Saturday, July 11, 2015

The GOP Pursued the Southern Strategy. Now They Own It.

If you ever doubted Sir Ronnie's intentions, know this: Choosing Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil-rights workers were brutally murdered, as the place to announce his candidacy for president and including states' rights as a key theme, wasn't an accident. It was his way of telling the South that he doesn't like Negroes, either.

Richard Nixon, a fiercely unpopular politician, was elected president in 1968 largely because Southern Dixiecrats abandoned the Solid South for the Republican Party in the first presidential election following the signing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Lyndon Johnson knew that would happen and said as much.

Thus was born the Southern Strategy, which Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush used to full advantage. Notice, too, that between Johnson -- who was from Texas -- and Barack Obama, two Democrats won election, and both, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, were Southerners. Obama was the first president since Kennedy to be elected without some allegiance or connection to the South.

Note, too, that George W. Bush spoke early in his campaign at Bob Jones University in South Carolina (which had to cancel its no-interacial-dating policy because of the firestorm that followed Bush's speech). Once more, a Republican was wink-wink-nudge-nudging the South to tell it where the GOP sentiments lie.

Also, consider this: George W. Bush and his brother Jeb, both born-and-educated New England elites, went south to venture out into their own political careers, W. in Texas and Jeb in Florida. A coincidence or a long-term plan to position themselves for a Southern-Strategy-based presidential run? With Jeb now running, I think we know the answer.

Maybe this will work. I can't say. We do know one thing, though. Today's Republican Party no longer resembles the one that could win anywhere, which is why they rely on voter-restriction efforts and gerrymandering to maintain their successes in states and in the House. But they now own the Southern Strategy, hook, line, and sinker, and they rise and fall as a national party on that basis. If the Southern Strategy -- and their willingness to embrace "brown people are scary" and "women should obey their husbands and have babies" and "no birth control or abortions for you" -- is the basis for their policy initiatives, then they have their work cut out for them.

Which is why, currently at least, Donald Trump is the Id of the GOP. Why does he resonate with the GOP base? He says out loud what the other candidates won't. And the base eats it up. Yes, he may fade but possibly not before the nation gets a good glimpse of the Republican soul, the one that blossomed in Philadelphia, Mississippi and is in danger of fading after Charleston, South Carolina.

Why? Because you can take down a Confederate flag or two, but rooting out the true heart of the South will take more than a few gestures. The good ole boys might love you, but escaping the past can be a bitch.

"Moderate" Jeb Bush. That is, if fighting abortion, favoring privatizing Medicaid,
and loving school vouchers is moderate. Let's not forget Stand-Your-Ground, Terri
Schiavo's law and everything else he did as governor. Which was what again?

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