The Myth of the ‘Southern Strategy’

Have you ever wondered why it is that Democrats like to call all things Republican ‘racist,’ even though the Democrat Party was the party of slavery and Jim Crow? Have you ever wondered how it is that in a nation pledging to be ‘one people, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,’ Democrats can constantly use calls of ‘racism’ to divide us? The answer comes down to what Democrats call ‘The Great Switch,’ and the ‘Southern Strategy’. This article will explore these two concepts, detailing what they are, and looking at historic data to see whether such a ‘switch’ really occurred, or if the Democrat Party is guilty of the greatest lie in human history.

The ‘Great Switch’ is a Democrat narrative in which, once Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, all the members of Congress, in both houses, got up and traded places. All of the Democrats walked over to the Republican side, and all of the Republicans walked over to the Democrat side. The Democrats left their white robes and hoods in their old desks, which the Republicans then took ownership of.

The problem with this narrative is that of the 31 Dixiecrats in the House and Senate, or who were governors of states, only three of them changed parties. Furthermore, African Americans began voting predominantly Democrat in 1936, when FDR ran for re-election. This was while the KKK still marched into the DNC every four years, in full regalia. Also, the last Democrat to win the South was Jimmy Carter, in 1976. The South did not go Republican until 1980.

There was no ‘great switch’ in 1964, and saying that there was ignores the fact that the African American vote flipped almost thirty years too early, and that the South flipped sixteen years too late. The ‘great switch’ is a lie.

Democrats try to get around the historical flaws in the supposed ‘great switch’ by claiming that Richard Nixon employed a ‘Southern Strategy’ to get elected. We can look at that too, against the historic record, to see if there is any truth to it.

There is an ‘interview’ in which Lee Atwater (Reagan’s campaign manager) discusses the Southern Strategy, but generally when people hear that conversation (‘interview is the wrong word – it was actually a recorded conversation between three men), they are shown just a few parts of it, taken grossly out of context. In the full conversation, Atwater said that politicians in the 50s could get the Southern vote by using racial slurs, and that over time, racial slurs began to hurt the campaigns of those who used them, so candidates in the South had to change their language – talking in more nuanced, but still racist terms, about being against the Civil Rights Act, or being against bussing, for example. Lee Atwater then went further and said that racism was not a big issue in the South at all anymore (in 1981, at the time of the conversation), and that candidates had to focus on things like national defense, and sound economic policies, to win in the South – just as they did in the North.

In other words, Lee Atwater was discussing the ‘Southern Strategy’ as the strategy the Democrat Party used to keep the South, and was explaining why with Reagan, that strategy failed.

The Southern Strategy, as portrayed by Democrats, is a lie. The truth is that the South became radically less racist from the late 1950s into the early 1980s, and the Republican Party became more popular in the South as the South became less racist.

I need to make a critical distinction. Racism was not dead in the South in 1980, and it is not dead in the North, or the South, today. Racism is still a very ugly problem, and one that in some ways may be worse today than it was in 1980, particularly in the sense that so many people ignore their personal self-interests, and vote based on race. But in 1980, racism was very weak as a political force, and that was how Reagan won in the South.

Democrats, of course, are not primarily talking about Ronald Reagan when they discuss the ‘Southern Strategy.’ They are talking about Richard Nixon. We can look at that as well.

In 1968, Nixon ran on a campaign promise of ‘law and order,’ and many Democrats claim that ‘law and order’ were nuanced, racist terms.

Now, I can see how being against bussing, or against the Civil Rights Act, can be called nuanced racism. I can see a logical link between support for Jim Crow, and racism – it’s actually not very nuanced at all. I can even see how calls for “states’ rights” can be called nuanced racism when the specific “states’ rights” one wants to support are those that prevent bussing, and that protect Jim Crow. But how do I draw a logical link between ‘law and order’ and racism, without making some very negative stereotypes about African Americans and crime? Furthermore, while Republicans may be for ‘law and order,’ it was the Democrat Party that stood against bussing, and that blocked the Civil Rights Act until 1964, when it passed with almost unanimous Republican support, after a Democrat filibuster that stood against it for a whopping sixty days.

Democrats try to give Lyndon B. Johnson credit for signing the Civil Rights Act, but Johnson did so under intense political pressure, after having had a perfect record standing against the Civil Rights Act, while a member of the House of Representatives, including as Speaker of the House.

What did Nixon do, with regard to racism, once elected? He instituted an executive order mandating equal opportunity in federal employment (Executive Order 11478 – just in case you want to look that up…). And that was just his opening act. From the desegregation of schools, to equal employment rights, Nixon had an impressive record on civil rights. Does that sound like a viable ‘Southern Strategy’ to you?!?

Nixon did not even win the deep south in 1968. Nixon lost Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Nixon swept the South in 1972, but he won every state except Massachusetts that year (he also lost the District of Columbia), and then Carter took the South for Democrats in the next election.

Nixon had a very impressive record on civil rights. Let’s look at Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty (link at end of paragraph), which was so damaging to African American families that Milton Friedman called it the ‘War on Black People’. The so-called ‘war on poverty’ was not a Republican idea. It came from Lyndon Johnson, and was modeled after parts of Apartheid.

Lyndon Johnson was a radical racist, who used the ‘N’ word all the time, and referred to his limo driver (who happened to be African American), as ‘boy.’

How dumb do you have to be to believe that Lyndon Johnson, rather than Republicans like Richard Nixon, ended Jim Crow, when both their pre-1964, as well as post-1964 records are so very clear? Nixon is an easy scape goat because of Watergate, but his civil rights record speaks for itself.

We can look at both parties today, to see if some kind of ‘great switch’ took place at some point after 1964. Where the parties stand today is, after all, more important than where they stood 55 years ago.

Democrat calls for the ‘Radical Transformation’ of the United States (to quote former President Barrack Obama) are often couched in racial terms, but the kinds of changes Democrats call for would affect all Americans in the same ways. All people have the same basic needs and aspirations, regardless of ethnicity, and pretending that economic programs target people based on skin color assumes differences in human potential that any rational person knows have nothing to do with ethnicity.

Furthermore, Democrats still push for the same policies that Lyndon Johnson championed in his so-called ‘War on Poverty.’ The ‘War on Poverty’ has done nothing to reduce poverty, but it did have every impact on African Americans that Milton Friedman predicted, when he called it a ‘War on Black People.’

There is an hilarious Ami Horowitz video in which Ami Horowitz compares white-liberal attitudes about the ability of African Americans to get voter IDs, against African American attitudes about their own abilities to get voter IDs. Not surprisingly, the African Americans he interviewed thought that the white liberals’ low expectations were racist. White liberals don’t treat African Americans like equals. Thomas Sowell called out liberalism perfectly, in his book, White Liberals and Black Rednecks, when he said that white liberals treat African Americans ‘like pets.’

The Republican Party, in the meantime, has always been the party of equal treatment under the law, for all people, regardless of ethnicity. And the most important civil rights issue of our time may well be the right of African Americans, and of other ethnic minorities, to be conservatives, without getting ridiculed or attacked.

Ask Kanye West which party is interested in his voice…

As for voter suppression, Democrats call for ‘every vote to count,’ whereas Republicans call for ‘every voter to count.’ There is a subtle, but important difference. Republicans want controls on our elections to ensure that the voice of every legal voter is heard. Democrats are the party of Ballot Harvesting, in which vote fraud is institutionalized to create prearranged results. Democrats want to count every vote, including as many fake ones as necessary to win.

We saw what Democrats think of democracy when the DNC rigged the 2016 Democrat Primaries. Democrats are not the party of democracy. They are only the party of dependency, and if there is any bigger lie than the ‘great switch’, it is the name of the ‘Democratic’ Party…

The choice between Republican and Democrat priorities has never been more clear: we can either invest in human capability, or in human dependency. Whichever path America chooses will affect all Americans. We are, after all, one people, and if we stand for capability, as ‘one people, under God’, we will truly become “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The moment to grab America’s future is now. The promise of our founding documents is within reach. We need only reach out with one voice, as one people, rejecting racism in all forms, to make that promise ring true.

If, after reading this, you still want to be a liberal, that’s great. We need a liberal party. Those on the left are, in my experience anyway, more open, on average, than are those on the right, to looking for and identifying societal problems. But be an honest liberal, and work with conservatives to help solve those problems, once they are identified. If you continue to identify problems, only to use them as political weapons against the right, showing no interest in solving anything, I’m going to call you out, and don’t be surprised if you get exposed as a racist.

12 thoughts on “The Myth of the ‘Southern Strategy’”

  1. It harkens back to when the classical liberals let themselves be redefined as conservatives.

    1. ‘Liberals’ as the term is commonly used today, have always been good at ignoring denotation, to absorb words with positive connotations as their own. Sadly, that is true.

  2. When you are getting the basics wrong, like the names of the two major political parties themselves, nothing else you say can be taken seriously.

    1. I guess it’s a good thing that I did not do that then. The phrases ‘Democrat Party’ and ‘Democratic Party’ are interchangeable. The Democrats have preferred one name at some times, and the other name at other times, but at all times they have used both names interchangeably.

      I do not like the phrase ‘Democratic Party’, as it implies that the Democrats like democracy. Ask Bernie Sanders if that is true…

      1. I posted this article on a on a liberals page that I grew up with. This is the response from other person. How do I respond?

        This site is a glorified blog run by an IT capitalist, and doesn’t even rank as a news site. The piece is an opinion piece by someone not versed in politics or history. Knowing ones sources is important when seeking the truth. Political historians, experts in their field, disagree.

        1. How about asking if they can find anything wrong with the article, rather than with me? I am most certainly versed in history. I don’t know what being ‘versed in politics’ even means, but given how often politicians tend to lie, I take that as a compliment.

          Maybe your friend could tell you what political historians disagree with.

          And what, exactly, is a ‘political historian’ anyway? My dad was an historian. Canada’s highest award for history is named after a Garneau – my family has a long history of studying history. Maybe your friend would like to see a photo of my library so he or she can see the kinds of books I read (I am an avid reader – all history and economics)?

          Tell your friend I’d like to challenge them to a debate on this subject. Maybe they’d like to put their money where their mouth is? I can find someone with a podcast who would be happy to host it.

  3. In the lead-up to the infamous remarks, it is fascinating to witness the confidence with which Atwater believes himself to be establishing the racial innocence of latter-day Republican campaigning: “My generation,” he insists, “will be the first generation of Southerners that won’t be prejudiced.” He proceeds to develop the argument that by dropping talk about civil rights gains like the Voting Rights Act and sticking to the now-mainstream tropes of fiscal conservatism and national defense, consultants like him were proving “people in the South are just like any people in the history of the world.”
    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, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

    1. But that’s not what he said. What Atwater said is that Democrats employed an evolving ‘Southern Strategy’ of making racist overtures increasingly subtle, and that Republicans were suddenly winning in the South only because voters were no longer voting based on race.

      Democrats, incidentally, have since reversed entirely, telling you that if race is not one of the primary factors influencing your vote, you are a racist. All of this ‘Silence is Violence’ crap is just the same old racism, repackaged.

  4. There are many accurate statements in this article concerning how Democrats try to erase their blatant historical racism. However, this sentence is a lie -> “The Republican Party, in the meantime, has ALWAYS been the party of equal treatment under the law, for all people, regardless of ethnicity.” There have been people in the Republican Party, at times, since 1860 that fought for equality, like Thaddeus Stevens or Charles Sumner. Thaddeus and his colleagues were labeled, ‘Radical Republicans,’ a specific subset of political viewpoint within the Republican Party. During Reconstruction years 1865-1877 many Black people, for the first time were elected to Congress only because Black people could actually vote in Southern states. Some elected Republican Black Congressman are Joseph Rainey, Hiram Rhodes Revels, and Blanche K. Bruce. However, Rutherford B. Hayes and the Republican Party agreed to the 1877 compromise, removing all Union troops from the South, thereby allowing the South to wreck carnage and terror. The following quote is from Lerone Bennett Jr’s book, Black Power USA, pages 56 and 58.

    “With the aid of hindsight we can see quite clearly now that land reform was an absolute prerequisite for a just and lasting peace. The failure of the Radical Republicans to achieve this basic objective dimmed Reconstruction from the state and paved the way for one hundred years of tragedy and terror. But there was a more important reason for the Radicals’ legislative difficulties…Republicans never intended to transform American society. They never intended to give Black people any more power than was necessary to check Southern planters…They never admitted the full logic of the democratic idea for poor whites; it was unthinkable they would countenance it for poor blacks, especially since wholesale confiscation of property in the South would have set a bad example for the restless workers of the North and West. ”

    Not saying Democrats are better. There have been people in the Democrat party as well who have fought for equal treatment under the law, as well, see Henry Wallace for example. Racism rises and falls in both parties. Neither Dems nor Repubs, as a collective group, have done enough to say they are the party for equal treatment for all people under the law. I’ll ask this question, do any readers of this comment, want to be treated the way society treats Black or Indigenous peoples today? What have Republicans done, in the collective, for the collective benefit of Black people since reconstruction failed that makes them equal?

    1. Whenever someone makes a blanket statement like ‘the Republican Party has ALWAYS been’, it will be possible to find exceptions. I based my statement on the Republican Party Platform, which has been remarkably consistent over the years, and which has ALWAYS been for equal treatment of ALL Americans, under the law.

      You are grossly misrepresenting the compromise of 1877. That compromise settled the election of 1877, which had contested results. In 1873, the Supreme Court began limiting the powers the Federal Government (under Republican leadership) was using to enforce reconstruction, and the racial equality reconstruction represented. This culminated with a contested Presidential election in 1877 that threatened to re-kindle the Civil War. Supporters of Rutherford Hayes had no choice but to compromise.

      I love how you use the fact that Democrats fought reconstruction efforts, in some cases successfully, as a way to attack Republicans for making the efforts in the first place. Had the North lost the Civil War, I suppose you would blame the North for slavery, in spite of the fact that the North was willing to lose hundreds of thousands of lives trying to end it. What is next – are you going to blame Poland for starting WWII by being invaded?

  5. Great article, you should write a book, or just a pamphlet. I truly believe that conveying this information to more voters could be the key to preserving America. If we can just reach some of the middle voters (the true Leftists don’t care about reality), more will begin to realize that the Democrats are the true villains in American history and discard them like the racist communists that they are.

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