With some encouragement from the editors, I’ve been pushing the envelope a bit over a Forbes. Today’s post explores the myth of the Southern Strategy.
You’ve often heard it mentioned here and at the old GOPLifer that Rick Perry and Elizabeth Warren both switched parties over the past generation. There’s a missing element in the conventional story of the South’s great party-switch. To the extent that anyone speaks of it at all, they tend to attribute the switch to Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” his effort to exploit southern anger over desegregation. A particularly hair-raising interview with Lee Atwater in 1981 seems to reinforce that idea.
The problem is that Nixon’s Southern Strategy mostly flopped. By some measures he was less successful in the South than Goldwater had been. Republicans in the Nixon era made few inroads there farther down the ticket. The flight of the Dixiecrats didn’t materialize in serious numbers at the local level until the late ’80’s. Something else was at work here to turn the South red.
Understanding the nuts and bolts of Southern Democrats’ big flip requires a careful look at the role of religion in southern politics. It also, apparently, requires writing an unreasonably long post. Sorry, there was just no way to get arms all the way around this in a thousand words. And writing these posts in serial form seemed ridiculous. Interested in your thoughts.