Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 11, 2012
POLITICS/HISTORY: The Southern Strategy Myth and the Lost Majority

I recently finished reading Sean Trende's excellent book The Lost Majority, which is a must-read for anyone attempting to intelligently discuss its subject: how winning political coalitions are built, maintained and undone in the modern American two-party system. Trende covers a range of topics. At the level of political science theory, he dismantles the theory of periodic realigning elections. In his historical analysis, he may surprise you by arguing that the most enduring coalition of the past century was assembled not by McKinley, FDR, or Reagan but Dwight Eisenhower. Looking to the recent past and future, he convincingly demonstrates that Obama's 2008 coalition was always more fragile than Democrats at the time believed, and that there remain obstacles to the John Judis/Ruy Teixeira theory of an Emerging Democratic Majority. Trende's major point is that all such predictions of enduring partisan majorities (he cites many dating back over the past century and a half) ignore the fact that political coalitions inevitably draw together factions with different interests and ideologies, and frictions within those coalitions inevitably offer opportunities for the other party to regain support.

But one of the historical narratives that Trende covers in depth is of particular interest because it remains a crucial part of partisan mythology today: the enduring myth of the Southern Strategy. On the occasion of Mitt Romney's address to the NAACP, it is worth revisiting that myth today.

Background: The Civil Rights Movement

First, a little background. Broadly speaking, the African-American civil rights movement has gone through five basic historical stages:

-Stage One, running roughly from the 1787 enactment of the Northwest Ordinance to the 1865 enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment, was the long, bloody struggle to contain and ultimately abolish slavery. The two-party system ultimately aligned the Democrats as the defenders of slavery and secession, while the Republican Party was founded as an antislavery party, and the election of a Republican president triggered the Civil War.

-Stage Two, running until 1876 and highlighted by the passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and several early civil rights laws, was Reconstruction, which sought to give freed blacks political suffrage and legal equality while dealing with the aftermath of nearly half the country engaging in armed rebellion against the United States. During this period, the "Radical Republicans" of the North and West pressed for more aggressive reconstruction measures, and freed blacks aligned with the GOP, while white Southerners remained the core of the decimated Democratic Party.

-Stage Three, which ran from the deal resolving the contested 1876 election (Democrats accepted Republican Rutherford B. Hayes as the winner in exchange for an end to Reconstruction) through the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, was the age of Jim Crow: while African-Americans made legal and economic progress on a few fronts, the overwhelming trend (especially in the South) was one of black disenfranchisement, segregation, and oppressive and terroristic practices ranging from lynchings to Klu Klux Klan activity. The Supreme Court during this period essentially rewrote the Fourteenth Amendment to eviscerate the Privileges & Immunities Clause and the Equal Protection Clause (the latter has recovered; the former remains crippled).

For most of this period, the "Solid South" was regarded as reliably Democratic as well as poor, rural and backward. Black voters - where they were permitted to vote at all - began abandoning the GOP for the Democrats in large numbers by the 1930s. Democrats, in thrall to white Southern support, were more or less enthusiastically united in their support for Jim Crow and resistant to even mild civil rights measures like anti-lynching bills. Segregation was formally introduced in the Army by Woodrow Wilson. Republicans, for their part, remained committed in theory to the ideals of Lincoln, but in practice often followed what Trende describes as the Theodore Roosevelt strategy of accommodating Southern recalcitrance in the hopes that Southern whites would give the GOP a hearing. During the time of Roosevelt and Taft, this strategy was unavailing with white Southerners, but the party's abandonment of any real civil rights agenda set the stage for the loss of its black support between 1928 and 1936.

-Stage Four, running roughly from 1946-65, was the fight for legal equality and the end to Jim Crow and disenfranchisement: desegregation of the armed forces and integration of Major League Baseball in the 1940s, Brown v Board of Education and Rosa Parks in the 1950s, passage of the 24th Amendment banning poll taxes (passed by Congress in 1962, ratified in 1964) and the various landmark civil rights and voting rights bills passed in 1964-65.

The rearguard opposition to civil rights was loud and almost entirely Southern and Democratic; as Kevin Williamson notes, in the 1950s, Southern Democrats in the Senate played what amounted to a good-cop/bad-cop strategy, with Strom Thurmond leading noisy filibusters of civil rights legislation and Lyndon Johnson promising liberal Northern Democrats he could get past the filibusters if the bills were watered down to the point of toothlessness.

The partisan politics of civil rights was complex. Southern Democrats twice bolted the party in tight presidential elections, with Thurmond running in 1948 and George Wallace in 1968, while Northern and Western Democrats generally supported civil rights. Republicans, mostly "liberals" from the North and West, were also mostly supportive (I put "liberals" in quotes here because the liberals on civil rights included a fair number of people like Illinois Congressman Don Rumsfeld who were not liberals by any measure on other issues). As a result, major civil rights bills in the 1950s and 60s generally depended more on Republican than Democratic support in Congress. Conservatives in the GOP and in magazines like National Review were split at the time - few lent their support to the Thurmond/Wallace/Bull Connor faction, which was almost exclusively the province of the Democrats, but some objected on other grounds to the pace and methods used to push civil rights, most famously Barry Goldwater's opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on constitutional grounds (Goldwater had supported other civil rights measures and would again). But those were disagreements about tactics, not outcomes.

Today, the American electorate and political system is all but unanimous in support of the measures taken during Stage One, Two and Four; the old Dixiecrat resistance is thoroughly discredited. Most conservatives today want no part of the objections raised by Goldwater and his allies at the time (although some of their systemic concerns about the slippery slopes created during that era have proven prophetic in other areas).

-Stage Five, beginning with the Great Society and the Nixon-era institution of affirmative action and the 1970s controversies over school busing and ongoing more than four decades later, remains much more enduringly controversial. Few, if any, of the racially charged issues of the past 47 years have had anything to do with legal equality for African-Americans, and after the last gasp of Wallace in 1968, political support for any vestige of Jim Crow vanished. On the GOP side, a number of the old Dixiecrats, led by Thurmond himself, switched parties. Ex-Dixiecrats like Thurmond and Jesse Helms abandoned their prior support for segregation along with the party they had left behind. On the Democratic side, they died out more slowly, with some still holding office into the 1980s, a number of whom (including Wallace) dramatically repented their prior ways. The old Dixiecrats who stayed in the Democratic Party spent the rest of their careers drawing overwhelming support from black voters; most depended on that support for their margins of victory. Meanwhile, Republicans who had supported civil rights throughout the 1960s generally found themselves shut out of that support.

The most dramatic political development of the post-1965 period has been the rise of the GOP and decline of the Democrats among white voters in the South. Which brings us to the mythology of how that happened and what it means to the two parties today.

The Myth

The basic "Southern Strategy" myth, popularized by Kevin Phillips in the early 1970s, goes like this: under LBJ's leadership, Democrats nobly and self-sacrificingly supported civil rights during Stage Four of the movement, giving an opening to opportunistic Republicans to crack the Democratic Solid South; following the support given by voters in some Deep South states to Goldwater in 1964, Nixon (formerly a supporter of civil rights) developed a "Southern Strategy" to use coded appeals to southern whites, enabling him to win the 1968 election; and everything the GOP has accomplished since 1968 is tainted by a continuous reliance on that same strategy to keep white southerners in the fold.

Like most myths, the Southern Strategy myth has some kernels of truth to it. It's true that LBJ changed his tune on civil rights in the Oval Office, and did so knowing that this would have costs to the party. This, as Trende notes, is the nature of political coalitions and why they are inherently unstable. It's true that Nixon, like Republicans as far back as TR, had the dream of adding white Southern support to his coalition, and dedicated a campaign strategy to doing so. And it's true that the South has, broadly speaking, been far more Republican since the late 60s than it was before.

But the reality is quite different from the myth.

The Real Story of the Un-Solid South

At the center of the Southern Strategy myth is the idea that Republicans used the race card to seduce Democratic voters in the South into leaving their natural partisan home. The truth, as Trende convincingly demonstrates, is the opposite: the growth of GOP support among white Southerners was steady and mostly gradual from 1928 to 2010, and was a natural outgrowth of the fact that white Southerners were ideologically much more compatible with the national Republican agenda and coalition than with the national Democratic agenda and coalition. What retarded the Southern switch from the Democrats to the GOP was a combination of party loyalties dating back to Reconstruction and the Democrats' use of racial issues. In other words, if you take race out of the picture, it's likely that white Southerners would have switched parties earlier and in greater numbers. The real "Southern Strategy" was the one pursued by the Democrats, especially under FDR, to keep conservative white Southerners in a liberal party.

You can read shorter versions of Trende's argument in columns by Trende, Jay Cost (who looks especially at the South's divergence from the party of organized labor), and Gerard Alexander, as well as more background on the two parties' civil rights records from Williamson. I will summarize.

Basically, Trende follows three lines of data. The first thing he does is look at voting patterns, not just bottom-line statewide Electoral College figures but the actual trends in the two-party popular presidential vote as well as downticket voting behavior by state, Congressional district and state gubernatorial and legislative elections. What he shows, on the one hand, is that the South was, from 1928 on, not as solidly Democratic as portrayed (and there were pockets of the South that had always been GOP-friendly, especially in Tennessee, Virginia and Texas). Some of that in the case of 1928 can be attributed to Southern Protestant resistance to voting for the Catholic Al Smith, but the fortunes of the GOP began to pick up significantly as conservative anti-union Southerners soured on the New Deal after 1936. And that accelerated under Eisenhower. Trende:

The Great Depression set Republicans back, but post-1948, Republicans began seriously working to pick the Democrats' lock on the South. In 1952, Eisenhower carried three Southern states. In 1956, he carried five, including deep Southern states like Louisiana.... Eisenhower came 15,000 votes in North Carolina from carrying a majority of the Southern states; he managed to carry a majority of the South's popular vote. And the days of Republicans receiving 5 percent of the vote in Deep Southern states were by then over. Eisenhower received at least one-third of the vote in every state in the Old Confederacy.

The same is true for Nixon in 1960, when the pro-Civil Rights Nixon, who...was representing an Administration that enforced Brown v. Board, carried Virginia, Tennessee and Florida. Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina were all decided by five points or less. Without LBJ as the Veep candidate, Nixon may well have carried those states - indeed Republicans picked up their first elected Southern Senate seat in history in a 1960 special election shortly after the election.

In 1964, Goldwater did break through in the Deep South. But compared to the preceding decade, that isn't all that surprising. Goldwater ran roughly even with Nixon in Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia. He ran about ten points better in South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. On average, he ran two points ahead of Nixon. Compare this with 1952, when Eisenhower ran 22 points ahead of Dewey in the South.

The second trendline in the data is ideology. To accept the Southern Strategy myth that race is the dominant reason why white Southerners would find a home in the GOP, you have to ignore the role of (among other issues) economics, religion, and foreign policy/national security. Which is ridiculous; it is obviously not the case that the average white Southern voter would have been in perfect sync with George McGovern, Ted Kennedy and Michael Dukakis on those issues if not for the Magic Race Card. Trende supports this point in a variety of ways through legislative voting data on how elected Southern Democrats increasingly parted company from their party beginning in 1937-38 and running through their effective extinction in 2010. The process fed itself - the more white Southerners left the Democratic Party, the more liberal on all these issues the national party became, and the more it drove additional white Southerners to give the GOP a look.

The third trendline is demographic: Southern voters in successive generations tended to vote more Republican as their economic circumstances came to more closely resemble those of Republicans outside the South. As the South became less poor, less rural, and more suburban, it elected more Republicans.

Just as the South was less solidly Democratic than thought before 1968, it was less immediately solidly Republican after that. Southern candidates like Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 made significant inroads in their home region, and it took many years for Republican strength at the presidential level to seep downticket. Cost:

[W]hile the Deep South voted for Goldwater in 1964, the Democrats still carried a whopping 90 of 106 congressional districts in Dixie in 1964. In fact, the big breakthrough for the GOP in the House did not come until 1994. Prior to that, the Democrats could count on better than 3/5ths of the Southern congressional districts.

As late as 2010, there were still states like Alabama and North Carolina that were voting in their first Republican legislative majorities since Reconstruction - something that would have happened overnight in the late 60s if the partisan realignment had been driven by lockstep white voting loyalties on racial lines.

The actual 1960s-era Republican record on civil rights is also not what is painted by the myth. When Thurmond met with Nixon to pledge his support in 1968, he asked for reassurance from Nixon on one issue: missile defense. Williamson on Goldwater:

Goldwater had supported the 1957 and 1960 acts but believed that Title II and Title VII of the 1964 bill were unconstitutional, based in part on a 75-page brief from Robert Bork. But far from extending a welcoming hand to southern segregationists, he named as his running mate a New York representative, William E. Miller, who had been the co-author of Republican civil-rights legislation in the 1950s. The Republican platform in 1964 was hardly catnip for Klansmen: It spoke of the Johnson administration's failure to help further the "just aspirations of the minority groups" and blasted the president for his refusal "to apply Republican-initiated retraining programs where most needed, particularly where they could afford new economic opportunities to Negro citizens." Other planks in the platform included: "improvements of civil rights statutes adequate to changing needs of our times; such additional administrative or legislative actions as may be required to end the denial, for whatever unlawful reason, of the right to vote; continued opposition to discrimination based on race, creed, national origin or sex." And Goldwater's fellow Republicans ran on a 1964 platform demanding "full implementation and faithful execution of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and all other civil rights statutes, to assure equal rights and opportunities guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen." Some dog whistle.

Alexander, on Nixon:

Nixon made more symbolic than substantive accommodations to white Southerners. He enforced the Civil Rights Act and extended the Voting Rights Act. On school desegregation, he had to be prodded by the courts in some ways but went further than them in others: He supervised a desegregation of Deep South schools that had eluded his predecessors and then denied tax-exempt status to many private "desegregation academies" to which white Southerners tried to flee. Nixon also institutionalized affirmative action and set-asides for minorities in federal contracting.

The Democrats and Race

Meanwhile, the Democratic record is hardly anything to be proud of. The first modern progressive Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, was a horrible racist who did everything in his power to strengthen Jim Crow in the federal government and leave it alone in the states despite his usual preference for expanding federal power. Trende follows how FDR used more subtle racial appeals to hold white Southerners in his coalition while using economic issues to solidify the transition of black voters to loyal Democrats (Trende notes the generational element: older black voters who remembered Reconstruction stayed mostly loyal to the GOP, but died off). But in time, the natural instability of coalition politics took over: as black voters became the Democrats' most loyal base and were registered to vote in increasing numbers, Democratic politicians came to change their tune, with extreme examples like Wallace and LBJ. Williamson observes the turn from the LBJ of the 1950s:

"These Negroes, they're getting pretty uppity these days, and that's a problem for us, since they've got something now they never had before: the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we've got to do something about this - we've got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference."

to the LBJ of 1965:

President Johnson ... informed skeptical southern governors that his plan for the Great Society was "to have them n___ers voting Democratic for the next two hundred years."

Fundamentally, the Democratic Party's approach to racial and ethnic politics has not really changed all that much since the 1830s; it's just calibrated to a different audience.

Print The Legend

The Southern Strategy myth is too well-entrenched by now, and too essential to the Democrats' narrative and self-image, to expect that any level of contact with the facts can dispel it. But like a number of the myths about electoral politics dispelled in Trende's book, it's worth your time to learn those facts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:00 PM | History • | Politics 2012 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Sad you wasted all those words to further a myth the the Southern Strategy never happened. I guess when you have actual Conservatives say it is true, you will ignore that as well. Also, funny how you pushed a false agenda forward without mentioning the Southern Baptist Convention. Another point you left off, can you explain Jessie Helms Senate race against Harvey Gantt. Wonder why???? Cherry picking facts is not a good look.

Posted by: javaman at July 11, 2012 4:51 PM

I notice you managed to ignore every single fact in my post.

Regarding the 1990 Senate race, is it your contention that racial preferences are not a permissible topic of campaign ads?

Posted by: Crank at July 11, 2012 5:17 PM

I think it's genuinely sad that the first sentence of your post is about wanting to have intelligent discourse on politics, and the very first comment is from someone who clearly has no such interest. I also find it sad that I knew before clicking on the comments that that would be the case.

Posted by: Paul Zummo at July 11, 2012 7:16 PM

You're probably right on the broad point that the switch of southern whites from reliable democrats to reliable republicans was not the result of a deliberate race baiting strategy on behalf of republicans on the 60's and 70's. On the other hand, the following quotes highlights a flaw in the analysis: "if you take race out of the picture, it's likely that white Southerners would have switched parties earlier and in greater numbers."

That's definitely true in the literal sense you intend it, but it does ignore the fact that, if you take race out of the picture, the party divisions of white southerns=democrats wouldn't have existed in the first place, and the switch that finalized itself in the 70's wouldn't have necessarily occurred because the division wouldn't have existed. The parties would have been divided along some other sociological, economic, ethnic, racial, or other demographical lines, and some other switch at some other time would have occurred.

Again, I'm not sure that changes your ultimate conclusion, but it's an important part of the conversation that is missing in your analysis.

As always though, thought-provoking.

Posted by: Rich at July 11, 2012 11:47 PM

Rich, good point, but I'm reminded that white southerners became firmly entrenched in the Democratic party in the 30's, 40's & 50's due in no small part to FDR's New Deal programs, which focused on the poor (prominently in the south). Thus, you had the spectre of conservative whites voting Dem their entire lives. As they died off, their conservative kids voted GOP religiously.

I'm in Georgia & I've been surrounded by just that my entire life & have seen parents/grandparents who are MUCH further to the right than their kids voting Dem while the kids were Republicans.

Anecdotal, I know, but something to consider. The region certainly didn't get more conservative (it was always so), it became more Republican.

Posted by: RW at July 12, 2012 9:11 AM

Nice article, Crank. That analysis is a far more compelling explanation than an outright flip in the 1960's, and a perfect example of why politics can't simply be reduced to single issues such as race.

RW - are the elderly down there still willing to vote Dem? If they were loyal to the dems based on Depression-era economic benefits, I'd imagine they'd still be receptive to such policies now, though, on the other hand, they may not be the ones receiving the current benefits.

Posted by: MVH at July 12, 2012 10:10 AM

MVH,
They're dying off (of course), but in many ways, yes.

First, it's a huge step to change one's affiliations, especially after a L-O-N-G & dedicated alignment with one party.

Second, the people who grew up FDR Democrats that I'm talking about (farmers, ranchers, small-town teachers, etc.) are still farmers, ranchers, small-town teachers, etc., or they're retired from those careers and they're more in line with the New Deal principals of the Democratic party.

Their kids & grandkids are biz owners & college graduates who are moving towards the 'burbs & have been footing the bill. They're trending to the right because they've taken care of their parents on their own & aren't as inclined to want the government to not only take care of their parents, but tell them THEY need THEIR hand held in order to live correctly.

As Zell Miller said: Once upon a time, the most successful Democratic leader of them all, FDR, looked south and said, “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad and ill-nourished.” Today our national Democratic leaders look south and say, “I see one-third of a nation and it can go to hell.”

Look at the '76 election map: http://presidentelect.org/e1976.html

The NE was split, the west coast was GOP, MI, Illinois(!) and Hawaii were GOP and the south was solidly behind Jimmy Carter. For all the talk of a 'southern strategy', it was certainly gone in 1976 as the supposed racists that Nixon & co. were giving the nod to lived in areas that are now as solidly Democratic as exists in this nation.

BTW, those folks in the south were voting Democrat down ticket throughout the 70s, 80s & early 90s, they just liked Nixon, Reagan and Bush 41. The south was SOLID Democrat as recently as 1995, as I've tweeted Crank.

The reason the south is no longer willing to vote for many Dems is simple: the Democratic party is now liberal & the south doesn't care much for libs. Democrats, yeah, but not libs. A lot of them voted for Clinton, many voted for Zell, Ann Richards, Jim Webb, etc. They're not as inclined to vote for John Kerry or Mondale or most of today's Dem/lib leaders.

Posted by: RW at July 12, 2012 2:04 PM

RW - thanks, interesting stuff. I guess as long as the Dems think they can win national elections without the south, we'll keep seeing left-leaning candidates.

Posted by: MVH at July 13, 2012 7:16 AM

Oh please, Paul Zummo.
Intelligent discussion my ass. It's called point-scoring for your team, and Crank is an All-Star in it.
Last month Crank wanted an "intelligent discussion" about how liberals take politics personal, while wholly ignoring the murder of abortion providers by conservatives.
Feel free to take Crank's nonsensical point-scoring serious if you'd like, but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to buy the tripe he's trying to sell us. Perhaps Crank will explain Reagan's election kickoff in Philadelphia, MS, his use of "young bucks" buying steaks and "welfare queens driving Cadillacs" while using food stamps, or Lee Atwater's discussion of southern politics in your "intelligent discussion", but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

Posted by: Berto at July 17, 2012 12:01 PM

Want examples of real myths? Anything from the addled brains of the (get the irony?) right:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/18/anderson-cooper-michele-bachmann-huma-abedin-muslims_n_1682281.html

Posted by: Magrooder at July 18, 2012 1:45 PM

Reagan started his 1980 campaign in that town because he promised someone he would do that. Look up the backstory or just keep to your narrative without regard to the truth.

Posted by: Keith Waters at July 18, 2012 2:14 PM

"The Supreme Court during this period essentially rewrote the Fourteenth Amendment to eviscerate the Privileges & Immunities Clause and the Equal Protection Clause (the latter has recovered; the former remains crippled)."

I am a bit confused about the meaning of the word "crippled" in light of the tendency of liberals to find "rights" that previous generations did not know existed.

Posted by: Keith Waters at July 18, 2012 2:35 PM

They've found those rights through the due process clause and equal protection clause. And penumbras of other amendments. But the P&I clause basically has been a dead letter for nearly 150 years.

Posted by: per14 at July 20, 2012 9:52 AM

Let's turn to some source material, shall we?

LEE ATWATER -- former chair of GOP National Committee and adviser to Reagan and Bush I:

"Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn't have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he's campaigned on since 1964 and that's fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.

"Questioner: But the fact is, isn't it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

"Atwater: 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. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — 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."[6][7]"

HASTINGS WYMAN -- former GOP strategist for RNC and Strom Thurmond:

"[A] major component of the Republican resurgence in the Old Confederacy was a racist reaction to the civil rights changes that were coming to the South. Not just a racist reaction that Republicans, in the right place at the right time, could take advantage of, but often a reaction consciously encouraged -- no, fanned -- by the GOP itself.

"Racism, often purposely inflamed by many southern Republicans, either because we believed it or because we thought it would win votes, was a major tool in the building of the new Republican party in the South."

I could go on but you get the picture.

Posted by: Max Flash at July 20, 2012 3:55 PM

Oh, Max. Crank doesn't care about the facts if they get in the way of a good story. He's a product of Faux News.

Posted by: Magrooder at July 23, 2012 11:21 AM

Keith Waters,
I've been looking for the backstory about Philadelphia, MS campaign kickoff, and have seen how the RNC chair of MS wanted the kickoff there. Not seeing if he was an old friend of Reagan or not. Care to provide me a link to what you are referring?
Thanks.

Posted by: Berto at July 25, 2012 1:48 PM

You guys are entitled to quote all the generalities you like - note that Atwater was basically making the point that Reagan was running on what Reagan always ran on, and you have to play subconscious investigator to come up with a theory of how that's just like what Democrats did for generations. What nobody here is even addressing is the facts laid out in the post regarding the actual chronology of how and when the South swung and how that lines up with the fact that on the issues, white Southerners were late to join the party that was their more natural ideological home.

As for the Philadelphia MS speech, it is first of all not true that Reagan "kicked off" his campaign there - it was the first event after the convention, in the middle of the long summer slog, and was shoehorned into the schedule before a weeklong pitch to black voters including a speech the following day in Manhattan to the Urban League. There's some excellent factual detail here, here, and here, if you are interested in the facts rather than the legend. (Including the fact that Dukakis campaigned at the same county fair in 1988). As for the larger "code words" narrative, recall that one of Reagan's biggest gaffes of the campaign came a month later when Carter campaigned in a town in Alabama and Reagan accused him (inaccurately, as it turned out) of campaigning in the birthplace of the Klan.

Posted by: Crank at July 25, 2012 2:30 PM

"...Atwater was basically making the point that Reagan was running on what Reagan always ran on"

If one of your points is that Reagan always campaigned with an eye toward wooing the bigot vote (strapping young bucks, welfare queens on food stamps---both of which were NOT from the '80 Presidential Campaign) then yes, I agree 100%.
You might want to circle the date on your calendar and celebrate its anniversary yearly, because that doesn't happen too often.
Also, better to leave out the fact that Reagan called the people who were 100% right about Viet Nam dirty, stinky hippies, despite the fact that "prescient" would have been a more apt moniker for them.
BTW, Crank, I need to let you know I'm nominating you for a "Chutzpah Award" for that post about liberals taking politics personal, while ignoring the conservative killings of abortion providers. You deserve to be the award winner, no doubt.

Posted by: Berto at July 25, 2012 8:41 PM
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