Sunday, November 25, 2012

Election 2012: Death of the Southern Strategy?

For many decades the GOP played the politics of racial divisiveness to further the cause of tax cuts, deregulation and a more limited federal government. The election of 2012 promises to end this ugly chapter in American politics. The ultimate outcome will change our political landscape in far-reaching ways.

Surprisingly, Republican leaders openly admit that their party used race to appeal to white voters (particularly in the old Confederacy) disaffected with the perceived embrace of racial equality within the Democratic Party. Republican strategist Kevin Phillips openly admitted to seeking out the votes of “negrophobe whites” in the New York Times in 1970. The Nation very recently posted the actual audio recording of Reagan Administration Official Lee Atwater articulating how the GOP implemented the Southern Strategy in sordid (and highly offensive) detail in 1981. Atwater unabashedly ties the politics of race to economic issues such as tax cuts. Two Republican National Committee Chairs actually apologized for the Southern Strategy.

In my book Lawless Capitalism, I argue that the politics of racial division led directly to the subprime debacle through massive financial deregulation beginning in the Reagan Administration. Deregulation of mortgage lending, the basic structure of globalization, and financial consolidation all find their roots in the Reagan Administration. Indeed, the fundamental explosion in American debt started in 1980.

To be fair, the Democrats contributed much to the crisis too. The crisis resulted from longstanding and bipartisan policies. Nevertheless, the Southern Strategy dominated the political scene in the decades preceding the subprime debacle.

The election of 2012 may spell the end of the Southern Strategy, at least as a means of GOP success. African American and Latino voters turned out in record numbers. Asian American voters supported President Obama over Mitt Romney by 73-26, a margin that exceeds Obama’s advantage among Latino voters.

The viability of the GOP’s Southern Strategy will continue to fade. Asian Americans form the fastest growing minority group in the nation. A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Research Center projects that the voting power of Hispanics will double by 2030—to nearly half of the electorate. If the Democrats continue to run candidates of color to energize this base, then these growing voting groups will constitute a formidable foundation for a durable Democratic majority. Meanwhile, the GOP base still today favors discriminatory practices, such as anti-immigration laws and legislation designed to suppress the vote of minority communities.

On issues relating to immigration, education, voting rights, the war on drugs, and many others, a fundamental change in political calculus is afoot. I contend the change may be even more monumental than such core issues. Ultimately, without the ability of governing elites to use the politics of racial division to further their interests, the very high level of economic inequality currently burdening our nation may be unsustainable.

Steven A. Ramirez is Professor of Law at Loyola University of Chicago, where he also directs the Business and Corporate Governance Law Center. His book, Lawless Capitalism: The Subprime Crisis and the Case for an Economic Rule of Law, will publish in December 2012.


  1. "The Nation very recently posted the actual audio recording of Reagan Administration Official Lee Atwater articulating how the GOP implemented the Southern Strategy in sordid (and highly offensive) detail in 1981." -- Steven Ramirez

    Maybe you should try listening to the actual tape. Atwater's "ni__er, ni__er, ni__er" reference was a description of the way that politicians in the South (all Democrats) campaigned following Eisenhower's push for civil rights in the 50's and just after the voting rights act in '64 and '65. There was no effective Republican party in the South until the mid 70's. His argument was that Reagan didn't make a racial appeal, instead he appealed to more general concerns about the economy and national defense.

    The interviewers (liberal academics) continually try to get him to confirm their own biased narrative by arguing that appeals to race had just taken on a different form thorough arguments against forced busing, welfare, etc. - coded language. Atwater's response is that while arguments against forced busing and welfare, may have had a racial component, those arguments were not limited to the South (remember, they had riots in the Democrat stronghold of South Boston over forced busing), nor were they limited to Republican politicians.

    The Democrats were the pro-slavery party; the party of segregation and Jim Crow. And these racist Democrats were not conservatives - they were "New Dealers". They were part of what the Democrat party called the "Solid South". They voted for Wilson, FDR, Truman and Kennedy. Unions, the backbone of the Democrat party, did not accept blacks as members and union leaders were not bashful about their hatred of blacks.

    Atwater talks about how these New Deal Democrats had the black vote so thoroughly suppressed, prior to the onset of the civil rights movement, that they didn't even have to talk about race in elections because blacks were not effective participants.

    If the Republicans were, in fact, making racial appeals in the South in the 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's, then why did it take until the 80's for them to win an election? Why did it take until almost the end of the 90's for them to secure southern state governments? Why does one of the most conservative and white South Carolina congressional districts have a black congressman? Can you name a single black congressman from the Democrats "Solid South" period? I thought not.

  2. "... the GOP base still today favors discriminatory practices, such as anti-immigration laws and legislation designed to suppress the vote of minority communities." -- Steven Ramirez

    This, of course, is an outright lie. The U.S. takes in more LEGAL immigrants every year than almost all of the nations of the world COMBINED. And no Republican has run in opposition to LEGAL immigration. For the GOP base this is about the rule-of-law. There are millions of people from every part of the world engaged in the legal process of becoming U.S. citizens, why should their efforts - and our legal system - be reduced to farce in order to accommodate those who have knowingly and willfully broken our laws? The GOP is not anti-immigrant, it is pro rule-of-law.

    Nor, has the GOP made any effort to suppress minority voting. Unlike the Democrat party, the GOP does not have a long, ugly history of discrimination and voter suppression. The demand that someone produce an I.D. in order to vote is supported by the vast majority of Americans, including every minority group.

  3. "Two Republican National Committee Chairs actually apologized for the Southern Strategy." -- Steven Ramirez

    "Chairman Steele's analysis of the so-called "southern strategy" is a bit too simplistic and could use some historical context. Since the end of Reconstruction the GOP scarcely existed in most of the South until the 1950s. In fact, in 1952 the Republican Party was so weak there that Eisenhower had to rely on "Veterans for Eisenhower" organizations to conduct much of his campaign in the region. So firm was the Democrat grip on the white southern vote that prior to Richard Nixon's 1960 campaign, no Republican presidential candidate had ever done much campaigning in the South. That year he broke new ground by deciding to campaign in every state. Prior to legislative advances of the civil rights movement -- initiated by the GOP's 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights Acts -- few African-Americans could vote in the Democrat-controlled South, so Nixon's campaigning in southern states was perforce directed at the only people who could vote there, the whites. Regarding his decision to campaign in the South as some kind of cynical ploy is to ignore Nixon's civil rights achievements while serving as Eisenhower's vice president. He was instrumental in breaking the Democrat filibuster against the 1957 Civil Rights Act and called for racial integration of public schools long before John Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson did."

    That quote is from your source.

  4. Republican Roots of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

    "Since 1933, Republicans had a more positive record on civil rights in Congress than the Democrats. In the twenty-six major civil rights votes since 1933, a majority of Democrats opposed civil rights legislation in over 80 percent of the votes. By contrast, the Republican majority favored civil rights in over 96 percent of the votes."

    The Democrat Race Lie

    A History of Violence: The long, sordid tale of anti-black brutality on the American left

  5. "Though antebellum utopians were largely indifferent to the plight of African Americans, the socialists and progressives who succeeded them aggressively advanced racist prejudices dressed up as science and progress. Instead of merely ignoring the problems of African Americans, the socialist and progressive Left actively contributed to them. For Appeal to Reason, the most successful publication in the history of the American Left, segregation was intrinsic to socialism. Whereas “private ownership of industries mixes up the races, reducing blacks, whites, and yellows to a common level,” Appeal to Reason noted that “socialism would separate the races and lift them all to the highest level each were capable.” “The white worker in the shop, mine, and factory is told that Socialism means race equality,” the Girard, Kansas–based weekly explained, but in reality “capitalism has forced him to work side by side with the negro, and for about the same wage. . . . [I]n the SIGHT OF THE CAPITALIST ALL WORKERS LOOK ALIKE.” The Appeal, as did so many of its turn-of-the-century leftist readers, railed against the “yellow peril” and “Mongolian hordes” allegedly stealing jobs from “American” union workers."

    "The only recourse African Americans had in a labor market dominated by exclusionary unions that demanded above-market wages was their willingness to work for less money than the unionists." -- David E. Bernstein, "Only One Place of Redress"

  6. Have the Republican and Deomcrat parties "switched" in the aftermath of the 1964 Civil Rights Act? No.

    Watch this:

  7. Obama Rejects Bill To Give Visas to Educated Immigrants‏

  8. I think there are some very ill conceived notions in the comments thus far. The past few years have shown a systematic attempt to disenfranchise minorities in the south through various legislative actions by the GOP.

    First, look at the Arizona law which was designed to allow officers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop for other purposes. This means that anyone without proper papers showing their status as a legal immigrant, or even citizen could be detained until it is proven that they are "legal". This has a potential for an Orwellian nightmare scenario. A simple ticket could lead to detainment of an otherwise innocent and legal US citizen. Similar laws have been proposed in other states ever since the supreme court upheld the provision allowing states to enact such legislation.

    To address the comment on Obama rejects a bill that gives visas to educated immigrants, one need only look at the problems with the bill and actually read it to see that this criticism is simple party rhetoric that only achieves gridlock between the parties.
    The STEM bill recently put before the house proposes to allow "visas to foreigners with high-tech degrees from American universities, while eliminating a program that offers visas to poorer immigrants through a lottery to underrepresented countries." While the GOP seems to believe that this illustrates their willingness to be more immigration friendly, it in fact, limits legal immigration further. Rep. Lamar Smith stated “We cannot afford to educate these foreign graduates in the U.S. and then send them back home to work for our competitors.” This statement is laughable, we already outsource so many tech engineering jobs to Indochina, the notion that limiting immigration to a select demographic of scientifically educated immigrants is a smoke and mirror trick. this bill, in fact, limits immigration further.

    To further illustrate the GOP's agenda to limit the voice of the impoverished and minorities, one need only look at Ohio this past election. Ohio Republicans attempted to stop early voting in Ohio this past election. Statistically, it is minorities and the poor that rely on early voting more than anyone else as it is harder for them to take the time and resources to vote on election day itself. Fortunately Ohio Courts struck down this legislation, and it was shown that minority votes played a large role in winning Ohio.

    Also, the term "liberal academic" as some kind of dirty word illustrates a level of ignorance and naivety that by somehow studying these policies automatically shifts ones political stance. People that use such terms do themselves a disservice as this only goes to show that they obtain their knowledge through rhetoric and soundbites than the actual study and understanding of what is happening in politics and economics at the present time. A an adherence to the mindset that educated individuals, who actually study and understand the socioeconomic facts and science are automatically shifted to the left is nonsense.

    I won't even address the comments on the "new deal democrats" noted in the comments above. The very statements made are so archaic, and they smack of rhetoric that is over 40 years old and have no foundation. It is cringe-worthy to even acknowledge such statements. One might as well start arguing for the Austrian school of economics, an antiquated way of thinking in the modern global economy.