The Republican Party’s Southern Strategy or How the GOP Spent 50 Years Paving the Way for Donald Trump


The Mount Rushmore of the Southern Strategy.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back when, it was the Democrats who were all White Supremacy and “Down with Lincoln!” and so on.  (President Lincoln was a Republican if you’re keeping score at home.)  After World War II, southern Democrats said, “That’s enough of that” and began supporting civil rights.  Well, except sweethearts like George Wallace (LEFT IN ABOVE PHOTO – he’s the guy that famously tried to block school segregation as seen in Forrest Gump, the only history lesson most people ever paid attention to) who went on to run for President as an independent in 1968.  And this, my friend, is when the stage began to be set for Donald Trump’s rise in the polls. 

So what is the Southern Strategy?  In the modern sense (in the last 50 years), it’s when Republicans appeal to white southern voters by stirring them up via racism and segregation, but since it’s not the mid sixties anymore, you can’t go full George Wallace and shout the N Word all over the place and instead, you call it “State’s Rights.” .  In 1964, Senator Barry Goldwater (CENTER OF PHOTO) ran such a platform against incumbent Lyndon Baynes “Have you ever seen anything this big?” Johnson and Goldwater won six states: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and his home state, Arizona.  One of these states is not like the other one – one of these states is not a former member of the Confederacy… but given Arizona politics, I think you get it.

In 1968, Wallace ran as an independent against Richard Nixon (R) and Hubert Humphrey (D) and, spoiler alert, Nixon won because he figured out that you can’t go around yelling the N Word.  Check this out:

Nixon’s advisers recognized that they could not appeal directly to voters on issues of white supremacy or racism. White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman noted that Nixon “emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognized this while not appearing to.” With the aid of Harry Dent and South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, who had switched to the Republican Party in 1964, Richard Nixon ran his 1968 campaign on states’ rights and “law and order.” Liberal Northern Democrats accused Nixon of pandering to Southern whites, especially with regard to his “states’ rights” and “law and order” positions, which were widely understood by black leaders to symbolize southern resistance to civil rights. This tactic was described in 2007 by David Greenberg in Slate as “dog-whistle politics.” According to an article in The American Conservative, Nixon adviser and speechwriter Pat Buchanan disputed this characterization. (wikipedia)

See, by “States Rights,” Nixon meant, “The Federal Government can’t stuff the 1964 Civil Rights Act down our throat because that power should be ceded to the states because white southerns who will vote for me don’t like that so I’ll tell them whatever they want to hear.”  What’s interesting about that is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 basically says, “You can’t ignore the 15th Amendment just because you don’t like it” and this whole idea of opposing federal law on a state level means you were absent the day the they taught the Civil War at school, but I digress…

If you’re tempted to tell me that “this is not a real thing” or whatever, keep in mind that RNC chairman Ken Mehlman formally apologized to the NAACP for exploiting racial polarization to win elections, so not only did this happen, but the GOP acknowledged they did it and said they were sorry… but they didn’t stop doing it.  Especially in local (non presidential) elections.

Which brings me to Donald Trump and the GOP’s current predicament.  They are stuck with Trump leading the pack (at least for now) and frankly, everybody seems kind of surprised.  I’m not sure why – the Republicans have spent nearly half a century shouting the platform from the rooftops Trump has embraced, but he’s got nothing to loose (because I guarantee you, he’s getting a show on a FOX network if he doesn’t win the nomination or the general election), so he’s going Full Nixon with a percentage of Wallace – just enough to get your attention but not enough to completely blow the doors off.

Well, this was enough to blow the doors open, but not completely off the hinges.  Sure, there was reaction, but for the people Trump is trying to appeal to, this sort of “minorities are to blame for all of your problems” idea has been pounded into their head by political leaders since about the same time we figured out it was a good idea that cars at least include seat belts even if we couldn’t get people to actually wear them.

Here are yesterday’s poll numbers:

Trump 24%
Bush 13%
Carson 9%
Rubio 8%
Walker 8%
Paul 6%
Cruz 5%
Fiorina 5%
Kasich 5%
Huckabee 4%

Look, Carly Fiorina’s knocked Chris Christie out of the top ten…  But yeah, Trump has an 11 point lead.


i didn’t even have to make this image; there are tons of these EVERYWHERE.

Good Luck in the General Election, GOP.

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on August 19, 2015, in Politics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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