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The “Southern Strategy” is a Lie

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Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”, which the democrats say is the reason black people had to support them during the 1960’s–is a lie.

And it’s probably the biggest lie that’s been told to the blacks since Woodrow Wilson segregated the federal government after getting the NAACP to support him.

After talking with black voters across the country about why they overwhelmingly support democrats, the common answer that emerges is the Southern Strategy.

I’ve heard of the Southern Strategy too, but since it doesn’t make a difference in how I decide to vote, I never bothered to research it.  Apparently it still influences how many African Americans vote today. That makes it worth investigating.

For those that might be unfamiliar with the Southern Strategy, I’ll briefly review the story.

After the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, most blacks registered as democrats and it’s been that way ever since.

That doesn’t make any sense when you consider the fact that it was the democrats that established, and fought for, Jim Crow laws and segregation in the first place. And the republicans have a very noble history of fighting for the civil rights of blacks. 

The reason black people moved to the democrats, given by media pundits and educational institutions for the decades, is that when republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon ran for president in 1968, he employed a racist plan that’s now infamously called the Southern Strategy. 

The Southern Strategy basically alludes to the idea that Nixon allegedly used hidden code words that appealed to the racists within the Democrat party and throughout the south. This secret language caused a seismic shift in the electoral landscape that moved the evil racist democrats into the republican camp and the noble-hearted republicans into the democrat camp.

Here’s what I found:  Nixon did not use a plan to appeal to racist white voters.

1968 Presidential Campaign  

First, let’s look at the presidential candidates of 1968. Richard Nixon was the republican candidate; Hubert Humphrey was the democrat nominee; and George Wallace was a third party candidate. 

Remember George Wallace? Wallace was the democrat governor of Alabama from 1963 until 1967.  And it was Wallace that ordered Eugene “Bull” Connor, and the police department, to attack Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and 2,500 protesters in Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. And it was Governor Wallace that ordered a blockade at the admissions office at the University of Alabama to prevent blacks from enrolling in 1963.

Governor Wallace was a true racist and a determined segregationist. He ran as the nominee from the American Independent Party, which was he founded.

Richard Nixon wrote about the 1968 campaign in his book RN: the Memoirs of Richard Nixon originally published in 1978.

In his book, Nixon wrote this about campaigning in the south, “The deep south had to be virtually conceded to George Wallace. I could not match him there without compromising on civil rights, which I would not do.” 

The media coverage of the 1968 presidential race also showed that Nixon was in favor of the Civil Rights Act and would not compromise on that issue.  For example, in an article published in the Washington Post on September 15, 1968 headlined “Nixon Sped Integration, Wallace says” Wallace declared that Nixon agreed with Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren and played a role in “the destruction of public school system.” Wallace pledged to restore the school system, in the same article, by giving it back to the states “lock, stock, and barrel.”

This story, as well as Nixon’s memoirs and other news stories during that campaign, shows that Nixon was very clear about his position on civil rights. If Nixon was using code words only racists could hear, evidently George Wallace couldn’t hear it.

Among the southern states, George Wallace won Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana. Nixon won North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and Tennessee. Winning those states was part of Nixon’s plan.

“I would not concede the Carolina’s, Florida, or Virginia or the states around the rim of the south,” Nixon wrote. “These states were a part of my plan.”

At that time, the entire southern region was the poorest in the country. The south consistently lagged behind the rest of the United States in income.  According to the “U.S. Regional Growth and Convergence,” by Kris James Mitchener and Ian W. McLean, per capita income for southerners was almost half as much as it was for Americans in other regions.

Nixon won those states strictly on economic issues. He focused on increasing tariffs on foreign imports to protect the manufacturing and agriculture industries of those states.  Some southern elected officials agreed to support him for the sake of their economies, including South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond.

“I had been consulting privately with Thurmond for several months and I was convinced that he’d join my campaign if he were satisfied on the two issues of paramount concern to him: national defense and tariffs against textile imports to protect South Carolina’s position in the industry.” Nixon wrote in his memoirs. 

In fact, Nixon made it clear to the southern elected officials that he would not compromise on the civil rights issue.

“On civil rights, Thurmond knew my position was very different from his,” Nixon wrote. “I was for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and he was against it. Although he disagreed with me, he respected my sincerity and candor.”  

The same scenario played out among elected officials and voters in other southern states won by Nixon. They laid their feelings aside and supported him because of his economic platform—not because Nixon sent messages on a frequency only racists could hear. 

The Dixiecrats  

Another aspect of the Southern Strategy myth is that the all of the former dixiecrats joined the Republican Party after Nixon allegedly used the Southern Strategy.

The Dixiecrat Party was a third party that splintered from the democrats because of their dissatisfaction with Harry Truman over the civil rights issue during the 1940’s.  The goal of the Dixiecrat Party was to continue segregation and white supremacy in the southern states.  

Senator Thurmond left the democrats and became their presidential nominee in 1948. After losing the election, Thurmond returned to the Democrat Party, but later switched to the republicans in 1964.

The democrats point to the presence of Strom Thurmond within the republican ranks to give credibility to their claim that all of the dixiecrats joined the GOP. 

But after the 1948 elections, most of the Dixiecrat elected officials returned to the Democrat Party and remained for the rest of their lives.

How Did the Southern Strategy Myth Begin? 

Believe it or not, the entire myth was created by an unknown editor at the New York Times who didn’t do his job and read a story he was given to edit. 

On May 17, 1970, the New York Times published an article written by James Boyd. The headline, written by our unknown editor, was “Nixon’s Southern Strategy: It’s All in the Charts.”

The article was about a very controversial political analyst named Kevin Phillips. Phillips believed that everyone voted according to their ethnic background, not according to their individual beliefs. All a candidate had to do is frame their message according to whatever moves a particular ethnic group.

Phillips offered his services to the Nixon campaign, but if our unknown editor had bothered to read the story completely, he would have seen that Phillip’s and his theory was completely rejected!

Boyd wrote in his article, “Though Phillips’s ideas for an aggressive anti-liberal campaign strategy that would hasten defection of the working-class democrats to the republicans did not prevail in the 1968 campaign, he won the respect John Mitchell.” (Mitchell was a well-known Washington insider at the time).

A lazy, negligent editor partially read the story. And wrote a headline for it that attributed Nixon’s campaign success–to a plan he rejected.

In fact, Phillips isn’t even mentioned in Nixon’s memoirs.  

Is all of this the result of a negligent copy editor at the New York Times? Or did they purposely work with the Democrat Party to create this myth? That has crossed my mind and it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility.  

The Lie Takes Hold and Blacks Voted for George Wallace 

After losing the 1968 presidential race, George Wallace returned to the Democrat Party and ran for governor of Alabama in 1982. With enthusiastic support from the democrats, Wallace won the election with 57 percent of the vote.

African Americans account for more than half of the population of the city of Selma, Alabama.  Selma is in Dallas County, and according David Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Elections, Wallace won Dallas County with 58.3 percent of the vote. 

Wallace also did well in Montgomery County where he won 48.3 percent of the vote. The city of Montgomery also has a very large African American population.

Both cities are also where Wallace sent local authorities to attack black protesters with fire hoses and attack dogs when he was governor during the 1960’s. Wallace is also famously quoted saying “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!” Wallace was also endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.  

And yet African American’s voted for him.  

This election sent a clear message to democrats across the country. If African American’s supported George Wallace, who was clearly one of their oppressors, then the lie about Nixon’s Southern Strategy has been accepted.

Mental enslavement has been achieved, not only with African Americans in Alabama, but throughout the country. 

If you tell a lie long enough…  

Political analysts have been referring to James Boyd’s article for over 40 years. Are we supposed to believe that no one has read past the headline during all that time? 

If the New York Times wasn’t actively working with the democrats when the story was first published, then the democrats obviously saw an opportunity to create the perception that the republicans are the source of racial strife in America. They made the most of it.

When you tell a lie long enough, people believe it, including former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

As the RNC’s first black chairman, Steele was in the perfect position to expose the Southern Strategy myth as an ongoing lie. But instead, Steele believed it and told students at DePaul University, in 2010, that it was true.  

But no lie can stand forever.  

I don’t think the democrats projected their sins on republicans just for political gain. When an institution has had control over a group of people for over 200 years, does anyone believe they’re going to let them go so easily?  I don’t think so. 

I don’t believe this myth was created to only hurt republicans; it was also created so democrats can keep their historic control over the lives of African Americans.   

Resources:            RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, By Richard Nixon; p. 305 

                                Quotes from “Nixon Sped Integration-Wallace,” Washington Post (September 15, 1968) 

                                “Nixon’s Southern Strategy—It’s All in the Charts,” New York Times (May 10, 170) 

                                “U.S. Regional Growth and Convergence,” by Kris James Mitchener and Ian W. McLean 

                                Journal of Economic History, December 1999, p 1019

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