Back in 1968, Richard Nixon made his second run for President of the United States. Nixon resurrected his political career from the ashes of his loss to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and from his defeat in 1962 to Pat Brown in his attempt to become Governor of California. Most pundits felt that his loss to Brown would be the end of his political career. He famously said to the press that they wouldn’t have him to kick around anymore. But like the Phoenix, his career rose from the dead with his cynical use of a Southern strategy that saw Richard Nixon win the presidency in 1968. With the use of a Southern strategy and a suburban strategy, the Republican Party become dominant in a region of America that the Democratic Party had long dominated, the South. The strategy was successful in that it helped Nixon and later Ronald Reagan become President, but now in the early part of the 21st Century we may very well be seeing the Republican Party’s demise as a result of their efforts to curry white voters who have racial prejudices to the sacrifice of the new demographics.
The South has been a region of the country, separate and apart from the rest of the nation since our country’s inception due to the peculiar institution of slavery. We fought a great Civil War over whether we could remain a house divided against itself with half of the nation being free while the rest had slavery. Lincoln stood strong for the preservation of our nation and later freed the slaves. In the greatest irony of the war, it was Lincoln’s assassination that was the most serious blow to the former Confederacy. With his death his successor could not bring about a harmonious and gracious reunion of the states.
Radical Republicans saw to it that the South suffered grievous damage by the actions of the Scalawags and Carpetbaggers during the occupation period after the war. While the North did not require that Negroes have the right to vote, they forced the South to accept what for them was unacceptable, to have former slaves not only vote but some actually became elected to high positions in the South.
The only positives that came about as a result of the Reconstruction period were the passage of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution as well as free public education for the former slaves and their children.
The negatives were huge as a result of what could be viewed as a vengeful policy on the part of the Radical Republicans to force upon the South reforms that they did not require of the North. These actions left a long term residue of ill feelings towards the North and it did not help to force school integration in a few states and to have former slaves vote during the Reconstruction period. It left the poor in the South, who were white, fearful that they would be worse off economically than the former slaves. The corruption, fraud and thievery that went on did not endear the North to the South either.
Historically, the South has been a thorn in the side of American democracy for years as we have attempted to make progress in terms of race and equality before the law and in our human relations between the races for what seems to be forever. Now as the demographics of the nation are changing in a permanent way the Republican Party will clearly rue the day in their cynical efforts to win elections in the short term by ignoring the reality of how America is changing.
As the percent of the white vote goes down, the more desperate the whites of the South seem to be in holding onto power. This coming election could very well be the last hurrah for white power in this country. It might be too late for the Republican Party to overcome their Southern Strategy by making an appeal to all voters irrespective of race or the color of their skin. It would appear that Republicans are doubling down on their cynical ways by insulting Latino voters. African-Americans have been safely in the column of the Democratic Party for years now as a result of the actions of FDR and in particularly Eleanor Roosevelt. And who can forget the Civil Rights legislation proposed by John F. Kennedy and passed by Lyndon Johnson. Now the Republican Party by their lack of action in reforming immigration laws, and by their continuing insults in the Presidential campaign of 2016 have just about insured that Latino voters will be supportive of Democratic candidates for years to come. The Republican Party’s Southern strategy extended to include people from South of the Border has become the ultimate failure of Nixon and Reagan’s Southern Strategy.