The Southern Strategy

I love it, in that sick way one loves hideous things, that die-hard Republicans take credit for Abraham Lincoln, our nation’s first Republican president, and blame Democrats for creating the Ku Klux Klan and being the party of racists.   A simple matter of the historical record, they will say with a certain pugnacious smugness.

A glance at any national electoral map since LBJ signed those damnable Civil Rights laws shows the former Confederacy votes solidly red.  The same way whites hated Republicans down in the former Confederacy after the South lost the Civil War, as a voting block they now seem to hate Democrats.  For more than fifty years, the South votes solidly Republican in national elections.

In fairness to southern white voters, look at this map and imagine how intolerable their lives would have been if they’d done nothing about the Fifteenth Amendment and simply let Negroes vote.

southern states slave populations

Some eye-popping majorities would have been created by suddenly enfranchised former slaves and sympathetic poor whites.   All the more urgent that, once federal troops were withdrawn from the former Confederacy, pursuant to the Hayes-Tilden Compromise of 1876, some measures be put in place to make sure vengeful Negroes were kept in their place.  With “Bayonet Rule” over the states of the former Confederacy ended, local powers enforced the rights of Negroes as they saw fit.  Those rights did not include easy access to the voting booth, obviously.

Fast forward through generations of Black Codes, poll taxes, literacy tests, fucking Dixiecrats blocking anti-lynching legislation, voting with the racially conscious right wingers across the aisle, holding the Democratic party hostage to their states’ rights, anti-Civil Rights views.  Nixon had a great strategy for all those disillusioned southerners who voted faithfully for the Dixiecrats for a hundred years, before LBJ’s stunning betrayal of the Southern way of life.  Law and Order, a militarized War on Drugs, and, most of all, a war on angry fucking Negroes.   It was called The Southern Strategy and it has been in more or less continuous use since.

This Republican administration we have now was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. The president’s chief strategist is the former boss of a hugely popular white supremacist on-line ‘news service’ called Breitbart.  Admittedly, racism was not the only appeal the billionaire reality TV star had going for him.   He was a very well-known brand.  His brand, of incalculable worth, stands for winning, and being self-made, and being a bold, even audacious innovator.    His name stood for taking no shit, for dishing it out, whether you like it or not.   His presidential run was the last chance for a dying generation of racist Americans to have one of their own in the White House, though for millions, ethnocentrism may be incidental to his other appeals.  

He may be an overbearing jerk, fond of humiliating people he doesn’t like, but he gets this reassuring tone of voice sometimes, a tone he can apparently assume at will, and our fear-whipped citizens take great solace from that tone.  He may seem, at times, to be insane, still… he can get that reassuring tone, talk softly, almost gently.   It is that ability to modulate his voice, sound very calm, as much as anything, I believe, that accounts for his popularity, among those who love what he says he stands for.   It is that soft side of his braying, bullying persona that sometimes soothes even those of us who despise his type and the inhuman values for which they stand.


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