LOS ANGELES, Calif. — President Trump’s call for tightening immigration in the United States has been labeled as an expansion of the “Southern Strategy” by many liberal Democrats. In fact, throughout Trump’s presidential campaign, many Democrats credited his success in the South to his appeal to white racists, who themselves were representative of the entire Republican party.
“Don’t buy it,” says Carol Swain, professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University, in PragerU’s most recent video, Why Did the Democratic South Become Republican? In it, Swain debunks the myth that Republicans switched their political identity as the party of racial equality to appeal to the racist South—a tactic known as the “Southern Strategy.”
The “flip” in Republican and Democratic views on racism and civil rights was supposedly masterminded by President Richard Nixon in the 1960s and 1970s. Leftist elites and journalists promoted the narrative that, “Republicans couldn’t win a national election by appealing to the better nature of the country, they could only win by appealing to the worst…[and so they did.]”
Swain exposes the three myths at the heart of the false narrative of the Southern Strategy.
Myth 1: “To be competitive in the South, Republicans started to pander to white racists in the 1960s.” In reality, Republicans were politically competitive in the South as early as 1928, when Rep. Herbert Hoover won forty-seven percent of the South’s popular vote in the presidential election. A similar situation occurred in 1955 when Dwight Eisenhower won several southern states after supporting desegregation in the Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. The Board of Education.
Myth 2: “Southern Democrats, angry with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, switched parties.” In reality, only 1 out of the 21 Democratic senators who opposed the Civil Rights Act became a Republican. The other 20 remained in the Democratic party or were replaced by other Democrats. On average, it took another 25 years before those remaining 20 seats went Republican.
Myth 3: “Since the implementation of the Southern Strategy [in the 1960s], the Republicans have dominated the South.” Richard Nixon, the supposed mastermind behind the Southern Strategy, actually lost the Deep South in the 1968 election while Democrat Jimmy Carter nearly swept the region eight years later in 1976. Democrat Bill Clinton won six southern states in 1992, including Kentucky, West Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia and Louisiana. It was not until 1994 that Republicans held the majority of southern congressional seats, 30 years after the Civil Rights Act.
Professor Swain quotes Kevin Williamson of the National Review: “If Southern Rednecks ditched the Democrats because of a Civil Rights law passed in 1964, it’s strange that they waited until the late 1980s and early 1990s to do so. They say things move slower in the South—but not that slow.”
Swain concludes that it’s the South itself that has changed. The region now holds the conservative views of pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-small government. “Southern whites are far more likely to vote for a black conservative like Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina than a white liberal. In short, history has moved on. Like other regions of the country, the South votes values, not skin color.”
MEDIA NOTE: PragerU contributor, Carol Swain is available for interview as is PragerU’s Founder, Dennis Prager, and CEO, Marissa Streit. Contact: MediaInquiries@theKcompany.co
PragerU, founded by Dennis Prager in 2011, is a not-for-profit organization that helps millions understand the values that shaped America and provides millions of Americans and people around the world with the intellectual ammunition they need to advocate for limited government, individual responsibility and economic freedom. In 2016 alone, PragerU’s videos received over 250 million views, a figure that will eclipse 350 million in 2017. PragerU is a resource for all who value liberty. It is a threat to all those who do not.