The Media, not Racism, Turned the South Republican
Every couple years, the next “crucial” election for our nation’s future arrives like clockwork. And like clockwork, liberals and Democrats begin attacking the Republican Party for its “racist” record on race.
One of the most popular attack has been on the GOP’s racist “Southern strategy.” As the popular belief goes, Democrats’ focus on civil rights in the 1960s cost them the racist white Southern vote, beginning in 1968 with Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign. Republicans, meanwhile, successfully courted those disaffected whites with a strategy based on racial animus.
Liberals know that happened.
The media know that happened.
Democrats know that happened.
Even conservatives and Republicans know that happened.
One problem, though: it never happened.
Like much of what people think happened in American history (George Washington and the cherry tree, FDR rescuing the nation from the Great Depression, etc.), the GOP’s racist “Southern strategy” is a complete fabrication. In fact, it’s a bald-faced lie.
But let’s for the sake of argument allow that Republicans actually did use race-baiting tactics to gain the Southern states. If so, then they did a pretty dismal job at it.
The 1968 presidential campaign between Republican Nixon and Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey was one of the closest in U.S. history. But Nixon had enjoyed a huge lead at the start, polling 42 percent of the popular vote, with Humphrey trailing at 29 percent and George Wallace, a racist Democrat running under the American Independent Party banner, bringing up the rear with 22 percent. However, by Election Day, Humphrey narrowly lost to Nixon, 43.4 percent to 42.7. Humphrey almost won by poaching nine percentage points from Wallace, who finished at 13.5 percent. Even still, the states where some of the most vicious racial incidents occurred (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas) went to Wallace, with Texas going to Humphrey.
Skipping ahead to 1972, the entire nation went Republican with the exceptions of Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. But that year was a gimme for the GOP. The Democrats had nominated George McGovern, and Nixon trounced him. But then again, an untrained monkey in a suit and tie and unsoiled diapers would have beaten McGovern that and any other year.
So let’s take a look at 1976, a race pitting Republican Gerald Ford against Democrat Jimmy Carter. Carter swept the entire South, with the exception of Virginia. So where did all those white racists go? Apparently, they were a fickle bunch who did an abrupt about-face back to the Democratic Party because they certainly didn’t embrace the Republican Party.
It wasn’t until Reagan in 1980 that the Republicans finally took hold of the South. Race had nothing to do with the shift, though. Over the span of 12 years and three presidential elections, racial sentiments had drastically changed in the South. The last of the vocal, segregationist Democrat governors had retired into irrelevancy or ridicule. Orval Faubus was managing the Li’l Abner theme park, Dogpatch USA, in Arkansas; Lester Maddox was reduced to a nightclub comedy act with a black busboy, Bobby Lee Fears, who had once worked in his restaurant; and Wallace was crippled, born again, and seeking to make up for his racist past.
What finally drove the South into the hands of the Republican Party was, as ironic as it sounds today, the media. The South has always been a more conservative region of the nation. As such, every night, Southerners would watch the evening news and be shocked at what they saw. Rioters and looters destroying entire neighborhoods in liberal-run cities, liberal feminists seeking to deconstruct the traditional family structure, liberal students colluding with liberal faculty to take over college campuses, liberal civil rights leaders shamelessly stoking racial envy for profit, and liberal politicians demanding an unending flow of welfare benefits to lazy, able-bodied people and the irresponsible.
Small wonder, then, that Southerners began abandoning the Democratic Party – not just on the presidential level, but up and down the ticket. The Republicans just happened to have the right candidate, Ronald Reagan, who had the right message at the right time that was very attractive to disaffected Southerners.
By focusing on the nation’s social, moral, economic, and spiritual ills caused by liberal policies, the media had inadvertently done the heavy lifting for Reagan, who espoused the antidote: responsibility, traditional values, economic growth, low taxes, law and order, peace through strength, etc. That’s what Southerners found appealing about the Republican Party.
Liberals and Democrats will retort that if all that were true, then why did Reagan open his campaign by delivering a speech on states’ rights at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi, which was not far from where three civil rights workers were murdered?
Yes, Reagan did speak of states’ rights in that speech. However, it was in the context of how states always do a better job than the federal government of running education, welfare, and other programs. Seeing the debacle that is ObamaCare, for example, what fair, intelligent person today could find fault with that sentiment?
Also, what Reagan said was a far cry from the inflammatory rhetoric of racist Democrat demagogues of the past. Those same demagogues have made it difficult for any politician of any stripe to appear anywhere in the South and not be far from where a racial atrocity hadn’t occurred.
But let’s again give liberals the benefit of the doubt and allow that Reagan’s appearance was designed to garner the support of white Southern racists. Then what do liberals have to say about the speech Jimmy Carter gave to open his campaign that same year on Labor Day, in Tuscumbia, Ala., the city that is the birthplace and the parent body of the Ku Klux Klan?
Nothing, not surprisingly.
Tragically, the fact that the “Southern strategy” never happened won’t prevent liberals, Democrats, minorities, and the media from claiming it did as a political bludgeon against Republicans and conservatives.
But more tragic is that the fact that the “Southern strategy” never happened won’t cause anyone in the Republican establishment from pointing out it never happened, and that it’s a lie peddled by the left to silence and minimize its critics on the right – especially those who are black and conservative.
The Drive-By Pundit is the pen name of Perry Drake, author of the e-books The Book of Racist Democrat Quotes and The Long, Racist, Bloody Account of the Democrat Party’s Hatred for Black! Both are available on Amazon.com. Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/perry.drake.10, and on Twitter @Perry_Drake.