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.