The Nation had an interesting piece in its online magazine, published on October 12, entitled “Why Today’s GOP Crackup is the Final Unraveling of Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’.”
I have previously argued (1) that the Republican Party has drunk too much of its own Kool Aid, and (2) that Fox News and right-wing talk radio have contributed massively to the current misinformation on the right that leads right-wing voters and their elected representatives to take completely unreasonable positions. And I stand by those arguments.
But this article, authored by William Greider, does make a very interesting argument. In a nutshell, what Greider proposes is this:
- Nixon had a “southern strategy” wherein states of the old slave-holding Confederacy would “join the Party of Lincoln.”
- This southern strategy was in part a rebuke to Lyndon Johnson and the civil rights era legislation championed by the Democrats.
- The strategy was an awkward marriage between where “country club” Republicans, who include corporate leaders, financiers and investors, and poor, rural, church-going Southerners.
- These two groups have almost nothing in common, and the marriage has been frayed for a long time.
- The Teaparty dissidents feel that their agenda has largely been ignored by mainstream Republicans – which, in fact, it has – and they are determined for that to change.
In addition, Greider notes the following:
In 2008, when Americans elected our first black president, most of the heavy smears came after Barack Obama took office. Grassroots conservatives imagined bizarre fears: Obama wasn’t born in America; he was a secret Muslim. Donald Trump demanded to see the birth certificate. GOP leaders like Senator Mitch McConnell—who had been a civil-rights advocate in his youth—could have discouraged the demonizing slurs. Instead, McConnell launched his own take-no-prisoners strategy to obstruct anything important Obama hoped to accomplish.
At least until now, Republicans have gotten away with this bigotry. As a practical matter, there was no political price. Democrats often seemed reluctant to call them out, fearful that it might encourage even greater racial backlash. Indeed, the Dems developed their own modest Southern strategy—electing centrists Jimmy Carter of Georgia and later Bill Clinton of Arkansas to the White House. But the hope that Democrats could make peace with Dixie by moderating their liberalism was a fantasy. Conservatives upped the ante and embraced additional right-wing social causes.
I’m kind of sold on this argument, and I think will add it to my previous two as part of the reason why the Republican Party is coming apart before our very eyes.
At the core, I agree. I’d add the sheer “out of touch with reality” rhetoric to the punch bowl, too. Idealism is a luxury a nation cannot afford when facing a complex reality that needs real-world solutions, rather than nostalgic traditionalism.