Wednesday, May 20, 2015


      In 1948, after the Democrats inserted a modest civil rights plank into its platform, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina led a walkout of southern delegates. Thurmond then formed the States Rights Democratic Party (aka Dixiecrats) and ran for president. He won four states: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Though he received only 2.4% of the national vote, he garnered 87.2% of the vote in Mississippi. (African-Americans were unable to vote in most of the South.) Curiously, another independent candidate, Henry Wallace, who refused to disavow the endorsement of the Communist Party, and who campaigned with African-American candidates in the South, also received 2.4% of the overall vote. But Wallace’s votes were scattered and his effort was deemed a failure.

      In 1964, Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act, one of only six Republican Senators to do so. “We ought to forget the big cities,” he told his fellow Republicans. “I would like to see our party back up on integration.” That same year, the Republican National Committee created the Southern Strategy, a blatant appeal to southern segregationists, before Goldwater’s eventual nomination. Although Lyndon Johnson garnered 61% of the overall vote in the general election, Goldwater won six states. He won his home state, Arizona, along with five southern states: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. In Mississippi, where African Americans were still excluded from the polls, Goldwater received 87.1% of the white vote.

      In 1968, George Wallace ran for president under the banner of the American Independent Party. As Governor of Alabama, Wallace stood in the doorway at the University of Alabama in order to prevent four black students from soiling that sacred institution with their presence. He was also the man who famously declared, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Wallace won five states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. (More about Wallace in a future rant.)

      In 1972, Richard Nixon employed a toned-down Southern Strategy to win seven southern and border states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia and South Carolina. At the nominating convention, he denounced an agreement between all-white construction unions in Philadelphia and Black Civil Rights organizations as a quota system antithetical to the American way, a quota system that his own administration brokered in 1969.

       In 1976, the Dems made a southern comeback when they nominated Jimmy Carter, a born-again Georgian. That flirtation ended abruptly in 1980 when Ronald Reagan made an appearance at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi on August 3. Extolling the virtues of states’ rights to an appreciative audience, Reagan promised “to restore to states and local governments the power that belongs to them.” At the time, Neshoba County had only one claim to fame. Sixteen years before, the bodies of three civil rights workers, Michael Schwerner, James Cheney and Andrew Goodman, had been dug out of a levee. Ronald Reagan won nine southern states in the general election: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

      Game, set, match. The solid South was solid once gain.

1 comment:

  1. This is compelling evidence that the Republican Party deliberately fanned racial flames at a time when the country was most in need of racial healing.