Part 1 (“Talk To Black People”) is here.
Part 2 (“Sideline The NAACP”) is here.
Part 3 (“Don’t Pander – Or Beat Yourself Up”) is here.
Part 4 (“60 years”) is here.
Part 5 (“Competition”) is here.
Part 6 (“Race Card”) is here.
Part 7 (“Apologize”) is here.
5. Correct the record on the GOP and race.
As important as it is for the GOP to know what to apologize for (and do it), it is even more important that you know what *not* to apologize for. It is nothing short of confessing to a crime you didn’t commit, and very rarely does anything positive come of that.
One of those things the GOP should never apologize for, is the “Southern Strategy.”
To hear the Democrats and their operatives in the Press, and in academia tell it; in the aftermath of the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the South went from being solidly Democrat to being forever solidly Republican, first because Republicans in Congress opposed the Civil Rights Act, and second, thanks to the introduction of the “Southern Strategy” by Richard Nixon and Lee Atwater in 1968.
Because of this “Southern Strategy”, all of the racist Southern Democrats “switched” over to the GOP based on its promises – made through a secret language of “code words” and “dog whistles” – to effect the return of Jim Crow, on the way to the re-enslavement and eventual genocide of all people of color.
This may sound ridiculous to you, but the notion that there exists a vast underground population of tens of millions of people with a secret language all its own, pining for the return of slavery, is an item of faith on many college campuses (among not just students, but administration and faculty) and many of the nation’s major newsroomsand editorial suites, the New York Times and Washington Post inclusive. A large number of elected Democrats in Congress, perhaps even a majority, also subscribe to this view.
The problem is; there is no aspect of the story told by Democrats about the “Southern Strategy” that is true.
No, Republicans were not uncompetitive in the South before the Civil Rights Act – in fact, by 1956 Eisenhower had already cracked Southern states like Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Florida and even Deep South Louisiana. No, Republicans in Congress did not oppose the Civil Rights Act – in fact, the Act itself was drafted by the Senate Republican Leader.
No, Nixon did not use racist rhetoric in either his 1968 (or 1972) campaign – in fact, he consistently denounced racism and picked a well-known anti-segregationist for his running mate. And, when it came to votes, he did no better in the South in 1968 than he did in his 1960 run for the Presidency.
No, Southern Democrats did not move en masse to the GOP – in fact, according to contemporaneous records only a fraction of 1% of elected Southern Democrats switched to the Republican Party.
No, the GOP did not immediately become the dominant party in the South after the Civil Rights Act – the South continued to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats at the Federal, state and local level all through the 70s and 80s, and in fact, voted heavily for Jimmy Carter for President in 1976.
And on it goes. Reagan did not call for segregation in Philadelphia, MS in 1980. The infamous Willie Horton ad – which wasn’t even produced by the George H. W. Bush campaign in 1988 – did not portray all black people as violent criminals. George W. Bush did not intervene to save the lives of the killers of James Byrd. And neither Bob Dole nor John McCain nor Mitt Romney were ever white supremacists.
There’s virtually no element of the “Southern Strategy” narrative which survives contact with recorded facts and figures. It relies entirely on a combination of bad faith and disingenuous suppositions (e.g. “code words”) and the smug coastal elitists’ caricature of the South as always and forever a hotbed of lynchings, burning crosses and white sheets, and Southerners being one-dimensional exclusively race-focused rubes with an ear constantly up and on the alert for magical “code words.”
This narrative of Republicans turning to racism in order to win and hold one particular region of the country needs to be confronted and exposed for the Goebbelsian “Big Lie” it is, not least for the continued insult it is to Southern voters. Again, this is more of a job for the RNC than it is for the campaign, but it is essential that it is done. Again, a projector and PowerPoint or PragerU style video can make a profound impact.
You will, of course, be accused by Democrats and their operatives in the media of trying to rewrite history (and racism) – but you’ll notice that no attempt will be made to grapple with the data (from voting numbers to party switches) you can bring to bear.
Non-sequiturs will be thrown at you instead – with Snopes and Politifact leading the way. For example, the one single Southern Democrat in the Senate, and the one single Southern Democrat in the House who switched parties will be cited as showing that every Southern Democrat switched.
Another disingenuous dodge, perfected by Princeton’s Kevin Kruse is to claim the Democrats who never switched, who campaigned for and endorsed liberals LBJ, Humphrey, Carter, etc. were functional Republicans because they were all “Conservative Democrats.”
Except that Kruse plays the progressive’s trick of pretending conservatism and racism are synonymous. The reality is virtually all of his so-called “Conservative Democrats” – Bilbo, Russell, Byrd, Long, Gore, Sparkman, Talmadge, etc – were New Deal and Great Society liberals. They also happened to be virulent racists.
Take every critic’s supposed objection to task, and make no mistake, not a single one of them will be operating in good faith. Treat them and their objections accordingly.
You will also sadly face bitter opposition from a not insignificant number of Republican “experts”, who oppose, in principle, “relitigating” the past, seeing it as vulgar, uncouth, and unproductive. “Voters want us to focus on the future!”, they will sniff. This is despite the fact that practically every political movie supposedly recounting past events coming out of Hollywood is an exercise in “relitigation.”
They’re, to be kind, idiots. Ignore them.