by Rod D. Martin
October 31, 2015
Democrats who pretend their party never fought a Civil War to defend slavery or established an Apartheid regime in America for most of a century after that nevertheless love to claim that the Republican Party is made up entirely of their racist cast-offs. They usually attribute this to Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” in the 1968 campaign, ignoring that (a) in the years in question, no Republican presidential candidate failed to support civil rights legislation, (b) Nixon himself deliberately expanded it, and (c) the Democrats (in many cases “reformed” Segregationists) continued to hold virtually all offices in the South for 20-30 more years.
No, Kevin Phillips may think that the Southern Strategy was about race, but it was mostly about the Great Society, the hippie insanity of the late Sixties, and afterward the hippie takeover of the national Democratic Party embodied in George McGovern. Jimmy Carter drove the final nail in the coffin, not by being racist, but by being…awful.
Nevertheless, I get comments and letters, like this one from Facebook today:
When Nixon adopted the Southern strategy, he made an appeal to the racist Dixiecrats who left the Democratic Party after Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. If the GOP should return to its roots, that would be a good thing.
While I certainly agree that Republicans should work harder at reaching out to people of all backgrounds, this is just nonsense. Here’s my response:
Richard Nixon? Seriously? Do you realize that 53.6% of all eligible voters — including a good percentage of the Republican Presidential field and the sitting President of the United States — aren’t old enough to have a meaningful political memory of Richard Nixon?
Or let’s put that another way: the youngest politically active Segregationists in 1969 are now about to turn 70, and virtually everyone of that age group AND the one above it repudiated the politics of their elders, which is how you got Democrat governors like Dale Bumpers (who was actually 45 in 1970 when wiped Orval Faubus off the map in the Democratic primary). The Segregationist leaders are mostly all dead, but if they were alive today, lets look at their ages:
George Wallace – 96 (dead)
Bull Connor – 118 (dead since 1973!)
Orval Faubus – 105 (dead)
Justice Jim Johnson – 91 (dead)
Richard Russell – 118 (dead)
Al Gore, Sr. – 108 (dead)
J. William Fulbright – 110 (dead)
Olin Johnston – 119 (dead)
John Stennis – 114 (dead)
John L. McClellan – 119 (dead)
Strom Thurmond – 113 (dead)
Jesse Helms – 94 (dead)
Robert Byrd – 98 (dead)
Harry Byrd – 128 (dead)
Spessard Holland – 123 (dead)
George Smathers – 102 (dead)
Russell Long – 97 (dead)
James Eastland – 111 (dead)
Sam Ervin – 119 (dead)
Wilbur Mills – 113 (dead)
Bob Sikes – 109 (dead)
Carl Vinson – 132 (dead)
Of all these named — and the umpteen others who signed the Southern Manifeso — only two became Republicans. Again, they’re both dead. More to the point, like several of the Democrats named above, they later repudiated their previous racism, which I think we’d all agree they couldn’t and probably wouldn’t have done if their constituencies hadn’t dropped those views before they did. And for that matter, while it’s easy to pretend the Southern Strategy was all about race, you deliberately ignore that Nixon — never a racist — was capitalizing far more on Hubert Humphrey’s advocacy of a massive expansion of the federal government, and on George McGovern’s crazy hippie flower child campaign. If you think opposition to that turned on racism, then I guess Lenin’s opponents in Russia were driven by Klan loyalties too.
In any case, 53.6% of American voters — including Barack Obama, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, et al. — probably couldn’t tell you who half these people were, have no memory of most of them, and think of segregation like they think of the Missouri Compromise or the Roundheads. I don’t know how old you are, sir, but pretending that these ancient battles have any relevance to a Republican primary voter today is self-delusion, if not propaganda. You might enjoy the moral superiority you think it gives you, and you might even score a few cheap propaganda points (themselves ignoring that the Klan was always an organ of the Democratic Party, and 100% of Jim Crow legislation came from and was defended by Democrats). But you’re living in a fantasy world. Richard Nixon has as much relevance to this election as Benjamin Harrison.