At launching Pad of Ronald Reagan’s “Southern Strategy”
How The Republicans Won the South
In a recent interview with a writer from the far right rag with the pretentious name “Human Events,” Haley Barbour, a self-described “fat southern redneck” and sitting governor of Mississippi – a state whose soil is permanently stained with the blood of black people – claims that it was a change of heart by his generation of white southern Republicans that ushered in the era of racial harmony in the so-called “New South. “
Haley went on to wax eloquent about how he attended “integrated schools” in Mississippi and never gave the question of race a second thought. He explained how these newly enlightened southerners decided the system of racial apartheid that had prevailed in Mississippi since the end of the civil war was “indefensible.” His story sounded touching but there was a problem: It was a big fat lie!
Dr. Rachel Maddow of WNBC has once again unmasked a charlatan who is trying to BS the public by substituting self-serving myths for actual history. We are seeing this in a lot from Republican politicians these days; whether they are inventing heroic personal stories – like the candidate that falsely passed himself off as a former undercover agent – or trying to rewrite the sordid history of racial oppression in the American South. There are several blatant attempts at this sort of obfuscation and pretense.
The Virginia Governor’s attempt to organize a statewide celebration of “Confederate Pride,” and omit any discussion of slavery, is thus far the most scandalous example of attempting to substitute propaganda for history. But the announcement by Texas that they are having their history textbooks rewritten from a “more conservative” perspective may prove a far more dangerous and enduring trend.
This is because Texas is the largest market for textbooks in the nation, and given that the publishing of textbooks is a business the imperatives of commerce not culture rule – the salesmen reign over the editors. Therefore these publishers will do what they have to do in order to claim their share of this lucrative market. Which means that what our children learn about their nation’s past will be subjected to the golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules!
When political pressure from outraged black Virginians, and progressive white Democrats, forced the Governor to retract his attempt to whitewash the states shameful history of white supremacy and black oppression, Haley Barbour said he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about; the entire issue of ignoring slavery “didn’t mean diddly” to him. No poor dumb tobacco chewing redneck racist from possum Trot Mississippi could have said it better.
But how are we to take such a statement from a man who has presidential aspirations? What does it tell us about the mindset of the Republican Party that this man is one of its most influential members? After all, we are talking about a massive crime against humanity, a system of racial oppression based on an ideology that would spawn Nazism in the twentieth century.
Well, the one thing we know for sure is that leaders of the Grand Obstructionist Party have perfected the smarmy technique of talking out of both sides of their mouths on the question of race. Their favorite ploy is arguing for a “color blind” society. Yet in a nation that was founded on racial genocide against the native population and enslavement of Africans, and justified both of these crimes against humanity on the basis of skin color, to become suddenly “colorblind” before it’s victims are made whole is to add insult to injury!
In the entire history of this nation, the justly celebrated Constitutional rights of American citizens have only been fully extended to Afro-Americans since the passage of the 1964 Omnibus Civil Rights Bill. Since we first set foot on the soil of the English colonies in North America – which would evolve into the United States with the ratification of the federal Constitution in 1787 – in 1619, this means that African Americans have enjoyed the rights bequeathed to all white citizens for a measly 46 of our 391 year odyssey in the racial wilderness of North America. So I say to Haley Barbour the same thing his beloved confederates say about their defeat in the Civil War: “Forget hell!”
Of course, the problem for Haley – as for the Republican myth makers who are trying to construct a bogus narrative of the Iraq war that transforms incompetent buffoons and villains into noble knights in shining armor – is that there is an easily accessible historical record. This is no problem for their constituents, who are willing dupes, longing for lies that will provide them a serviceable history which allows them to be proud of their scurrilous southern past.
But it is the duty of every honest reporter and engaged intellectual interested in keeping the record straight to hold up a mirror that reflects the truth about who we are. That is especially true for those of us who lived under southern apartheid and participated in the great Civil rights movement that ended it. For you cannot build a just society upon a foundation of lies. If we are ever to build something different and something better in this nation, transcending our past by creating a better future: we must first admit the way we were!
Dr. Rachel Maddow: Intrepid Defender Of the Truth!
Droppin Science at Smith’ Graduation Ceremony
Through the meticulous research of Dr. Maddow and her crack staff we have once again been rescued from a barrage of carefully crafted Republican lies. Dr. Maddow debunked Governor Barbour’s recounting of his personal experiences with race in Mississippi by showing that in the years when he was claiming to have attended racially integrated schools, Mississippi schools were still segregated and he graduated from an all white high school.
Furthermore, when Barbour attended the University of Mississippi – which was only a few years after the riots against the admission of James Meredith, a native Mississippian and military veteran – there were perhaps three black students out of approximately 5, 000 on campus!
Even more damming, in terms of Barbour’s true feelings about racial integration, Dr. Maddow exposed the fact that the Mississippi Governor sent his two sons to an all white private school; which black southerners dubbed “seg-academies,” because they were designed to maintain segregation by boycotting the public schools. So Barbour, like most unreconstructed pro-confederate southern Republicans, is in denial about his true heritage as a southern Redneck. But what is the truth that we need to understand about the role of politicians like Haley Barbour and the Republican Party’s role in the “New South?”
It is instructive to know that Barbour’s role in politics began with Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, when Haley took a leave from Old Miss to work for Nixon. Professor Dan T. Carter, a Bancroft Prize winning southern historian, provides the background information we need to properly assess the significance of this fact in his seminal study of how the Republicans conquered the South: The Politics of Rage.
In a revelatory chapter titled “Richard Nixon, George Wallace, and the Southernization Of American Politics,” Dr. Carter explains how the previous Republican Presidential candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona – John McCain’s Mentor – had openly embraced the white racist in the south and was creamed in a landslide victory by Lyndon Johnson, a progressive southern Democrat, so Nixon rejected that strategy.
The Definitive Study On the Republican Conquest Of The South
The Real Deal On The GOP and Race!
An astute politician who had been Vice President under Dwight Eisenhower, Nixon understood the appeal to southerners of traditional Republican conservatism on economic issues – like their anti-unionism – and he figured out that if he substituted the word “commie” for “Nigger” he could get the ear of many southerners. He even rejected the idea that Goldwater had invented the “Southern Strategy” that would eventually convert the South from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican. “The idea that Goldwater started the Southern strategy is bullshit,” he said, and pointed to Eisenhower’s presidential campaigns of 1952-56.
Concluding that old style southern racism was a loser – and bearing the burden of having supported the major Civil Rights legislation, Nixon devised a strategy where he could hunt with the hounds and run with the hares. He decided that although Goldwater’s campaign had resulted in the election of large numbers of Republicans in the south for the first time since the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, the naked racism of his appeal to the crackers of the deep south turned off the moderates in the border states.
Nixon would mask his support of southern racial concerns by attacking the lawlessness of black rioters protesting racism in the north – whose desperate plight had been largely unaffected by the Civil Rights acts. This legislation had been designed to nullify the legal racial discrimination of the south, de-jure, not the customary racial discrimination – de-facto – of the north. And he constantly attacked the liberal welfare state programs personified in Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”
He finally decided to aim for the emerging white middle class in the South, people like Haley Barbour. He revealed the essence of his “Southern Strategy” to a group of southern delegates at the 1968 Republican National Convention, who controlled the votes to make him the Republican nominee. Fending off challenges from the old eastern liberal wing of the Republican Party led by Nelson Rockefeller, and the new star of the far right Ronald Reagan, Nixon met with a group of southern delegates rounded up by the longtime Dixiecrat Strom Thurman, who had converted to the Republican Party during the Goldwater campaign.
Dr. Carter tells us that Nixon ran through his campaign themes, but “Still, the issue of race preoccupied the group. Once again, Nixon showed that he was master of the wink, the nuge, the implied commitment. Without ever explicitly renouncing his own past support for desegregation, he managed to convey to his listeners the sense that, as President, he would do the absolute minimum required to carry out the mandates of federal courts. In a Nixon Administration, there would be no rush to ‘satisfy some professional Civil Rights group, or something like that.’”
We know exactly what happened in that Hilton hotel suite because Dr. Carter has a video tape of the event secretly recorded by one of the delegates. Many of these southerners where skeptical, believing that George Wallace – the arch-racist governor of Alabama who defied a federal court order to integrate the University of Alabama by standing in the doorway screaming “Segregation forever!” – had the right idea. And it was a widely shared opinion that Ronald Reagan was the “true conservative.” But Strom Turman, whose credentials as a die hard southern racist was beyond question, saved the day.
Dr. Carter reveals that Thurman told the delegates: “We have no choice, if we want to win, except to vote for Nixon”…We must quit using our hearts and start using our heads…I love Reagan but Nixon’s the one.” Then Professor Carter retreats to the heroine of that sappy southern plantation novel, “Gone With The Wind,” to explain the delegate’s behavior. “Like so many Scarlett O’Hara’s, Nixon’s Dixie delegates reluctantly turned their backs on the dashing blockade-runner and resigned themselves to a marriage of convenience with the stodgy dry goods merchant.”
It was at this clandestine meeting that the Republicans – the long despised party of Abraham Lincoln, the party that had ended the “southern way of life” first by war and later by enforcing the dictates of the federal government – entered into a Faustian bargain with the former Dixiecrats who had taken refuge in the Grand Obstructionist Party. And they have obstructed any attempt at progressive change in American society ever since.
The essence of the deal was that the economic reactionaries in the North and West would get to remove government restrictions on big corporations and reduce taxes on the rich, and the southern racist in turn would get to arrest the progress of African Americans. This clandestine bargain reached it’s apotheosis in the election of Ronald Reagan, who began his presidential campaign in Philadelphia Mississippi, the scene of the triple murder of white and black Civil Rights workers Cheney, Scwerner and Goodman. Both sides vociferously denied that this was their real purpose by disguising their motives with acceptable language like checking the power of big government through tax cuts, deregulation of business and preserving state’s rights.
That’s still their game forty two years later, and like all true bunko artist there’s no shame in their game. Nobody plays it better than Haley Barbour: A lying, fat, greasy Redneck camouflaged as “new southerner” committed to racial equality and economic justice. His revisionist tale about his racial history may be the biggest lie he’s told to date…but I wouldn’t bet on it!
Harlem, New York
September 4, 2010