Why Did the Democratic South Become Republican?

The south used to vote Democrat. Now it votes Republican. Why the switch? Was it, as some people say, because the GOP decided to appeal to racist whites? Carol Swain, Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University, explains.

A Challenge On the Southern Strategy [Myth], Via FaceBook

(Reagan’s “Southern Strategy” – 1980)

The extreme leftist (since he classifies me as an right-wing-extremist, as you will see) said this to me:

  • sad, sean, ignoring the well documented southern strategy of the GOP .. and the way it has led to the current, party, no longer Republican in anything but name ….most likely because them thar Dixiecrats fled the dems and signed up as gooperrs

To which I responded with this:

NEWSBUSTERS: Every presidential election cycle, we have to hear about the “Republican Southern Strategy.” In your book, you exposed that there’s really no such thing. It’s actually a media fabrication.

COULTER: The striking thing about that, which I think few people have noticed, is the general and untrue point made over and over and over again that the segregationists were Democrats, but the Republicans decided to appeal to them to win the south. To put it in Bill Clinton’s words, “How Republicans think they started winning the south anyway if it wasn’t through appealing to racists.” We were supposed to have these secret little code words – unlike the Democrats who just actually come out and said racist things like Bill Clinton’s pal Orville Saubus or William Fulbright or Bull Connor or George Wallace – Democrats all. No, they just come out and go straight for the racist jugular, whereas Republicans say, “Let’s cut taxes,” and that’s supposed to be the equivalent of a Klan yelp.

The truth is Republicans didn’t win the Goldwater states. The southern strategy is supposedly based on the 1964 presidential election. But in 1948, Strom Thurmond – the one Democrat segregationist in the Senate to ever become a Republican – ran on a segregationist ticket, the Dixiecrat ticket. Note that was called the “Dixiecrats” and not the “Dixiecans.” This was a spinoff from the Democratic Party. He lost, but he won a handful of southern states. He went back to the Democratic Party, where he was warmly welcomed back, by the way, staying a Democrat for another two decades.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater was a strong integrationist but also a little bit of a nutty libertarian and very serious about the Constitution – what Congress could do and what it couldn’t do. He voted for every prior civil rights bill unlike the Democrats who voted against the ’64 act. Goldwater voted against the 1964 civil rights bill on principle, and he lost a landslide election winning mostly the same southern states that Thurmond had won in 1948. So that is the entire theory of the southern strategy, and now, today, of course the south is mostly Republican.

The truth of the matter is Republicans didn’t start winning those Goldwater states for another 30 years, and the reason we did was because the Dixiecrats, aka the Democrat segregationists, died.

NEWSBUSTERS: Yet when a Democrat candidate wins those states, it’s not part of a “racist southern strategy.”

COULTER: No, that’s right, but truth is Republicans had been winning the same Republican states since the 1920s. Allegedly Goldwater was a game-changing election. No, Republicans had been winning the outer south – Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, one of the Carolinas, and Florida – since 1928. You can’t really tell much from the ’30s and ’40s because FDR and Truman dominated the entire country during that period. But then the next Republican to win any presidential election was Eisenhower, and he won basically those same southern states.

I have maps in the back of the book showing how Republicans keep winning the same outer circle of southern states. That is what Nixon picked up in 1960. Same thing in 1968. It’s hard to tell from the 1972 and 1980 elections because the Republicans really had a “landslide strategy.” It wasn’t just a southern strategy, but was a strategy for taking the entire country. In 1972, the entire country voted for Nixon other than Massachusetts – poor Scott Brown. And basically the same thing happened in 1980.

Republicans did not start winning a plurality of votes for the House of Representatives – which is voted on every two years – until 1994. That’s 30 years after Goldwater’s 1964 run. In 1980, Reagan did the worst in the Goldwater states. Even the ones he won, he won by the smallest margin, and lost Georgia outright, whereas he crushed in the southern states Republicans had been winning off and on since 1928. Also in 1980, Reagan won with younger voters in the south. He lost with their elders, i.e. the Dixiecrats.

Part of the evidence of that was from polls taken at the time. At Yale, Reagan got about seventeen percent. John Anderson was crushing in the Ivy League followed by Carter, with Reagan coming in between fourteen and seventeen percent. At Louisiana Tech, Reagan was winning by like 80 percent. So, it was young voters who weren’t alive in 1964 supporting Ronald Reagan in the south in 1980.

Read more: http://tinyurl.com/8frfswo

To which John responded:

  • good grief, do you have ANY sources that are not already known as extreme right wing propaganda machines?

Firstly, john wouldn’t know if propaganda hit him like a 64 Buick LeSabre at 60-miles per hour! I respond with more:

Did you read the interview? History is being mentioned… the only person spinning (and are acting extreme) is you. What can I recommend for you John? Maybe instead of tuning into Rachel “Left of Moa” Maddow or other crazy leftist beliefs, you should take a hiatus, pick up a book or two, and learn a bit about history, worldviews, and the like. Stop labeling people and ideas. Like I told a youg person on my son’s FB:

★ I just wanted to point out how easy it is for people to label (what is called S.I.X.H.I.R.B. ~ sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, and bigoted), rather that engage in dialogue. [http://tinyurl.com/8nvg5ke]

You have once again done this. You rejected Ann Coulter’s stating of facts by connecting her to the right. An easy way to dismiss an argument… which makes my job easy because many on the Cultural Left do this instead of inculcating knowledge. Which is why you seem to merely respond with an ad hominem attack and then get spanked.

And then I ended with this:

Bam!

Governor George Wallace, Democrat of Alabama, sought to exploit the rising racial tensions.’ Along with Governor Lester Maddox, the Georgia Democrat, Wallace hoped to lead a white backlash against integration that would at least slow its advance. In 1964, Wallace had run unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination, leading him to conclude that the deck was too heavily stacked against him to win that way. So he made plans to run for president in 1968 as a third-party candidate opposed to the pro-civil rights policies of both the Republicans and Democrats. Wallace often said there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties.

Richard Nixon was well aware of Wallace’s intentions when he made his own plans to run for president in 1968 and, consequently, conceded the Deep South to Wallace right off the bat. According to Theodore White, “Nixon conspicuously, conscientiously, calculatedly denied himself all racist votes, yielding them to Wallace.” Indeed, Wallace often attacked Nixon during the campaign for supporting civil rights. Said Wallace, “It started under a Republican administration in 1954 when they appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren and the [Senate] confirmation was presided over by [Vice President] Nixon.”

Therefore, contrary to popular belief, Nixon had no “Southern strategy” designed to carry racist votes through coded messages about crime and welfare, as is often alleged. It would have made no sense politically with Wallace in the race. Perhaps if Wallace had not been a candidate, it might have paid for Nixon to court conservative Southerners. But with Wallace running, it was clear that the Alabaman was going to get most of the votes of Southern whites concerned about issues such as black crime and welfare. “Wallace split the conservative electorate,” Nixon political adviser Kevin Phillips explained, and “siphoned off a flow of ballots that otherwise would have gone heavily for Nixon, and garnered many of his backers — Northern or Southern, blue-collar or white-collar — from the ranks of 1964 GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater.” This meant that Nixon had no choice but to find his votes in the more racially tolerant North and West. As historian Glen Moore explains:

✪ The biggest fallacy in the Southern strategy viewpoint is that it ignores the fact that Nixon had to win in other regions in order to get the 270 electoral votes necessary for winning the presidency. If Nixon emphasized winning southern votes, then he risked losing support in the major industrial states, which would be committing political suicide.

This reality forced Nixon to run in 1968 as a classic centrist-splitting the difference between the ultra-liberal Humphrey and the ultraconservative Wallace. Thus Nixon actually emphasized his support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and began his presidential campaign with a strenuous attack on racism!’ As he explained in a 1966 newspaper column: “Southern Republicans must not climb aboard the sinking ship of racial injustice. Any Republican victory that would come from courting racists, black or white, would be a defeat for our future in the South and our party in the nation.”

Bruce Bartlett, Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past (New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008), 170-171