In the 1950s and 1960s, Republican Party strategists realized that they could play on the racism in southern states to gain political support and win elections, their “Southern Strategy.” It remains relevant in this presidential election.
What is the southern strategy? In American politics, the southern strategy refers to a strategy by the Republican Party candidates of gaining political support in the southern United States by appealing to disaffected white democratic voters.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Republican Party decided to oppose desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement. Their strategists realized that they could use the discontent among white racists in the southern states to gain political support and win elections. This became known as the Southern Strategy.
As a presidential candidate in 1960, Richard Nixon promoted the Southern Strategy and allegedly used coded language that appealed to racism, causing white racists to join the Republican Party. There were three presidential candidates in this election: Richard Nixon was the Republican candidate; Hubert Humphrey was the Democratic nominee; and George Wallace was a third party candidate.[i]
The strategy really came about because Wallace was a true racist and Nixon found a way to use this strategy to sway the votes of these racist citizens so their racism worked in his favor. This strategy continues to change the way people vote, causing most people to only vote because of the party and not based on the issues at hand.
This Southern Strategy caused a major shift in the voting pattern in African American communities, causing them to change their support to the Democratic Party, the party that helped legislate laws such as the Voting Rights Act. Before that, they had mostly been Republicans because Abraham Lincoln was a Republican who ended slavery.
Even in today’s presidential candidacy, Presidential candidate Donald Trump is using the Southern Strategy. “Polling in South Carolina, which holds its Republican primary on Saturday, reveals the single most salient difference between Trump’s supporters and those of his rivals: They are much more likely to endorse white ethnic nationalism and to express nostalgia for traditional Southern racism. In light of this polling, Trump’s campaign can best be understood not as an outlier but as the latest manifestation of the Southern Strategy, which the Republican Party has deployed for a half-century to shore up its support in the old Confederate states by appeals to racial resentment and white solidarity.”[ii]
This is relevant to how we should evaluate a candidate for President. What are their thoughts and actions on subject matters that relate to racism? For example, what does a presidential candidate say and do in the event of a mass shooting of African Americans by Caucasians? When that happens, you have this event that has racist implications all over the mass media, and then we can basically see what each candidate thinks about the situation or what they can do.
[i] Raymond, Ken. "Nixon’s Southern Strategy: The Democrat-Lie Keeping Their Control Over the Black Community." Black Quill and Ink RSS. 20 June 2011. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. <http://blackquillandink.com/?p=6082>.
[ii] Jeet Heer, “How the Southern Strategy Made Donald Trump Possible,” https://newrepublic.com/article/130039/southern-strategy-made-donald-trump-possible, Feb. 18, 2016.