Sunday, August 26, 2012

When all else fails...there's always the Southern Strategy

We always knew it would come to this. Back in April 2011, Adam Serwer nailed it.
The Republican Party had a choice after 2008. They could continue to rely on a dwindling but still decisive share of the white vote to prevail, or they could try to bring more minorities into the party. While I'm not entirely sure how much of the decision was made by party leaders and how much is merely the unprecedented influence of Fox News, but whether it's pseudo scandals of the past two years, from birtherism to the NBPP [National Black Panther Party] case, the GOP's nationwide rush to ban sharia and institute draconian immigration laws, or characterizing nearly every administration policy as reparations, the conservative fixations of Obama's first term indicate that the GOP will end up relying at least in part on inflaming white racial resentment to close the gap.
Today, even the New York Times is calling it out.
Mitt Romney is heading into his nominating convention with his advisers convinced he needs a more combative footing against President Obama in order to appeal to white, working-class voters and to persuade them that he is the best answer to their economic frustrations...

Mr. Romney’s chances hinge to a large degree on running up his advantage among white voters in swing states who show deep strains of opposition to Mr. Obama but do not yet trust Mr. Romney to look out for their interests, Republican strategists say.

Many of those voters are economically disaffected, and the Romney campaign has been trying to reach them with appeals built around an assertion that Mr. Obama is making it easier for welfare recipients to avoid work. The Romney campaign is airing an advertisement falsely charging that Mr. Obama has “quietly announced” plans to eliminate work and job training requirements for welfare beneficiaries, a message Mr. Romney’s aides said resonates with working-class voters who see government as doing nothing for them.

The moves reflect a campaign infused with a sharper edge and overtones of class and race. On Friday, Mr. Romney said at a rally that no one had ever had to ask him about his birth certificate, and Mr. Ryan invoked his Catholicism and love of hunting.
In other words, when it comes to Republican strategy, nothing much has changed since 1970.
From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that...The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.

- Republican strategist Kevin Phillips


  1. At some level the GOP had no choice but to adopt this strategy. Were they to retool as a Crist or Huntsman would like, it would put them in the wilderness for at least two electoral cycles, and probably more. They would have to build an entirely new network of plants in the media.

    The problem is that there is no "they" who would do this building. The people who constitute the Party are precisely the same people with a vested--i.e., career--interest in the whole complex called, in shorthand, the Southern Strategy. There is no central GOP brain that can exercise a choice outside of the choice that has already been made.

    I am reminded of Gorbachev. He was given the job of changing tack, of moving away from rigid economic planning to a more fluid model. However, the government with which he was to make this strategic change consisted precisely of economic planners (etc). They wouldn't go along for all kinds of reasons, but partially because they didn't know how to not plan. They were, after all, planners.

    None of the GOP operatives, or very few, have a skill set to operate politically without stimulating, put mildly, white resentment. Gorbachev's government ceased to be rather than changed, and we will see what happens to the GOP.

    1. Yesterday I spent some time watching the video of Up w/Chris yesterday on race in the age of Obama with Melissa Harris-Perry, Ta-Nehisi Coates, W Kamal Bell, and Jay Smooth. I highly recommend it - very intelligent thought-provoking conversation.

      At one point, Coates made the point that tea partiers want to see PBO's transcripts because they assume he took advantage of affirmative action. Coates pointed out that if you look at where Romney grew up and went to school, you can see that he was immersed in the era of preferential treatment for white people. But no one sees or wants to talk about that.

      What struck me is that in making the point, Coates was also basically saying that - for most prominent Republicans - they cut their political chops in the era of the Southern Strategy. Its their roots.

      And so I think you're absolutely right to point out that its what they know.

  2. Does the Southern Strategy still work?

    1. I don't think so.

      But it looks to me like its all they've got. And as Bill points out above - its all they know.

    2. I think it works with the demographic it initially targeted, but with diminishing returns and greater costs vis-a-vis other demographic groups.

  3. I wish he would just make it simpler and say "Vote for me; I'm white". All this dog-whistling innuendo takes up so much more space.

  4. The thing about rationalization, is deniability. And since the only people they're really trying to fool is them selves....

  5. Silly hogwash. The South was trending Republican for decades before Nixon came along as the scapegoat. It was LBJ who GAVE the South to the Republicans, not dirty tricks by Tricky Dick.

    Also, I hope you liberals keep believing the Republicans have abandoned all minorities. Because apparently you didn't notice that Republican Bush won a record amount of Hispanic votes for his party in 2004. . .