An Update on The Southern Strategy

Remember the new conservative coalition that was to provide a "permanent Republican majority?" Today that pipe dream is mostly associated with Karl Rove, but originally it was envisioned by Richard Nixon as the fruit of his Southern Strategy.

This strategy was supposed to retain the party's traditional Northeastern and Midwestern conservative base while reaching out to Southerners disaffected by civil rights and the role of Democrats in the demise of Jim Crow. It was designed to meld the Puritan tradition of small government and individual responsibility with the historical sense of loss and grievance that infected the South.

Back then The Southern Strategy was called a master stroke by political pundits because, it was thought, the traditional Yankee conservative base had no where else to go while the newly disaffected South was ripe for the taking.

The Southern Strategy worked well for Nixon. Ten years later it wasn't accidental that Ronald Reagan, as Presidential candidate, gave a speech celebrating states rights in Philadelphia Mississippi, the very city made famous for the murder of Chaney, Goodman and Schwermer. George Bush the elder used his Willie Horton ad to raise the specter of black crime for political advantage, and his son, George W. Bush, campaigned in South Carolina benefiting from the planted rumor that John McCain was the father of a black child.

We in North Carolina remember the famously effective TV spot highlighting white anxiety with affirmative action used by Jesse Helms to dispose of Harvey Gantt. And as recently as the last election, Bob Corker of Tennessee ran an ad that was both sexually charged and blatantly racist to defeat Harold Ford, his black opponent.

So, as the GOP reached out to an electorate that was more retrograde, angry and intolerant than it was classically conservative, the party came to resemble that which it desired.

This has left the traditional base of the Northern Republican Party in the back of the political bus while a new class of Southern Republican is in the driver's seat. For two reasons this has left the Republican Party's Yankee constituency alienated and unhappy: first, no one likes being taken for granted and left virtually powerless, and second, pragmatic "reality based" conservatives are increasingly alarmed by the excesses of "faith based" ideologues.

On a national basis the arithmetic of a Republican majority could last only so long as the historical momentum of the traditional Republican Party held in the Northeast and the Midwest - assuming the South became and then remained entirely Republican. Without substantial parts of the Northeast and Midwest the South alone would never be enough. For the permanent Republican majority to work Republicans had to maintain a significant share of Congressional and state wide political offices in places like Ohio, Indiana, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

This is something that the Republicans are failing to do.

In Ohio and New Hampshire, which have been predominantly Republican since the Civil War, the GOP lost in the last election with the sort of landslide that comes once in a century. Even a popular Republican incumbent like Lincoln Chafee, who enjoyed a 60% approval rating, could not hold his seat in traditionally moderate Rhode Island. In Vermont the word "Republican" has become so anathema that in their last Senate race, where no Democrat was on the ballot, a self described socialist defeated the Republican candidate with 65% of the vote.

If there is one overriding revelation that comes out of the last election, it's that at least for now the momentum of old line classical conservatism is spent within the Republican Party. That being true, then one of three things must happen.

Traditional conservatives could emerge as a new libertarian wing of the Democratic Party led by "blue dog" Democrats such as Casey from Pennsylvania, Tester from Montana and Webb from Virginia

Traditional conservatives could become ever more unaffiliated and wind up holding their nose every two years and choosing between ideological extremes

Traditional conservatives might find a way to increase their power within the Republican Party so they could once again feel comfortable on the Republican bus (The one obvious way this might happen is the successful "main stream" Presidency of a Republican like Hagel, Pataki or Giuliani)

Failing the third, and least likely alternative, what seems probable is the Republican Party's future as a political movement ever more centered in the South, left to hope for the occasional cooperation of various border and mountain states. To be sure, the GOP would remain a significant voice in national politics, but the arithmetic adds up to only a "permanent Republican minority."

So what then would become of the party of Lincoln, the party of the Union, the party born of an impulse to stop the spread of slavery? Perhaps Republicans might reflect on the wisdom of Eliot Ness as he considered the terrible price of a victory won at any cost, "I have forsworn myself, I have broken every law I swore to defend, and I've become what I beheld."

Tags: Bush, Chafee, Gantt, Giuliani, Helms, mccain, Nixon, Reagan, Rove, Southern Strategy (all tags)

Comments

22 Comments

Republicans still own the South

and the reported demise of the "Southern Stratgey" is premature.  Nixon's plan to take in the Southern segreationist voters is still working well and Republicans have a very solid base in the South because of it.

If Warner or Webb for VP can peel away VA at the edge, that's the extent of Democrats "Southern Strategy" in 2008.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-04 07:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Republicans still own the South

Agreed. Only chances I see in the South for '08 are Florida, Arkansas and Virginia. Concentrate on these plus Ohio, West Virginia, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona (if McCain fails to get the GOP nod) and Nevada. Taking these while holding the states Kerry won equals a 370-168 victory, exactly what Clinton did in '92. Only other possibility I see is North Carolina but only if Edwards is the nominee.

by conspiracy 2006-12-06 03:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Republicans still own the South

I would also throw in Montana. With both Senators & Governor in Democratic hands. Clinton carried Montana in 1992.

Even TN is possibility. Gov. Brendesen won by a landslide twice already. While Ford did well considering he is African-American. If he was a White candidate, he would have joined Brendesen in a big victory.

I have doubts about Nevada. In fact, more Nevadans voted for Republicans last November. If we can't even get more votes on a National Democratic Wave, Nevada may not be there just yet.

You're right, Arizona looks very promising ( if Mccain is not the nominee). While Colorado is very encouraging just like Arkanas, Virginia, Ohio, & even MO, IA

Again, it all boils down to who the Democratic nominee would be. The nominee we choose will have to be acceptable & appealing to the more conservative registered independent voters & more moderate/conservative Democrats in these Purple/Red states.

That's the issue I have with Hillary. It was the same dilemma that John Kerry & Al Gore had. Hillary may be competitive in states like FL,IA, CO, possibly OH & NM,WV

But you might as well write-off AR,VA,MT,TN and even MO will be tough for her.

It limits the playing field right away. It also puts our 1st term House members in these Red states in a dangerous position since the national ticket will be almost non-existent in these states. It also affects are goal of expanding our majority since the potential pick-ups are in mostly Red & Purple states just mentioned.

Even in a state like Mississippi where the Democrats may be fielding the so called " Dream Team" for the 2008 Governor & Lt. Governor race against Haley Barbour.

MS Democrats acknowledge that them being able to pull this off will also be dependent on who the National Democratic party nominee would be. If we have an unattractive candidate to the more moderate/conservative MS voters, they will not be able to pull the upset since MS Republicans will have a much higher turnout.

by livyoga 2006-12-06 05:12AM | 0 recs
Re: An Update on The Southern Strategy

Don't confuse Blue Dog Dems with libertarianism and liberal libertarians or whatever they should be called...populists like Webb and Tester are old-line progressives as far as I can tell, talking about economic justice, and the notion that individual freedom is about more than government intrusion into one's life (like warrantless wiretapping for example), but also includes things like being free not to be crippled in pursuing whatever American dreams are left by an economic structure that favors a few tens of thousands of people over the millions.  Blue Dog Dems are "fiscally conservative" to the extent that they dig balanced budgets.  I do too.  But I've read an economics book or two.  And balanced budgets should be the goal during stable, steady growth times where all are broadly prospering, but not necessarily a hard a fast rule during any other times.  Blue Dog Dems also like corporate free trade deals, corporate welfare, and the like, while Dems like Tester and Webb are pro-worker, think that subsidizing the current brand of globalization is ridiculous, that corporate welfare is far worse than W2, and that fair trade and economic justice are far better than free trade that leads to colonial-style economic royalism.  

Just a point to make.  Otherwise, a nice succinct description of how Republicans are strategically crumbling for the long-term (hope they keep it up).

by Peter from WI 2006-12-04 09:17AM | 0 recs
Webb and Tester more populist than progressive

both kind of rural roots candidates and the term populist fits their politics more than progressive.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-04 09:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Webb and Tester more populist than progressive

Yes - Tester & Webb's politic's would be more populist than progressive.

Fresh from a historic victory last November, we Democrats are enjoying a united front on the Iraq war right now. Every major Democrat is pretty much in favor of bringing our troops home. The only disagreement is how & when.

But as we watch Tester & Webb in the next 6 years perform their duties & vote on bills- I hope some realize that they will look as progressive/liberal as can be on certain issues but will be as conservative as can be on other issues.

I bring this up because I keep coming across in the netroots community references to Webb & Tester as "progressive democrats and in other cases 'liberal democrats".

While the MSM keeps on calling Tester & especially Webb as "conservative democrats".

Right now is like a honeymoon stage. Most if not all progressives are supporting Webb & Tester in their strong Anti-Iraq bashing of Bush.

But I suspect that once these two gentlemen also start supporting bills that may appear in alignment with conservative views- we may hear lots of grumblings from progressives in our party.

Yes, they are Anti-war. They are also in favor of economic programs that help the poor & the middle class. Yes, they may be against Government intervention in a Woman's Right to choose. Yes, they are strong on pro-environmental protection.

On the other side,
they are also strong Pro-Gun advocates.They are also expected to be against Gay marriage, against racial quotas & affirmative action, against raising taxes.

To try & define them as either a Progressive Democrat or a Conservative Democrat would be inaccurate.

by livyoga 2006-12-04 01:05PM | 0 recs
Falling for the Caricature


they are also strong Pro-Gun advocates.They are also expected to be against Gay marriage, against racial quotas & affirmative action, against raising taxes.

To try & define them as either a Progressive Democrat or a Conservative Democrat would be inaccurate.


I think you, like the media and DLC, have internalized the Republican Caricature of liberals. The fact that you think Gay marriage, racial quotas, banning all guns, and raising taxes are the litmus test to being a liberal.  I assure they are not.  In fact, the REAL litmus test to being a liberal is what you've conceded that Tester and Webb will support.

They are also in favor of economic programs that help the poor & the middle class.

In fact, this litmus test isn't the end of their liberal creds.  Again, I will quote you.

Yes, they are Anti-war...  Yes, they may be against Government intervention in a Woman's Right to choose. Yes, they are strong on pro-environmental protection.

These are unabashed liberal positions that they have taken by your own admission.

Reading your comment caught me so off guard that I checked out your name and noticed that you're a newcomer.  

So let me welcome to the mydd, the netroots, and the progressive movement.  Your Orientation assignment will be to shed the "liberal caricature" that Republicans have painted for 30 years.  I do not say this to be condescending, i say this out of experience.  I too went through the same "Orientation assignment" when I started reading blogs and understanding what the progressive movement is about.  When I learned that liberals weren't gay abortionists who take jobs away from white people and raise taxes to pay for bestiality research, I decided that I'd found my home in liberalism.

by maddogg 2006-12-05 08:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Perception is Reality

madog, thanks for your welcome comments.

Yes you're right. Not all Liberals are Pro-Gay marriage, Not all Liberals are Pro-raising taxes, Not all Liberals are anti-Gun, Pro-Choice

However, if you are indeed a progressive, your views are not the majority in the Liberal/Progressive community. You do not have to look far. We can stay online. Read Kos & Mydd, the overwhelming majority of so called "progressives" are Pro-choice, anti-guns, and a significant amount are in favor of recognizing Gay marriage.
There's nothing wrong with those views. They are just reality. In the realm of politics & public perception- Liberal Democrats are overwhelmingly pro-choice, are much more sympathetic to Gay rights than the general population, are ovewhelmingly Anti-gun, are much more open to raising taxes to balance the budget rather than cutting social services.

That's not made up. That's reality.

If you recall, there was a sizeable portion of progressives who did not approve of Casey in PA & Longevin in RI because they were pro-life. Again, that's reality.

Same in the Joementum race. While Progressives were all gung ho about challenging Joementum in the primary, there was a lot more hesitation among so called moderate/centrist democrats to challenge Joe. Those divisions within our party is reality. You & I did not make that up.

As a Democrat, I don't need to repeat or copy any perceptions from the MSM or from outsiders because I know first hand who the divisions are within our party.

Something unique is happening right now. Democrats of all stripes are united against Iraq & bringing our troops home.

But beyond that common united stand, there are distinct differences between Progressive, Populists & Moderate/Centrist Democrats. Maybe not as big as our differences with Republicans.

There's a reason congress has factions within the Democratic party such as Progressive caucus, Blue Dog, New Democratic Coalition. There are some differences on views among Democrats.

I predict that once Webb displays his conservative side on certain issues as he votes on bills in the next 6 years, many here will be very unhappy. We shall see.

by livyoga 2006-12-05 09:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Change the Perception

Except for your Joementum analysis, I agree with everything you just said.  Most people on these Blogs, as do myself, are pro-choice, very pro-environment, recognizing marriage rights, and are for at least some form of limited gun control.

My point wasn't to say that those aren't progressive views and the majority of opinions on the blogs.  However, after re-reading my comments I can easily see how you would get that impression.  My point was too point out the IMPORTANCE of those issues to progressives and to many in the netroots.

The way I see our disagreement is that you predict that once Webb andor Tester shows off their conservative side many here will be very unhappy.  I disagree.  As you say in your original comment that there may be some "grumblings", but nothing that would last or give any near the majority of us "Buyer's remorse".

Here's why:  Progressives have different priorities from the old liberal interest groups.  That's what separates the progressive movement and the netroots from the old style of Democratic politics.  Progressives are more concerned with workers rights and trade agreements than we are with the "Social" issues.  Sure, we'd LIKE the candidate to be pro-life, but it's not necessarily a precondition  for our time, money, and vote.  However if he was pro-cafta and against the minimum wage... NO WAY would he get our support.

There's one caveat to this though.  Let's say he was pro-life.  The only way that position would get him into trouble would be if he started openly bashing fellow Democrats who aren't.  When asked he should say, "I'm pro-life because the Democrats have a big tent" instead of saying, "I'm pro-life and any moral Democrat should be too".

This brings me back to Joementum.  This is what Joementum does.  Not only was he pro-war, but he made it more difficult for his fellow Democrats to be anti-war.  Instead of saying that he and his well reasoned fellow Democrats disagree, his statements would instead perpetuate the narrative that Democrats were weak and say they were hurting our soldiers and America.

I've said a lot here for a comment, but I think it's important because we've hit on the subtle nuisances between the progressive movement and the old "interest group centric" politics.

by maddogg 2006-12-05 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Change the Perception

maddog,I agree with your comments 100%. That was also an excellent clarification on the differences of today's progressive movement from the old style of Democratic politics.

If Democrats just focused much more on issues that unite us such as  minimum wage, protecting the environment, protecting american jobs, tax cuts to middle & lower income, bringing back U.S. prestige in the world, affordable healthcare, etc. We Would be the dominant party for many years.

As you said, emphasis on Social issues tends to instigage the divisions within our on party.

by labanman 2006-12-05 12:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Change the Perception

mad,
I am supporting Clark but I know many here might be for Obama. I know Livyg seems to be for Evan Bayh.

I really feel that Wes Clark can unite the progressive & moderate base of our party.

Thanks

by labanman 2006-12-05 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Change the Perception

I'm not ready to back Clark yet.  With Russ Feingold declaring that he's not running, I don't have a dog in the race.  The reason I'm not ready to back Clark is mainly because I'm still not clear that he'd be a great president.  I'm willing to bet he'd be a good candidate though(i.e. "electible).  David Sirota (better blogger and OP-Ed writer than book writer) has an old article that he wrote that i've internalized when it comes to picking candidates.  It's a long one, which is typical of Sirota's writings, but worth reading and pondering on which is also typical of Sirota's writings.

http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/ar ticle/2354/

by maddogg 2006-12-05 12:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Change the Perception

lbnman, just for clarification- I have not made any decision yet on who to support in 2008. I think you may have concluded from one of the other threads that I was supporting Mr. Evan Bayh.

No, my vote is still open & I want to wait & see who is really running. Right now, I am open to listening to Edwards, Clark, Bayh. As for Hillary & Barack- I am just so concerned about their impact in Red & Purple states.

Yes, I have no doubt Hillary or Barack can win the Presidency. But I also have no doubt that the way they would win will be by pretty much ignoring the Southern Region, & most of the Rocky Mountains & Southwest.

Now that we are finally breaking through & showing life in states like VA, AR,TN,NC, WY,ID,CO,OH, IN,SC even places like MS- a HRC or Obama would hurt the progress.

A Real 50 State Strategy would be almost impractical & unwise with a Hillary or Barack at the top of the ticket.

Will be back to conservative & moderate Democrats in Red & Purple candidates running away or avoiding Hillary or Barack in their states.

VA & MT is a perfect example. No way will Hillary be able to carry VA or MT. We've literally won those two states in the last two statewide elections by a hairline. With the Right Democratic Presidential candidate, we should be contesting those states.

by livyoga 2006-12-05 12:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Change the Perception


That was also an excellent clarification on the differences of today's progressive movement from the old style of Democratic politics.

Thanks for the props.  It means a lot when it comes from someone who's been a participant for longer than myself.


As you said, emphasis on Social issues tends to instigage the divisions within our on party.

And just as important to note.  Economic issues tend to instigate divisions within the Repub party.

by maddogg 2006-12-05 12:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Change the Perception
Thanks Maddog.
Its so refreshing to have exchanges with fellow Democrats who know what they are talking about.:)
I agree w/ everything you said including Joementum. Joe's biggest sin is going out of his way to criticize fellow democrats.
by livyoga 2006-12-05 12:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Obsolescent Southern Strategy

Young Southerners are not as obsessed
with race as the older voters. The South
is gradually becoming more like the rest
of the country on that primary issue.

That does not mean that racial or racist
tactics will fade away; the Willie Horton ad
had quite an impact on Yankee voters too,
you know.

But it means that the South will become
more open to other appeals on other issues
with each passing election. And the rest of
the country may become more open to
non-racial appeals that are popular in
the South.

On the one hand, those non-racist issues
could be the theocon evangelical stuff.
Or they could be economic reformist
issues where Democrats are traditionally
stronger.

But as the South gradually becomes less
racist in its voting, and more like the rest of
the U.S, the Democrats should not want to
concede those states by default. We need
to be ready to win there when trends start
to go our way.

Democrats got the majority of the youth
vote in Mississippi in 2004. We need to
fight for the young voters all across Dixie
in 2008 and beyond.

I don't mean just put a token Southerner
in the VP slot. Been there, done that.

I mean 50-State Strategy stuff, like paying
for state party organizers; having a few
nationwide TV ads, at least on cable
channels, so every voter sees one of
our messages not filtered through Faux;
and running a candidate for every office.

We need to be thinking how much it will
cost to make that last step be for real, not
just a name on somebody's list and
then on the ballot.

We need to have serious campaigns in
every House district in every state. So
how to pay for it? Probably best to start
with seed-money funding for every
designated D candidate for the US House.

How about a matching funds program,
one dollar from DC for every dollar raised
by the local campaign, up to say $25,000.
Each candidate would then have a $50,000
kitty going into the fall campaign.

With about 200 R seats in the House, at
$25,000 each, you're looking at about
$5 million bucks nationwide.

One race in suburban Illinois reportedly
swallowed $3 million, and we lost it. Instead
I'd like to wing it by funding a $50,000 kitty
in all 200 challengers' races and watch how
things would change, across the US and
especially in the South.

by Woody 2006-12-04 12:32PM | 0 recs
Re: An Update on The Southern Strategy

I'll challenge that in an easy way:

define "progressive."

Arguing a battle of semantics is not what I meant to engage in.  I was saying they don't fit with the Blue Dogs because of their economic outlooks.  

Progressive (being from WI) means something like extending the leverage of government of the people to the edge of the public good.  Don't think that Progressivism (with a capital P) didn't start out in the rural parts of the country at the same time it did in the urban centers.  They came from the same place, and populism was part of it.  Populism is just the way something is packaged and progressivism is the 'what' that is packaged, at least as I think about it right now.

by Peter from WI 2006-12-04 12:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Confusing Blue Dog & NDC

Peter,

I think you're probably referring to the New Democratic Coalition ( NDC) in the House. They are the Democratic block headed Rep. Ellen Tauscher (CA), Arhtur Davis(AL), and Ron Kind (WI). They just increased their ranks from 47 to 63 in November's election for the incoming House for January 2007.

They are the economic fiscal conservatives that you are referring to. Also called "centrist" democrats.

Their counterparts in the Senate are people like Evan Bayh, Debbie Stabenow, Blance Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Joe Biden, Mary Landrieu, Tom Carper. They are known as the Senate NDC's.

While the "Blue Dog Democrats" is a separate group who also increased their ranks for January 2007 from 35 to now 44 members.

The Blue Dogs are known as Pro-Life "Social Conservatives" with a good number coming from the South & Midwest. Among their leaders were Harold Ford (TN)Jim Matheson (UT), Ben Chandler (KY), John Salazar(CO.

Among the Blue Dog New Members are All 3 New Democratic-elect from Indiana, also Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Patrick Murphy (PA), Heath Shuler(NC),Michael Arcuri(NY) Charlie Wilson (OH).

There are also a handful of Democrats who are members of both groups such as Ellen Tauscher (CA).

by livyoga 2006-12-04 01:37PM | 0 recs
Re: An Update on The Southern Strategy

I meant, that to me, being from WI, progressive means to me...

by Peter from WI 2006-12-04 12:33PM | 0 recs
Re: An Update on The Southern Strategy

I stand corrected.

by Peter from WI 2006-12-05 10:16AM | 0 recs
Re: An Update on The Southern Strategy

    What did you say about Bernie Sanders getting 65% of the vote? That was the exception to the rule. Exibit A for Vermont is that the Democrat running for the open House seat won by 10%. That's in line with the party's actual standing. As for the Republican party's electoral prospects, they aren't great, but they ain't dying either boys. Fact is, they have the South, the Great Plains, and much of the Rockies. They will take back at least five to ten seats in 2008, nearly all of those in the South. The very fact that there are 44 Blue Dogs is a testament to the success of the Republicans. Blue Dogs are basically Republicans who believe in fiscal conservatism. If those districts were to have democratic primary challangers from the left who won, you can be assured that by a margin of more than 2 to 1 those house seats would go to the Republicans. You are also forgetting the civil war in the Democratic party. Now then, their are the activists and the base, and the peripheral voters and the establishment. Unfortunately, the peripherals and the establishment currently have the chips and the game. If the liberal base primaries everybody in the party, then surely solid seats will become more reliable, but many swing districts will go to moderate Republicans. Also don't forget that independents and moderates turned out at the polls this time around, giving the Dems their majority, while the GOP base was bumbed out by all the scandals. This ain't happening again for awhile. Tack on the fact that economic populism is a heated issue in the party, and that affluent Democratic voters may well choose between the culture wars (they side with the Democrats) and the economic wars (they side with the Republicans). On top of all that, the Republicans can work with Blue Dogs and some stradlers in the party to block the Democratic agenda. As such, the notion that the GOP is a minority party, let alone one that can't put up a fight, is wishful thinking and BS.

by alexsycara 2006-12-05 11:39PM | 0 recs
Re: An Update on The Southern Strategy

I think you are right...one election victory...helped by the natural political pendulum was not the "revolution" some are making it out to be.

The Republicans Southern Strategy is still the defining factor of the electoral map.

Peeling away or two states (VA with Webb or Warner as VP) in national election is the Democrats new "Southern Strategy"...anything else is a bit grandiose.

South is definitely a case where Dean is right and we have to build a base from dog catcher up.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-06 05:10AM | 0 recs

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