks and many poor whites. The South became a one-party region, maintaining political exclusion of minorities well into the 1960s. The Solid South and its political power in Congress was achieved at the expense of African Americans. In the years after World War II, African Americans pressed for civil rights. White Southern Democrats gradually stopped supporting the national party following its adoption of the civil rights plank of the Democratic campaign in 1948 (against which the Dixiecrats formed), support for the African-American Civil Rights Movement, passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, and push for desegregation.
In the mid 1960s, a period of social turmoil, Republican Presidential candidates Senator Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon worked to attract southern white conservative voters to their candidacies and the Republican Party. Barry Goldwater won the five formerly Confederate states of the Deep South (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina) in the 1964 presidential election, but he otherwise won only in his home state of Arizona. In the 1968 presidential campaign, Nixon won Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee, all former Confederate states, contributing to the electoral realignment of white voters in some Southern states to the Republican Party. After federal civil rights legislation was gained via bipartisan votes, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, more than 90 percent of black voters registered with the Democratic Party. The VRA provided tools to end their decades-long disenfranchisement by southern states. Hundreds of cases have been litigated to change election systems, such as at-large voting, that have prevented even significant minorities from electing candidates of their choice for city and county positions.
As the twentieth century came to a close, most white voters in the South had shifted to the Republican Party. It began to try to appeal again to black voters and rebuild the political relationship that had lasted through the 1920s, though with little success. In 2005, Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman formally apologized to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a national civil rights organization, for exploiting racial polarization to win elections and ignoring the black vote.
Although the phrase "Southern strategy" is often attributed to Nixon's political strategist Kevin Phillips, he did not originate it but popularized it. In an interview included in a 1970 New York Times article, Phillips stated his analysis based on studies of ethnic voting:
- From now on, the 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 enforcement of 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.
While Phillips sought to increase Republican power by polarizing ethnic voting in general, and not just to win the white South, the South was by far the biggest prize yielded by his approach. Its success began at the presidential level. Gradually southern voters began to elect Republicans to Congress, and finally to statewide and local offices, particularly as some legacy segregationist Democrats retired or switched to the GOP. In addition, the Republican Party worked for years to develop grassroots political organizations across the South, supporting candidates for local school boards and city and county offices, as examples. But, following the Watergate scandal, in the 1976 election, southern voters came out in support for the "favorite son" candidate, Southern Democrat Jimmy Carter.
From 1948 to 1984 the Southern states, for decades a stronghold for the Democrats after disenfranchising most blacks, became key swing states, providing the popular vote margins in the 1960, 1968 and 1976 elections. During this era, several Republican candidates expressed support for states' rights, an issue over which southern states had argued against the federal government prior to the Civil War. Some political analysts said this term was used in the 20th century as a "codeword" to represent opposition to federal enforcement of civil rights for blacks and to federal intervention on their behalf; many individual southerners had opposed passage of the Voting Rights Act.
19th century disfranchisement and rise of the Solid South
After the American Civil War, southern states gained additional seats in the House of Representatives and representation in the Electoral College because the millions of freed slaves were granted full citizenship and suffrage. Southern white resentment stemming from the Civil War and the Republican Party’s policy of Reconstruction kept most southern whites in the Democratic Party, but the Republicans competed in the South with a biracial coalition of freedmen, Unionists, and highland whites.
Rising intimidation, election fraud, and violence by white paramilitary groups, such as the White League and Red Shirts, who supported the Democratic Party during the mid to late-1870s, contributed to the turning out Republican officeholders and suppression of the black vote. After the North agreed to withdraw federal troops under the Compromise of 1877, white Democrats used a variety of tactics in each election cycle to reduce voting by African Americans and poor whites. In the 1880s they began to pass legislation making election processes more complicated and in some cases requiring payment of poll taxes, which created a barrier for poor people of both races.
From 1890 to 1908, the white Democratic legislatures in every Southern state enacted new constitutions or amendments with provisions to disenfranchise most blacks and tens of thousands of poor whites. Provisions required payment of poll taxes, and complicated residency, literacy tests, and other requirements, which were subjectively applied against blacks. As blacks lost their vote, the Republican Party lost its ability to effectively compete in the South. There was a dramatic drop in voter turnout as these measures took effect, a decline in African-American participation that was enforced for decades in all southern states.
Because blacks were closed out of the political process, the South's congressional delegations and state governments were dominated by white Democrats until past the middle of the 20th century. Effectively, Southern white Democrats controlled all the votes of the expanded population by which Congressional apportionment was figured. Many of their representatives achieved powerful positions of seniority in Congress, giving them control of chairmanships of significant Congressional committees. Although the Fourteenth Amendment has a provision to reduce the Congressional representation of states that denied votes to their adult male citizens, this provision was never enforced. Because African Americans could not be voters, they were also prevented from being jurors and serving in local offices. Services and institutions for them in the segregated South were chronically underfunded by state and local governments, from which they were excluded.
During this period, Republicans held only a few House seats from the South. Between 1880 and 1904, Republican presidential candidates in the South received between 35 and 40 percent of that section's vote (except in 1892, when the 16 percent for the Populists knocked Republicans down to 25 percent). From 1904 to 1948, after disenfranchisement, Republicans received more than 30 percent of the section's votes only in the 1920 (35.2 percent, carrying Tennessee) and 1928 elections (47.7 percent, carrying five states). The only important political role of the South in presidential elections came in the 1912 election, when it provided the delegates to select Taft over Theodore Roosevelt in that year's Republican convention. In this period, more than 1.5 million African Americans left the South in the Great Migration, changing demographics in both the South and the North and becoming urbanized.
Scholar Richard Valelly credits Woodrow Wilson's election to the disfranchisement of blacks in the South, as it resulted in a substantial loss of votes by Republicans. He also documents far-reaching effects in Congress, where the Democratic South gained "about 25 extra seats in Congress for each decade between 1903 and 1953."
During this period, Republican administrations appointed blacks to political positions. Republicans regularly supported anti-lynching bills, but these were filibustered by Southern Democrats in the Senate. In the 1928 election, the Republican candidate Herbert Hoover rode the issues of prohibition and anti-Catholicism to carry five former Confederate states, with 62 of the 126 electoral votes of the section. After his victory, Hoover attempted to build up the Republican Party of the South, transferring his limited patronage away from blacks and toward the same kind of white Protestant businessmen who made up the core of the Northern Republican Party. With the onset of the Great Depression, which severely affected the South, Hoover soon became extremely unpopular. The gains of the Republican Party in the South were lost. In the 1932 election, Hoover received only 18.1 percent of the Southern vote for re-election.
World War II and population changes
In the 1948 election, after Harry Truman signed an Executive Order to desegregate the Army, a group of Southern Democrats known as Dixiecrats split from the Democratic Party in reaction to the inclusion of a civil rights plank in the party's platform. This followed a floor fight led by Minneapolis mayor and (soon-to-be senator) Hubert Humphrey. The disaffected Democrats formed the States' Rights Democratic, or Dixiecrat Party, and nominated Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina for president. Thurmond carried four Deep South states in the general election: South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The main plank of the States' Rights Democratic Party was maintaining segregation and Jim Crow in the South. The Dixiecrats, failing to deny the Democrats the presidency in 1948, soon dissolved, but the split lingered. In 1964, Thurmond was one of the first conservative southern Democrats to switch to the Republican Party.
In addition to the splits in the Democratic Party, the population movements associated with World War II had a significant effect in changing the demographics of the South. More than 5 million African Americans migrated from the South to the North and West in the second Great Migration, lasting from 1940-1970. Starting before WWII, many had moved to California for jobs in the defense industry, as well as to major industrial cities of the Midwest.
With control of powerful committees, during and after the war, Southern Democrats gained new federal military installations in the South and other federal investments. Changes in industry, and growth in universities and the military establishment in turn attracted Northern transplants to the South, and bolstered the base of the Republican Party. In the post-war Presidential campaigns, Republicans did best in those fastest-growing states of the South that had the most Northern transplants. In the 1952, 1956 and 1960 elections, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida went Republican, while Louisiana went Republican in 1956, and Texas twice voted for Dwight D. Eisenhower and once for John F. Kennedy. In 1956, Eisenhower received 48.9 percent of the Southern vote, becoming only the second Republican in history (after Ulysses S. Grant) to get a plurality of Southern votes.
The white conservative voters of the states of the Deep South remained loyal to the Democratic Party, which had not officially repudiated segregation. Because of declines in population or smaller rates of growth compared to other states, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and North Carolina lost congressional seats from the 1950s to the 1970s, while South Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia remained static.
The "Year of Birmingham" in 1963 highlighted racial issues in Alabama. Through the spring, there were marches and demonstrations to end legal segregation. The Movement's achievements in settlement with the local business class were overshadowed by bombings and murders by the Ku Klux Klan, most notoriously in the deaths of four girls in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
After the Democrat George Wallace was elected as Governor of Alabama, he emphasized the connection between states' rights and segregation, both in speeches and by creating crises to provoke Federal intervention. He opposed integration at the University of Alabama, and collaborated with the Ku Klux Klan in 1963 in disrupting court-ordered integration of public schools in Birmingham.
Many of the states' rights Democrats were attracted to the 1964 presidential campaign of conservative Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Goldwater was notably more conservative than previous Republican nominees, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower. Goldwater's principal opponent in the primary election, Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York, was widely seen as representing the more moderate, pro-Civil Rights Act, Northern wing of the party (see Rockefeller Republican, Goldwater Republican).
In the 1964 presidential campaign, Goldwater ran a conservative campaign that broadly opposed strong action by the federal government. Although he had supported all previous federal civil rights legislation, Goldwater decided to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He believed that this act was an intrusion of the federal government into the affairs of states and, second, that the Act interfered with the rights of private persons to do business, or not, with whomever they chose, even if the choice is based on racial discrimination. (In many instances, southern whites wanted the business of blacks but on their terms, for instance, restricting their use of water fountains, lunch counters, and dressing rooms in department stores.)
Goldwater's position appealed to white Southern Democrats, and Goldwater was the first Republican presidential candidate since Reconstruction to win the electoral votes of the Deep South states (Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina). Outside the South, Goldwater's negative vote on the Civil Rights Act proved devastating to his campaign; the only other state he won was his home one of Arizona, contributing to his landslide defeat in 1964. A Lyndon B. Johnson ad called "Confessions of a Republican," which ran in the North, associated Goldwater with the Ku Klux Klan. At the same time, Johnson’s campaign in the Deep South publicized Goldwater’s support for pre-1964 civil rights legislation. In the end, Johnson swept the election.
At the time, Goldwater was at odds in his position with most of the prominent members of the Republican Party, dominated by so-called Eastern Establishment and Midwestern Progressives. A higher percentage of the Republican Party supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than did the Democratic Party, as they had on all previous Civil Rights legislation. The Southern Democrats mostly opposed their Northern Party mates — and their presidents (Kennedy and Johnson) — on civil rights issues.
In some Republican circles, the election after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was termed, "The Great Betrayal". Although some Republicans were defeated in the election, national party support for this important law did not attract black voters to the Republican fold in the North. In the South, most black voters were still disenfranchised. When Democratic Senator Al Gore Sr. was re-elected from Middle Tennessee; a majority of the still limited number of black voters in the region cast their votes for him as a Democrat, although he personally had voted against the Civil Rights Act.
Roots of the Southern strategy
Lyndon Johnson was concerned that his endorsement of Civil Rights legislation would endanger his party in the South. In the 1968 election, Richard Nixon saw the cracks in the Solid South as an opportunity to tap into a group of voters who had historically been beyond the reach of the Republican Party. George Wallace had exhibited a strong candidacy in that election, where he garnered 46 electoral votes and nearly 10 million popular votes, attracting mostly southern Democrats away from Hubert Humphrey.
African Americans continued to push in politics and began to gain national office: US Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts was elected in 1966 as the first African-American senator since Reconstruction; Huey P. Newton co-founded the Black Panthers that same year in Oakland, California. Shirley Chisholm was elected from New York in 1968 as the first African-American woman to be a Congresswoman; Andrew Young would be elected to Congress in 1972 from Georgia and later was elected as mayor of Atlanta; all these rising leaders had benefited by the work of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
By this point, King had led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in major protests and demonstrations in the South to raise awareness of civil rights issues. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His work contributed to passage of civil rights legislation, especially the Voting Rights Act of 1965. His assassination in 1968 generated grief and despair; African Americans rioted in many inner-city areas in major cities throughout the country. King's policy of non-violence had already been challenged by other African-American leaders, such as John Lewis and Stokely Carmichael of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
The notion of Black Power advocated by SNCC leaders captured some of the frustrations of African Americans at the slow process of change in gaining civil rights and social justice. African Americans pushed for faster change, raising racial tensions. Journalists reporting about the demonstrations against the Vietnam War often featured young people engaging in violence or burning draft cards and American flags. Conservatives were also dismayed about the many young adults engaged in the drug culture and "free love" (sexual promiscuity), in what was called the "hippie" counter-culture. These actions scandalized many Americans and created a concern about law and order.
Nixon's advisers recognized that they could not appeal directly to voters on issues of white supremacy or racism. White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman noted that Nixon "emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognized this while not appearing to." With the aid of Harry Dent and South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, who had switched to the Republican Party in 1964, Richard Nixon ran his 1968 campaign on states' rights and "law and order." Progressives accused Nixon of pandering to Southern whites, especially with regard to his "states' rights" and "law and order" positions, which were widely understood by black leaders to symbolize southern resistance to civil rights. This tactic was described in 2007 by David Greenberg in Slate as "dog-whistle politics." According to an article in The American Conservative, Nixon adviser and speechwriter Pat Buchanan disputed this characterization.
The independent candidacy of George Wallace, former Democratic governor of Alabama, partially negated Nixon's Southern strategy. With a much more explicit attack on integration and black civil rights, Wallace won all of Goldwater's states (except South Carolina), as well as Arkansas and one of North Carolina's electoral votes. Nixon picked up Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, while Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey won only Texas in the South. Writer Jeffrey Hart, who worked on the Nixon campaign as a speechwriter, said in 2006 that Nixon did not have a "Southern Strategy" but "Border State Strategy;" as he said that the 1968 campaign ceded the Deep South to George Wallace. Hart suggested that the press called it a "Southern Strategy" as they are "very lazy".
In the 1972 election, by contrast, Nixon won every state in the Union except Massachusetts, winning more than 70 percent of the popular vote in most of the Deep South (Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina) and 61% of the national vote. He won more than 65 percent of the votes in the other states of the former Confederacy. Nixon won 18% of the black vote nationwide. Despite his appeal to Southern whites, Nixon was widely perceived as a moderate outside the South and won African-American votes on that basis.
Though conventional wisdom and a popular strain in the scholarly literature claim that the GOP came to dominate the south by capitalizing on racial backlash, some scholars disagree. Matthew Lassiter argues that race based appeals can't explain the GOP shift in the south while also noting that the real situation is far more complex. Kotlowski found that Nixon's overall civil rights record was, on the whole, responsible and that Nixon tended to seek the middle ground. In particular Kotlowski believes historians have been somewhat misled by Nixon's rhetorical Southern Strategy that had limited influence on actual policies. Conversely, other scholarship has reaffirmed the role of racial factors: Valentino and Sears conducted a study and reported that "the South's shift to the Republican party has been driven to a significant degree by racial conservatism" and also concluded that "racial conservatism seems to continue to be central to the realignment of Southern whites' partisanship since the Civil Rights era".
As civil rights grew more accepted throughout the nation, basing a general election strategy on appeals to "states' rights," which some would have believed opposed civil rights laws, would have resulted in a national backlash. The concept of "states' rights" was considered by some to be subsumed within a broader meaning than simply a reference to civil rights laws. States rights became seen as encompassing a type of New Federalism that would return local control of race relations.
Atwater: 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."
In 1980, Republican candidate Ronald Reagan launched his campaign at the Neshoba County Fair. The "I believe in states' rights" speech he gave there was cited as evidence that the Republican Party was building upon the Southern strategy again. Reagan's campaigns used racially-coded rhetoric, making attacks on the "welfare state" and leveraging resentment towards affirmative action. During his 1976 and 1980 campaigns Reagan employed stereotypes of welfare recipients, often invoking a welfare queen with a large house and a Cadillac using multiple names to collect over $150,000 in tax-free income. His dog-whistle politics extended to field-testing language in the South referring to an unscrupulous man using food stamps as a "strapping young buck."
During the 1990 re-election campaign of Jesse Helms attacked his opponent's alleged support of "racial quotas," most notably through an ad in which a white person's hands are seen crumpling a letter indicating that he was denied a job because of the color of his skin.
New York Times opinion columnist Bob Herbert wrote in 2005 that "The truth is that there was very little that was subconscious about the G.O.P.'s relentless appeal to racist whites. Tired of losing elections, it saw an opportunity to renew itself by opening its arms wide to white voters who could never forgive the Democratic Party for its support of civil rights and voting rights for blacks." Scholars[who?] have also described the transition of the Southern strategy saying that it has "evolved from a states’ rights, racially conservative message to one promoting in the Nixon years, vis-à-vis the courts, a racially conservative interpretation of civil rights laws—including opposition to busing. With the ascendancy of Reagan, the Southern Strategy became a national strategy that melded race, taxes, anticommunism, and religion."
Some analysts viewed the 1990s as the apogee of Southernization or the Southern strategy, given that the Democratic president Bill Clinton and vice-president Al Gore were from the South, as were Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle. During the end of Nixon's presidency, the Senators representing the former Confederate states in the 93rd Congress were primarily Democrats. During the beginning of Bill Clinton's, 20 years later in the 103rd Congress, this was still the case.
Shift in strategy
While running for President, Clinton promised to "end welfare as we have come to know it" while in office. In 1996, Clinton would fulfill his campaign promise and one manifestation of the longtime GOP goal of major welfare reform was passed. After two welfare reform bills sponsored by the GOP-controlled Congress were successfully vetoed by the President, a compromise was eventually reached; Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act into law on August 22, 1996. Around this time, the main focus the Southern Strategy had drifted away from race-related campaign issues and shifted towards cultural issues, such as the preservation of religious conservatism in American society.
In the mid-1990s, the Republican Party made major attempts to court African-American voters, believing that the strength of religious values within the African-American community and the growing number of affluent and middle-class African Americans would lead this group increasingly to support Republican candidates. An early example of this shift showed during the 1996 Presidential election, when Republican Presidential nominee Bob Dole chose Jack Kemp as his running mate. The New York Congressman had long advocated for urban revitalization projects, a position to appeal to inner-city blacks. General Colin Powell, an African American who gained national recognition for his role in Operation Desert Storm's success, announced he was a registered Republican. (He later was appointed as Secretary of State in the Bush administration.)
Though the Republican Party attracted the interests of some African-American voters, the group still remained loyal to the Democratic Party. During his time in office, Clinton connected greatly with the Africans Americans. Born into a poor, Southern working-class family, Clinton life and social-economic status growing up resembled that of many African Americans. Since his youth, Clinton had befriended several African Americans. He was easy about making these friendships public since his time as Governor of Arkansas. In addition to his background, Clinton's policies and decisions to appoint numerous African Americans in his cabinet helped him cement his status among those voters. By the time he left office, Clinton's popularity in the African American community surpassed that of Colin Powell and longtime African American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, according to polls. His administration strengthened African-American loyalty to the Democratic Party.
Few African Americans voted for George W. Bush and other national Republican candidates in the 2004 elections, although he attracted a higher percentage of black voters than had any GOP candidate since President Ronald Reagan. Following Bush's re-election, Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign manager and Chairman of the RNC, held several large meetings in 2005 with African-American business, community, and religious leaders. In his speeches, he apologized for his party's use of the Southern Strategy in the past. When asked about the strategy of using race as an issue to build GOP dominance in the once-Democratic South, Mehlman replied,
"Republican candidates often have prospered by ignoring black voters and even by exploiting racial tensions," and, "by the '70s and into the '80s and '90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African-American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out. Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."
The election of President Barack Obama saw a new type of Southern strategy emerge among conservative voters. His election is utilized as evidence of a post-racial era to deny the need of continued civil rights legislation, while simultaneously playing on racial tensions and marking him as a "racial bogeyman". Thomas Edge described three parts to this phenomenon saying:
"First, according to the arguments, a nation that has the ability to elect a Black president is completely free of racism. Second, attempts to continue the remedies enacted after the civil rights movement will only result in more racial discord, demagoguery, and racism against White Americans. Third, these tactics are used side-by-side with the veiled racism and coded language of the original Southern Strategy."
Southern strategy and Southernization
In 2005, Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman formally apologized to the NAACP for exploiting racial polarization to win elections and ignoring the black vote. But two days after his address to the NAACP he characterized this as a general strategy, not particularly Southern: "It always interests me when people say it was a Southern strategy. The fact is that folks in the North, the South, the East and the West sometimes did this."
In a New York Times article writer Adam Nossiter quoted three political scientists who considered the decisive victory of Democratic Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election and subsequent re-election in 2012 to represent the lessened influence of Southernization in national politics:
- Wayne Parent, a political scientist at Louisiana State University, said that "The region’s absence from Mr. Obama’s winning formula means it's becoming distinctly less important,... The South has moved from being the center of the political universe to being an outside player in presidential politics."
- Thomas Schaller, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, stated that the Republicans had become "a Southernized party.... They have completely marginalized themselves to a mostly regional party," noting that he believed Southernization was over and that the South was no longer needed to win national elections.
- Merle Black, an expert on the region’s politics at Emory University in Atlanta, said the Republican Party went too far in appealing to the South, alienating voters elsewhere. 'They’ve maxed out on the South,' he said, which has 'limited their appeal in the rest of the country.'"
- Bible Belt
- Conservative Coalition
- Politics of the Southern United States
- Racism in the United States
- Solid South
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Both senators have opposed the Administration on such matters as civil rights...
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A suburban-centerd vision reveals that demographic change played a more important role than racial demagoguery in the emergence of a two-party system in the American South. This analysis runs contrary to both the conventional wisdom an a popular strain in the scholarly literature: the claim that the GOP came to dominate a new Solid South by repackaging the segregationist platform of George C. Wallace and capitalizing on a racial backlash that originated in the Dee South and the countryside.
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Lassiter scrupulously denies suburbanites their racial innocence. The suburbs are disproportionately white and the poor are disproportionately black. But he rejects “white backlash” partly because the term exempts from responsibility those voters, North and South, who have racially liberal roots. Their egalitarianism may be genuine. But unless liberals are lucky enough to live in secession-proof metro areas, whose judges have a strong commitment to comprehensive integration, they behave the same way as people who act frankly on their fear of large concentrations of black people.
Chappell, David (March 2007). "Did Racists Create the Suburban Nation?". Reviews in American History (Johns Hopkins University Press) V 35: 89–97.
In an original analysis of national politics, Lassiter carefully rejects “racereductionist narratives” (pp. 4, 303). Cliches like “white backlash” and “southern strategy” are inadequate to explain the conservative turn in post-1960s politics.5 ... Racism has not been overcome. One might say rather that it has become redundant. One of Lassiter’s many fascinating demonstrations of racism’s superfluousness is his recounting of the actual use of the “southern strategy.” The strategy obviously failed the Dixiecrats in l948 and the GOP in l964. The only time Nixon seriously tried to appeal to southern racism, in the l970 midterm elections, the South rejected his party and elected Democrats like Jimmy Carter and Dale Bumpers instead (pp. 264–74). To win a nationwide majority, Republicans and Democrats alike had to appeal to the broad middle-class privileges that most people believed they had earned. Lassiter suggests that the first step on the way out of hypersegregation and resegregation is to stop indulging in comforting narratives. The most comforting narratives attribute the whole problem to racists and the Republicans who appease them.
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Haney-Lopez, Ian (January 11, 2014). "The racism at the heart of the Reagan presidency". Salon.
Reagan also trumpeted his racial appeals in blasts against welfare cheats. On the stump, Reagan repeatedly invoked a story of a “Chicago welfare queen” with “eighty names, thirty addresses, [and] twelve Social Security cards [who] is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.”
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