The Solid South was a voting block comprised of the repatriated Confederate states. From the reconstruction era until the late 1960’s the Solid South voted largely democratic, as the Democratic Party has been pro-slavery prior to the Civil War. For over 100 years, the Solid South allowed the Democratic party to enjoy a considerable political dominance, especially in the Congress.
In 1968, in an effort to break up the Solid South, Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign employed a tactic known as the Southern Strategy. It was a blatant appeal to racism. Republicans played on southern whites’ anger over the Civil Rights Movement. They joined the opposition to Civil Rights legislation, polarized racial divisions, and worked to discourage black voters from going to the polls.
It was a largely successful strategy. The GOP had finally broken the Solid South. It also popularized the euphemising of bigoted rhetoric.
Throughout our nation’s history, both parties have run on a variety of hate-based platforms. Of course, prior to the Civil Rights Movement, you could just come out and say who you wanted to discriminate against; we don’t want women in the workplace; we don’t like Jews, Irish, Chinese, etc. The Civil Rights Movement helped marginalize that archaic way of thinking. Hate-mongers were forced to find new ways of conveying their message. The Southern Strategy proved effective.
In a 1981 interview, political consultant, and former Republican National Committee Chairman, Lee Atwater, gives a compelling description of the strategy’s evolution:
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 forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites…because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
Republicans didn’t care that it was a slap in the face of the black voters who had supported the party for over a century. The Southern Strategy helped sweep them into power. And they’ve never looked back.
Now, in every election, Republicans rail against the potential threat of the other. Rick Santorum compared gay marriage rights to the legalization of incest and bestiality. Santorum and and fellow presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich both immediately referenced black people when discussing welfare. Gingrich has generated additional buzz by referring to Barack Obama as the “Food Stamp President.” Michelle Bachmann and Donald Trump led a Republican movement demanding that Barack Obama produce his original, long-form birth certificate to prove his citizenship. If not these, then it’s illegal immigration, women serving in combat, or Sharia Law.
Hate-mongers can always find a reason to hate other Americans–even if they have to invent the reason out of whole cloth. And there is good cause to continue the practice so long as bigoted anger gets results at the voting booth.
Yet somehow Republicans dispute this obvious through-line of hate politics. According to them, they’re merely arguing the issues. Apparently it’s just pure happenstance that minority groups ALWAYS end up on the other side. That’s the danger of this coded language developed by the Southern Strategy. Everyone knows what it actually means, yet it allows Republicans to play the big innocent. It’s not about race, or gender, or religious beliefs; it’s about balancing the budget. What’s so wrong with that?
To be fair, there are a few minorities in the Republican party–whom the GOP loves to trot out before the media to chastise their own minority groups and blame them for being abused and discriminated against. What you don’t see from these minority Republicans is any effort to get the party to tone the rhetoric down (I’m sure they’d be thrown out on their asses if they did). I guess it is always better to have a whip in your hand than a plow.
So okay, we know racism is out there. We know that homophobes and Islamophobes exist. And we know misogyny and chauvinism are pandemic. Political opportunists and true believers alike will always try to leverage prejudice to their advantage. It‘s just politics, qué no?
But real people’s lives are being affected by this bigotry. The GOP works to deny minority groups those unalienable rights endowed upon all human beings by their Creator, and are currently enjoyed by many Americans, based on the antiquated idea that white heterosexual Christians are the real America and any expansion of that definition will lead directly to our nation’s demise. Those rights are not negotiable.
This is not some extreme, fringe element of the Grand Old Party. This is mainstream Republicanism. It’s accepted on both sides of the aisle.
Meanwhile, it’s nothing more than old school hate in latex gloves.
And it’s unmitigated bullshit.
It’s also the number 1 reason I hate Republicans.
Next up: How they make this whole shameful approach even worse in how they employ that bigotry. They use it to divide and disenfranchise the lower economic 99% of the population and line their benefactors’ pockets with billions.
(Solid South image from: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2008/06/party-like-its-1928/45225/. Civics lesson image from: http://www.seattlegayscene.com/2012/01/republican-senator-hops-on-the-same-sex-marriage-bandwagon.html. Forced integration image: http://www.ordoesitexplode.com/me/hope_from_history/. Lee Atwater image from: http://www.pensitoreview.com/2011/08/17/roves-brain-lee-atwater-in-1981-gop-push-for-budget-cuts-is-stealth-racism/)