Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Payback For Payback

Dixiecrat was a term you heard a lot 40 years ago, and then it went away. In the 1968 presidential election, Nixon embarked on what he called his, “Southern strategy,” to woo away disgruntled Democrats and turn them into Republicans. Prior to that time, the Deep South had been solidly Democratic. Following Tet in February of 1968, the Vietnam Nam War was being recognized as a losing effort, and Nixon promised to turn that around by painting the Democratic liberal administration of Lyndon Johnson as the reason for the military failure. Sometime later, in the 1970s, Roe V. Wade gave the Republicans yet another liberal millstone to hang around the neck of the Democrats. The underlying reality, however, is that national defense and abortion were the polite and acceptable issues, but not the only issues, that one could talk about when discussing the switch in the South from Democrat to Republican, and from liberal to conservative. The dirty little secret was— and has always been— that Republicanism and conservatism flourished in the Deep South as a payback for the Civil Rights Movement, led by liberal Democrats.

Last night’s election was revealing. White voters of all ages, and of both sexes, gave the majority of their votes to Obama— everywhere but in the Deep South. But down in the belly of the old Confederacy, white voters went more than 2 to 1against Obama. The Republican party, now in shambles, has been reduced to mostly a regional institution rooted in the Deep South, with nothing to sustain it but vitriolic anti-liberalism. It may be another generation or more before that Republican bastion puts the Civil Rights Movement behind it, but meanwhile the rest of the country has moved on. If Nixon’s Southern strategy exploited the urge to see a payback for Civil Rights, then Obama’s victory can be seen as a payback for the payback.

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