The Republican Party, Race and the South - Correcting The Record

Every once in a while, a Left-Wing troll appears somewhere and repeats the lie that immediately after LBJ signed the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, the South immediately switched to the Republican Party and the South became solidly Republican.


This troll, with the thoroughly inapt name of  appeared yesterday in Jeff Charles’ comment section with this nonsense.

Let’s be straight about American political history. The Republican party was not the party of slaveowners — they joined the Democrat party and dominated the South. Once Lyndon Johnson signed the civil rights act, they changed their registrations to Republican and haven’t looked back.

This is a lie. Please understand that  is not speaking out of ignorance or is unaware that the information it is spouting here is incorrect. Like Kevin Kruse of Princeton University, who deliberately and maliciously, for purely partisan reasons, reportedly teaches this falsehood to his students, he knows this is false –  he is a liar. The historical record shows no sign of this party switch, and in fact, the Democrats continued to dominate Southern politics for decades after.

Anyway, because of this, I periodically repost my piece on the GOP and the South, and I think it would be a good companion piece for Jeff’s post for those who have never read it.

I have always maintained that it is one of the clearest signs of injustice in the world of politics that the Republican Party is consistently stigmatized in the popular culture as being stridently anti-Civil Rights and the Democrats are lauded as the premier pro-Civil Rights party. I am well aware that the GOP has a far from spotless record on race, but it is relatively pristine compared to just how much more spotted the Democrats’ record is.

The Democrats today claim that the Republican Party turned against Civil Rights in the mid-1960s, and/or used subtle appeals to latent Southern racism to pick up the racist white vote in the South. This theory, that the GOP appealed to racism to reach their current position of dominance in the South, is what has since been termed the Republican “Southern Strategy.”

Again, this is a lie. A Goebbelsian “Big Lie” that earned the appearance of truth through sheer consistent and unchallenged (because the GOP is Stupid™) repetition.

In fact, I still find it amazing that despite the fact that practically every famous racist that had walked the sphere of American politics in the past 100 years had worn a ‘D’ behind his name, Republicans are considered the “racist party.” Ben ‘Pitchfork’ Tillman, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Bilbo, Richard Russell, John Sparkman, Orville Faubus, George Wallace, Lester Maddox, Ross Barnett, George Mahony, etc. all hardcore racists, all high profile (Senators and Governors, one a President), all Democrats.

Bull Connor himself was a registered Democrat up until he died. Much like the relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA, the Ku Klux Klan was the terrorist arm of the Democrat Party in the South for decades, and had enough clout that it even sent delegates to National Conventions. And it was not just in the South, the unions and city machines often played the same role for the Democrats in the North, manning the polls to prevent black people from voting.

It is hard not to be overcome with admiration at how the Democrats have managed to transfer all the bad karma they have richly earned on race to the GOP. They would never have succeeded without the assistance of their friends in the Press, but the GOPs own active stupidity and blindness (the GOP is not called the Stupid Party™ for nothing) was probably just as essential. Of course, one could justifiably say that all that is just ancient history. The real story is what the parties have done since the 1960s, when the GOP lost, permanently, whatever competitiveness it still retained in the black community. Did the Republican Party turn against Civil Rights even as the Democrat Party embraced it wholesale?


The Democrats and their friends in the Fourth Estate and academia all say yes. This is offered as the primary reason why the South went from being solidly Democrat to solidly Republican; the “Southern Strategy.”

But on closer examination, there are way too many ahistorical gaps in the logic upholding this so-called particular theory. Unfortunately, given the Left’s capture of academia, and the fact that Leftist professors routinely sacrifice ethics, rationality and honesty for political aims, the lie of the South switching to the GOP in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Act is taught to students from high school to graduate programs.

First of all, the first Civil Rights Bills passed since Reconstruction in 1957 and 1960 were sent to Congress by the Eisenhower Administration and steered though to passage (though much weakened by Democrat Amendments) by Senate Republican Leader William Knowland of California. In the congressional battles for Civil Rights in the 1960s, the GOP, in both the House and Senate, consistently voted for Civil Rights in far greater percentages than the Democrats. In fact, the Senator at the forefront of writing the Senate versions of the Civil Rights Acts and breaking the 1964 filibuster was none other than the Senate Republican Leader, Everett Dirksen of Illinois. He and his fellow Republicans were far more instrumental in the passage of the Acts, so much so that the NAACP gave him the Leadership Conference of Civil Rights Award (though the rabidly anti-Republican NAACP is very likely to posthumously withdraw it anyday now).

So, it cannot be denied, the GOP acquitted itself well during the Civil Rights Acts’ fights for survival in congress and were key players in getting them passed. In fact, of the twenty Senators who filibustered the key Civil Rights Act in 1964, only one was a Republican, John Tower of Texas. The rest of them, Richard Russell, Allen Ellender, Jim Eastland, Al Gore Snr., Robert Byrd, Herman Talmadge, J. William Fulbright, etc. were all Democrats.

But among the other things the happened in the 1960s to sour the black community on the GOP is its Presidential nomination of Barry Goldwater, who had opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But, anyone who has any familiarity with Goldwater’s record knows that he had always been an opponent of segregation; before he entered politics he desegregated his department store, and he desegregated the Arizona National Guard when he served as its Chief of Staff a full two years before Harry S Truman ordered he desegregation of the Armed Forces. He was also a strong supporter of the 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights bills. Interestingly, he was a founding member of the Arizona NAACP and remained a member till his death.

So why did he oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964? He thought it was unconstitutional (he is the founding father of modern American Conservatism in Government, after all), overextended the role of the Federal Government and could possibly lead to racial preferences and quotas (he got that part right). He got 8% of the black vote in the 1964 election.

But Goldwater is not as often mentioned as the supposed “Southern Strategy” supposedly instituted by the Nixon campaign in 1968 and has supposedly since then been utilized by the GOP to win the South away from the Democrats. According to the narrative offered by the Democrats/Press, this “Southern Strategy” led the Dixiecrats to move en masse out of the Democrat Party and into the Republican Party, thus firmly delivering the South into Republican hands and the black community to the Democrats. This “Southern Strategy” was allegedly instrumental in Nixon’s victory over Hubert Humphrey.


No doubt there was some sort of “Southern Strategy” to appeal to Southerners, but was it based on race? Or other cultural issues?

The Democrats say it was based on race but there are far too many ahistorical holes in this story; how much of it is reality and how much of it is myth? For one, when Democratic news outlets like the New York Times write about the 1968 campaign and attribute Nixon’s victory to the “Southern Strategy” they invariably fail to mention that there were two Democrats running in 1968, Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace. It is my belief from looking at the history that this so-called “Southern Strategy“, even if implemented the way the Democrats say it was, was neither long-lasting nor in any way effective. Taking the following Southern states into account and judging the amount (and percentage) of votes Nixon got against Kennedy in 1960 and the votes he got against Humphrey in 1968;


1960 1968
John F Kennedy 324,050 [56.8%] Hubert Humphrey 196,579 [18.7%]
Richard Nixon 237,981 [41.7%] Richard Nixon 146,923 [14.0%]
George Wallace 691,425 [65.9%]


1960 1968
John F Kennedy 215,049 [50.2%] Hubert Humphrey 188,228 [30.4%]
Richard Nixon 184,508 [43.1%] Richard Nixon 190,759 [30.8%]
George Wallace 240,982 [38.9%]


1960 1968
John F Kennedy 458,638 [62.5%] Hubert Humphrey 334,440 [26.7%]
Richard Nixon 274,472 [37.4%] Richard Nixon 380,111 [30.4%]
George Wallace 535,550 [42.8%]


1960 1968
John F Kennedy 407,339 [50.4%] Hubert Humphrey 309,615 [28.2%]
Richard Nixon 230,980 [28.6%] Richard Nixon 257,535 [23.5%]
George Wallace 530,300 [48.3%]


1960 1968
John F Kennedy 108,362 [36.3%] Hubert Humphrey 50,644 [23.0%]
Richard Nixon 73,561 [24.7%] Richard Nixon 88,516 [13.5%]
George Wallace 415,349 [63.5%]


1960 1968
John F Kennedy 713,136 [52.1%] Hubert Humphrey 464,113 [29.2%]
Richard Nixon 655,420 [47.9%] Richard Nixon 627,192 [39.5%]
George Wallace 496,188 [31.3%]


1960 1968
John F Kennedy 198,129 [51.2%] Hubert Humphrey 197,486 [29.6%]
Richard Nixon 188,558 [48.8%] Richard Nixon 254,062 [38.1%]
George Wallace 215,430 [32.3%]


1960 1968
John F Kennedy 481,453 [45.8%] Hubert Humphrey 351,233 [28.1%]
Richard Nixon 556,577 [52.9%] Richard Nixon 472,592 [37.8%]
George Wallace 424,792 [34.0%]


1960 1968
John F Kennedy 441,786 [52.7%] Hubert Humphrey 374,091 [49.6%]
Richard Nixon 395,995 [47.3%] Richard Nixon 307,555 [40.8%]
George Wallace 72,560 [9.6%]


Note that in 1968, there was nowhere where Nixon’s numbers went up consistently, i.e. he consistently lost support in the percentage of votes he recieved from 1960, and in many cases even lost votes in terms of raw numbers. In other words, Nixon’s supposed “Southern Strategy” yielded him absolutely nothing in terms of electoral success; raw numbers or percentages. Yet, strangely, Nixon’s victory is always attributed to appeals to racial hatreds – despite his campaign’s explicit statement in 1966 that it would leave it to the;

… party of Maddox, Mahoney and Wallace to squeeze the last ounces of political juice out of the rotting fruit of racial injustice.

I highlight the name Mahoney in order to make another point. Nixon picked Spiro Agnew in 1968 to be his running mate. This is the same Spiro Theodore Agnew who ran for Governor of Maryland in 1966 (just two years earlier) on a platform of extending civil rights to black Marylanders while his Democratic opponent George Mahoney, ran on an explicitly segregationist platform.


In other words, Nixon;
denounced segregation throughout his 1968 campaign,
[2] was known for pushing civil rights legislation in the 1950s as Vice President,
picked a famously anti-segregationist running mate.
But yet we are told that he won in 1968 because he appealed to racism …

Furthermore, considering what Nixon did while in office; raised the Civil Rights Enforcement Budget 800%; made numerous appointments of African Americans to high federal offices; virtually invented Affirmative Action (the Philadelphia Plan by Arthur Fletcher); oversaw the aggressive desegregation of Southern schools; the people who voted for Nixon on account of racism must have felt extremely stupid and misled. Here’s another fact, Nixon won 18% of the black vote in 1968 and 25% of the black vote in 1972 – a feat no Republican has replicated since.

The common assertion made by the Democrats is that the Dixiecrats moved en masse into the GOP in protest against the Democrats’ supposed wholesale rejection of racism (while Talmadge, Stennis, Russell, etc still proudly wore Ds and leadership positions in the Senate … and the lone black man in the Senate, Edward Brooke, wore an R) is patently nonsensical. Hardly any Dixiecrats crossed the aisle. The often repeated assertion that the Dixiecrats became Republicans is one of the most ahistorical myths in the history of American politics. In fact, with the sole exception Strom Thurmond, no Dixiecrat left the Democrats for the GOP in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Acts, and his leaving had virtually nothing to do with race. In fact, it seemed as if he remained in the Democrat Party only because of its stand against civil rights, because he switched after the GOP overwhelmingly voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act and continued to vote just as overwhelming for Civil Rights bills in 1965 and 1968. Once Jim Crow met its end, Thurmond simply made an honest man of himself and moved to the party whose ideology lay closer to his long held antipathy to an intrusive and activist federal government.

Either way, every Southern state was controlled by the Dixiecrats in 1960s, 1970s up until the 2010s. If a massive switch of partisan allegiance took place with the Dixiecrats leaving the Democrats to become Republicans in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement, then the historical record would show huge amounts of Democrat politicians switching parties in Southern states. We should see the Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, etc. state legislatures swing from Democrat to Republican majorities. But if one should check the records of every Southern state, that’s clearly not the case – it didn’t happen. Hardly any such partisan switches took place.

In fact, Georgia elected its first Republican Governor in a 100 years in 2003. David Vitter was elected the very first GOP Senator from Louisiana in 2005, etc. The fact is that the South kept sending Democratic majorities to represent them in Congress, to represent them in their state legislatures and voting Democrat for Governors’ offices consistently up until at least 1994 – 30 years after the Civil Rights Acts. At the State level, Democrats continued to dominate until very recently, e.g. the Alabama state legislature became majority Republican in 2010, North Carolina in 2012, Louisiana in 2015, Mississippi in 2011, Arkansas in 2012. So the simple fact remains that 99.9% of Dixiecrats stayed in the Democrat Party. They’re dying off. And, the South, moved Right even as the Democrats moved Left (witness the landmark nomination of McGovern in 1972 and the subsequent takeover by the far Left of the Democrat Party).


Once it is pointed out that Nixon’s election in 1968 could not have had anything to do with a supposed “Southern Strategy,” the next most common assertion is that Nixon and every Republican thenceforth have used “racial code words.” Such code words include “law and order“, “crime“, “welfare queen“**, “liberal“, “tax hiker“, “quota“, “cut taxes“, “federalism“. In the vast majority of these cases, most are attempts by the Democrats and their friends in the Press to declare areas in which they are politically weak off-limits to debate. The two most commonly cited examples of Republicans using “code words” or “code actions” are Reagan supposedly endorsing “states rights” in Philadelphia Mississippi, and the elder Bushs’ use of Willie Horton against Dukakis in 1988.

In the case of the phrase “States’ Rights,” there is a strong case to be made that consistent and extensive use of the phrase, especially in the South, is an attempt to stir up racial tensions, though how successful this particular tactic would be today is far different from the 1960s. But saying something positive about “States’ Rights” in a campaign speech, even in the South, does not a racist make. The concept of “States’ Rights“, i.e. Federalism, is a key element of small government Conservatism. Unfortunately, in defense of racism, the Dixiecrats poisoned the phrase and almost succeeded in poisoning the very idea of Federalism in the first place. Either way, I have long heard the story of how Reagan began his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, MS (where three civil rights activists were murdered by Kluckers in 1964) and proclaimed his support for “States’ Rights” in his speech. According to the Democrats/Press, the choice of venue and words is conclusive evidence that Reagan was appealing to the racist vote as, the story goes, there could have been no other reason for Reagan to begin a campaign in Mississippi.

Of course, the story is a little bit lacking in facts and context. Reagan was in Philadelphia MS, to take advantage of the Neshoba County Fair, an annual political event in Mississippi, and a huge deal in the state’s politics. A major part of it are speeches by politicians. We are told that Reagan then unambiguously endorsed “States Rights,” in its racial context when he said; “I believe in States’ Rights …“. But the full quote is;

What we have to do is bring back the recognition that the people of this country can solve its problems. I still believe the answer to any problem lies with the people. I believe in state’s rights and I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level. I believe we have distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended to be given in the Constitution to that federal establishment.

This was the first and last time Reagan uttered the words “state rights” in the speech, which is far from an outright “endorsement” or even “positive mention” of “states’ rights” (i.e. segregation). I personally do not believe that the average member of his Mississipi audience, even in 1980, immediately thought that within his explication of a basic principle of Conservatism (as underlined above), he had buried a promise to re-institute Jim Crow. Yet, according to the Press, upon hearing the phrase “States Rights“, average Southern whites, much like Pavlov’s dogs, suuposedly fell hypnotized, their latent inner Nazis surfacing and making them reflexively pull the GOP lever, months later on election day.


A commonly held conceit among limousine liberals, particular those that inhabit the halls of journalism is that white Southerners are primarily or even only motivated by race and racism, therefore anyone who wins the Southern white vote must have appealed to racism. I suspect that if you polled the New York Times newsroom, you’ll find that every single staffer, like our troll , sincerely believes that the South is, even today, this very moment, a hotbed of lynchings, burning crosses and white sheets and every Southerner a neo-Nazi on the lookout for the return of Jim Crow and slavery.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to Democrats. When a Democrat wins the majority of the vote in a Southern state, like Carter, it’s because of his policies, sex appeal, pragmatism, etc. but when a Republican does, it’s because he used “code words” like “law and order” to appeal to the Southern inner-Nazi.

The legendary Willie Horton ad is another supposed sign that Republicans are racists, but in actuality is more of a sign of what a biased Press can do. Willie Horton was a convicted first degree murderer who had been let out of prison unsupervised under the aegis of the Massachusetts Furlough Program, of which Michael Dukakis, a limousine Leftist of the first order was a passionate supporter. So much so that he actually vetoed a bill banning the granting of such furloughs to first degree murderers. When Horton was released for a weekend, he never came back and instead went over to Maryland, where he tortured a couple, cutting the man nearly two dozen times and savagely raping the woman.

The Democrats realized that the Bush campaign had found Dukakis’ major achilles heel (he was notoriously soft on crime) and swiftly attempted to shut the Bush campaign and its supporters up. The Democrat charged that by revealing through a mug shot that Horton was black, the National Security PAC which produced the ad (“Weekend Passes”) in support of, but independent of the Bush campaign, had no other motive but appealing to racism. The thought apparently never occured to any member of the Press that the ad would have run even if Horton (the most notorious of furloughed re-offenders) had been white because the issue, as the vast majority of Americans recognized it, was one of crime, not race. But the Democrats and their allies in the Press strove mightily to switch the subject from being one of crime to one of race. Even though the ad “Revolving Doors” officially produced by the Bush campaign, on the same theme, featured 19 nine furloughed murderers, rapists, etc., sixteen white, two black and one Latino, Dan Rather and friends have managed to get it remembered more for the racial controversy they and their friends at the DNC injected into issue.

Like I mentioned before, without the Press, the Democrats would nowhere near as strong in the black community as they are now. Thurmond’s fellow Senator from South Carolina for over three decades, Fritz Hollings, was the Governor who first flew the Confederate flag over the South Carolina Capitol to show his support for segregation. This was/is hardly ever mentioned in the Press, even in articles and stories about him that devote space to detail his fellow Senator’s less than illustrious past on race. No newspaper article ever mentioned the late Strom Thurmond without duly informing its readers about Thurmond’s past as a segregationist Dixiecrat. Yet, despite a segregationist past every bit as repugnant as Thurmond’s, despite the fact that they both were numbered among the Senators who filibustered the Civil Rights Acts, despite his once being a Grand Kleagle in the Ku Klux Klan, Robert Byrd has no fear of his racist past appearing in any newspaper. Both Byrd and Thurmond long ago apologized, and there is nothing to suggest one was any less sincere than the other. Thurmond, interestingly, was the very first Southern Senator to hire a black legislative aide in Congress.


The only possible explanation for the difference in treatment with regard to Byrd and Thurmond on race is that Byrd remained a Democrat while Thurmond had the temerity to switch parties. Thurmond’s membership in the GOP is treated as a black mark against the party while Robert Byrd, who served twelve years (a record) as the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, is often cited as a credit to the Democrats. In fact, according to many members of Washington Press Corps, he was the “Conscience of the Senate.”

When Douglas Wilder won the nomination for Governor in 1989, many Press outlets made it a point to inform the nation that Wilder was the first black man to recieve a major party nomination for Governor since Reconstruction. Which proves the oft-repeated point that the Press can be remarkably color-blind when it comes to minority Republicans … because the Michigan GOP had nominated a black man for Governor, William Lucas, just three years earlier, in 1986, to run against Democrat Jim Blanchard. Reagan, (the so-called racist) headlined fundraisers for the man. But, outside of Michigan, no-one knew that the man running for Governor was an African American. Contrast that to the hagiographies that the Press ran nationwide about Wilder (I confess that I was glad when Wilder won, by the way).

In the end, I think the GOP routinely and unfairly gets the short end of the stick regarding its reputation and history on racial issues. And, the sad part of it is that this has become so ingrained into what is common knowledge in America that there are college students who would bet their trust funds that Abraham Lincoln was a Democrat and the Republicans were the party of the South during the Civil War. If the GOP had been smart enough to start gunning, for real, after the black vote just a decade ago, we would probably be thinking about how to get at least 35% in 2020, not a paltry 12%.


Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on RedState Videos