Friday, May 10, 2013

The Great White South

Will there ever be a day when Southerners and/or Republicans are no longer tarred as inveterate racists? Well, maybe, if they start endorsing gay marriage and high taxes and hippie communes, but certainly not until then. It's too good a weapon for liberals to discard, and they seem to have some superficial evidence on their side. Emphasis on "superficial."

Of course, I don't have to tell you how political dialogue goes where the GOP and its Southern base are concerned. Southerners are backward bigots who still have Klan hoods in their closets and keep looking for a chance to keep the black man down; the Republican Party depends on them, so it must be like that, too. Now, occasionally a few people on our side will get smart and point out that the GOP is the party of Lincoln and 19th-century abolitionists, and in fact was more supportive of the Civil Rights Act in the '60s than the Democrats were. That rarely fazes any liberal worth their salt, though. They come right back with what is often called "The Southern Strategy."

Sure, liberals admit, the Democratic Party was the party of white racist Southerners until the 1960s. But then LBJ signed all the civil rights legislation, blacks began voting Democrat lock, stock, and barrel; and those white cross-burners became very disillusioned: at which point certain Republicans, especially Nixon and his circle, seized an opportunity by opposing further civil rights to gain Southern votes, making the GOP the racist, knuckle-dragging, red-state party it is today and the Democrats the enlightened knights of progress. It's a very neatly tied-up story, you gotta admit; one that absolves Democrats of any racial guilt. It also perpetuates North-South stereotypes where race relations are concerned, which never hurts.

Basically, the only way to refute this story is to suggest that white Southerners were starting to change their position on the GOP, and perhaps civil rights as well. And one of the best-kept secrets in the political conversation is that, as a matter of fact, they were.

You have to take a careful look at the changing electoral map to see what was going on here. As multiple historians have shown, the famous "Solid South" electoral bloc was already breaking down by mid-century, especially in the Upper South states like Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, less so in the Deep South. This alone would call the Left's claims into question, for if GOP success was linked to racism alone, one would expect just the opposite. Overall, among the states of the "Old Confederacy," Republican candidates were getting around 25 percent of the vote in the '44 and '48 presidential elections, itself a dramatic rise from results in the '20s and '30s (and keep in mind, this came at the end of the reign of FDR, who was famous for tossing lots of federal money South-wards and not lifting many fingers to improve race relations). During the Eisenhower era, Ike was breaking off Virginia, Texas, even Louisiana, despite his party's noticeable lack of an anti-civil rights stance. And lest one think this was a function of presidential personality, the GOP was making similar inroads in congressional seats--again, especially in the less-racist Upper South.

What gives? It turns out that, demographically, the growing Republican support was coming especially from urban and suburban areas, middle- and upper-middle-class voters, and younger generations--the people who made up the "New South." And party strategists at the time recognized this, telling Nixon and candidates all down the line their best shot was to appeal to the "youthful middle-class," downplaying racial issues as much as possible. This is the exact opposite of what the liberal P.C. version of history would have us believe.

Also, this raises the question of just how racist Southerners were in the '50s and '60s. It would be stupid to suggest that race issues during the period were overblown, but neither should we assume that anti-black racism was uniform. Plenty of evidence exists that already by the '50s, many Southerners, especially younger ones, were changing their minds on segregation, with church organizations in particular, including the Presbyterians and Southern Baptists, coming out against it. And it would be many of these same people--young, religious, upwardly mobile--who would begin building a Southern GOP and the subsequent New Right/Religious Right. I wouldn't go so far as to say that racial equality in the South would have happened without federal legislation, but we shouldn't just assume Jim Crow would have otherwise persisted into the twenty-first century, either. Things were already changing.

This is not to imply that the Republican Party was entirely free of racial prejudice, before, during, or after the Civil Rights Era. Many party members and politicians were quite happy to strike unsavory deals with racist/segregationist Southerners. But the stereotyping of these two groups the Left indulges in rests on the narrative that Southern whites haven't changed in their racism, simply jumped ship from the Dems to the GOP, and the latter became racist as a result. Like most stories liberals spin, it just ain't so.


AndrewPrice said...

Excellent history lesson. I'll have more thoughts in a moment. The right is definitely not the racist creature the left wants you to believe and the left is much more racist than they claim we are.

Tennessee Jed said...

Rav - that is a very interesting take on the issue.I'll have to think on it some more, because it, on the surface, seemed like liberals had a good point when they said, all the old south that were Democrats back in the day, are now Republicans. But, racism has existed throughout the country for a long, long time. Practically speaking, going forward, the best way to counter this for Republicans is to develop an agenda that actually helps people, and put it forth in a manner that can resonate. Not an easy task to be sure, for we are still seen as pro-big business and anti-poor, something that comes across as "racist" in the case of minorities who are disproportionately poor.

AndrewPrice said...

Ok, my first round of thoughts...

While I agree with you, the truth about politics is that perception is reality and I'm not sure we can change perception with an attempt to debunk this because there's just too much proof. All they need to do to destroy a thousand hours of debunking is to find two racist quotes from Republicans in the 1980s or 1990s -- not hard.

I think the better answer is what Jed says, which is to (1) make it clear we don't accept racism and (2) come up with a color blind agenda that resonates with everyone.

That is a problem however because it means...

1. Abandoning the anti-Hispanic rhetoric, which is really intense. Ann Coulter today equated them all with criminals and abortionists.

2. Abandoning lots of pointless fringey issues that dominate talk radio, but which alienate people who aren't part of the fringe -- like the obsession with the Black Panthers, linking welfare and crime to minorities, and linking voter fraud to minorities.

There needs to be a real effort to stop "hating on people" and to start being constructive. Otherwise, we just keep playing right into the stereotype.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, Word. Or at least on the right-vs.-left racism thing.

I also agree that perception is reality, but I don't think we can abandon this either. They're going to keep on hammering the Right with this myth no matter what stance we take, and while it's important to present the GOP as a "color-blind" party, it's also important to spread this debunking information as far as possible. That's something I'm good at, so.

Also, I think myths like this illustrate the need for alternate organs of information for our side: a conservative version of something like "The Huffington Post," as you mentioned some time ago.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Absolutely. We do need to debunk. I think that is vital. My point was only that the real key to victory will be winning these people over with our ideas and our openness -- without that, they won't listen to the debunking.

Unfortunately, that's not something our side is good at right now. But it's something we need to get good at again.

In the 1980s, Reagan offered a strong agenda on many points that connected with people because they understood how it would help them. At the same time, the Republicans drove out people like David Duke and had a no tolerance policy for racism and antisemitism. The result was that the idea of the GOP being racist and anti-Semitic all but died.

We kind of ruined that in recent years, but we can do the same thing again if we fix some of our own problems.

T-Rav said...

Jed, exactly. It seems on the surface like they have an argument, even though we know we aren't racist. That's why debunking crap like this is so very important. Why are we still seen as racist? Because, in large part, we're presented as having a history of being racist, so we're probably still racist today. So we have to strike back at their portrayal of the past.

Incidentally, I think cases like this demonstrate that racism isn't the same everywhere. Even in the South at the height of Jim Crow, there were a lot of differences in how racial attitudes were expressed. It just goes to show how stories get a lot more complicated the more you look at them.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Let me add one thing: you can't tar somebody with something if they don't provide support for it. For example, I can call you a thief, but no one will believe it unless you do things that make it appear true. The same is true in politics. You can scream that somebody is racist, but it won't stick unless they give a reason to believe it.

The problem lately has been that there is a portion of our side who say things that come across as racist. Are they racist? I have no idea. But the problem isn't what they are, it's how they are perceived. And it doesn't take much for people to assume the worst.

To put it another way, when you are accused of something bad, you need to be on your best behavior to avoid playing into that, but there are some on our side who revel in playing into it.

Kit said...

On the North-South thing, I think it should be noted that some of the most vicious anti-black riots during the Civil Rights era were the anti-busing riots of the 1970s carried out by white Irish fathers in Kennedy-voting BOSTON.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I grew up in the South and the West, and in my experience, the South still had a good deal of segregation at that time, but I didn't see much open racism. In the West, I saw no racism at all and no segregation.

When I went to college in upstate New York, I was STUNNED at the open racism by everyone up there. They were much more segregated than the South and they were openly saying things that would have just drawn shocked states out West. Boston was even worse... much worse.

And yet, those same bigots would then accuse the South of being racist.

It was amazing hypocrisy.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, yes and no.

While I agree with your basic premise that you shouldn't engage in behavior that will encourage name-calling, this breaks down when the other side starts describing neutral activity as such behavior. It's all well and good to say that if you don't want to be called a thief, don't steal stuff; but what do you do when "property is theft"? Or when color-blindness gets described as a passive form of racism? Republicans haven't exactly gone out of their way to avoid looking racist, I'll agree, but I am left wondering whether it really matters when you're being saddled with the charge no matter what you do.

T-Rav said...

Kit, and that's a doubly ironic situation, in that the busing riots would not have happened without racial antagonism between urban Irish and black neighborhoods, but was instigated in the first place by the ruling of a suburban judge in a district that would not be affected by busing. "Equality for thee, but not for me"--the code of rich Yankee liberals everywhere.

AndrewPrice said...

And T-Rav, let me stress, we need what you are doing. In fact, we need more people to do what you're doing. But we need to stop trying to prove the Democrats right at the same time.

Kit said...

Because all those Irish, Russian, and Italian immigrants in the 19th and 20th Century were just saints!

Kit said...

First, Andrew, THANK YOU for going after Yankee hypocrites!

Second, I want to say something about one of the biggest white racist Southern Democrats, George Wallace. Even if you factor out the racism aspect, there is still stuff to hate about him.
Like running his very sick wife for governor so he could remain in power (AL had term limits back then) and, through graft and corruption, more or less ensuring the state of Alabama remained economically backwards with Mississippi while the rest of the South (particularly Georgia) surged.

Kit said...

Also, the segregationist laws in the antebellum north could be far more strict than the later Jim Crow laws*. And Frederick Douglass had to deal with Northern racists as often as he had to deal with Southern racists.
Who, in at least one instance, burned down a black school.
(Something that the Klan would do after the war).

And, Northerners, who had no moral qualms about abandoning the blacks to the fates of the Ku Klux Klan. And the Klan in the 1870s makes the Klan that Dr. King had to deal with in the 1950s and 60s seem downright tame in comparison.

*Granted, this could in part be due to the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments that occurred in the intermediary.

Patriot said...

T-Rav......Nice premise. I've found a good way to counter the "Repubs are racist" charge whenever we disagree with Obama and his "transformation" of America from a white, patriarchal, racist society, is to state that I would have loved to see Condi Rice as President instead of Obama. Sorta stumps 'em for a while, as then they realize it's about ideology and not race.

Having spent most of my adult life in the "South," I can tell you there is racism everywhere if you want to look hard enough and translate everyday actions into racism. For example, if a curmudgeonly old white guy in Georgia tells a black kid to pull his damn pants up, is that racism? By some accounts yes, because of the race of the actors. If that same old dude tells a hipster to cut his damn hair, that isn't, because of the race of the actors. My point, is that whites will always be accused of racism NO MATTER what the situation is if the color patterns is black and white. Whenever the white "guy" and it's usually the guy, criticizes or provides poor service to a black, it's because of racism. When the exact same behavior and/or service is done between two whites, it's just rudeness, poor attitude, whatever. So, in this calculus, it does not matter what whites do. They will never be able to get rid of the "racist" label if they treat a black person poorly.

It all come back to politics and if you believe in the "correct" ideologies. If not.....RACIST! Too easy and lazy of a way to end a losing argument...accuse your opponent of racism. Game, set, smug.

tryanmax said...

T-Rav, great work. This is definitely one side of the two-edged sword that will strike down Democrat dominance in American politics. The other side being, of course, that Republicans need to expunge every whiff of racism from their politicking. But in the arena where perception is reality, few things strike a sharper blow than the revelation that "everything you thought you knew is wrong." When such a blow lands, it's the kind of thing which dislodges people from fast held positions. More than simply wooing independents, it's the sort of thing which can turn liberals.

T-Rav said..., not really.

Speaking as someone who is not Ms. Coulter's biggest fan, it seems pretty clear to me she's not trying to demonize immigrants per se. What she's doing is pushing back against the leftist narrative of illegal immigrants as being all decent, family-oriented, hard-working Joes who just want a better life--a theme which, if you accept it, makes opposition to illegal immigration a lot harder. She's countering it by saying that hey, just like any other group, there are some really bad eggs mixed in, and those have caused some real criminal problems. There's nothing inherently anti-Hispanic about it. In fact, the one time she uses the phrase "a conspiracy of immigrants" (which in that case, I think, does get into a danger zone), she's referring to the Tsarlaev bombers, who are Central Asian, not Hispanic.

And that's not to say there aren't Republicans who fall into anti-Hispanic prejudice, because there are. But it's important not to make a mountain out of a molehill either.

T-Rav said...

Kit, I don't know that that's exactly fair. Most Irish, Russian, and Italian immigrants were good, hard-working people, just like most Hispanic immigrants are today. Of course, we shouldn't pretend that they all were and are saints across the board, either.

T-Rav said...

Also, Kit, I've often wondered if the people who praise Northern soldiers, for being the avenging right arm of freedom and progress, are aware how many of them deserted after word of the Emancipation Proclamation got out. (The answer would be a lot.)

tryanmax said...

T-Rav, Coulter is still using anecdotal outliers to make a case against the illegal immigrant population as a whole. A much more honest line of attack would be to point out common harms caused by a majority of illegal immigrants. But she can't do that, because those harms would be recognized as stemming from their situation as an underclass and also point to the ways in which certain American citizens are exploiting that situation, both of which would bolster the position she is arguing against.

Anthony said...

T-Rav said:

Also, Kit, I've often wondered if the people who praise Northern soldiers, for being the avenging right arm of freedom and progress, are aware how many of them deserted after word of the Emancipation Proclamation got out. (The answer would be a lot.)

I doubt most people would look a gift horse in the mouth. Lincoln started the war to preserve the Union, not to end slavery, but the fact he ended slavery was what mattered to most (then and now).

T-Rav said...

Anthony, I don't doubt that, and it's perfectly understandable to take that line. It's only worth mentioning in this regard because of the contention you frequently hear that Northerners are enlightened and egalitarian about race, while Southerners are just itching to burn crosses. In truth, racism can be found in abundance on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. That's the main point here.

T-Rav said...

Thanks tryanmax. The "everything you thought you knew is wrong" line is exactly right, and the more time I've spent with historians, the higher I've come to value it. It doesn't change minds right away--at least, not among liberals--but it does make the more honest ones start thinking hard about what they do and don't know. It's not just about winning the center, it's about making the other side doubt itself.

Patriot said...

Andrew....Am I to understand that conservs need to push back against the smears, lies, demonization and outright b.s. from the leftists (media) and not resort in kind sometime? Must we only..."Moreover, if Coulter were pushing back against a narrative, she would be using facts, not imagery, and she wouldn't be using those images to paint a broad brush picture of all illegal immigrants"...follow this line of defense? That's worked real well for us in the past!

Oh, but we'll be stooping to their level, you might rejoinder. I believe we've lost the culture war due to just this kind of "broad brush" that the left uses against us. What the hell is wrong with picking up some of the crap they throw at us and use the same tactics against them?

I thin it's great we have someone like a Coulter who can take on the left in their own backyards, all the while defending her theses with facts (read some of her books which are well researched for the most part). I for one am tired of being portrayed as a racist, bigoted, misogynist troglodyte hater because I have worked hard, sacrificed and have an intact family. If one of the fighters for our side goes over the top every now and then I say good on them.

BTW...I'm not a Religious Right fanatic for believing that abortion is morally wrong and harmful to society. What began as "safe, legal and rare" has turned into what Margeret Sanger and the Progressives envisioned and created a hundred years ago.....a means of weeding out the undesirables in society (the Negroes). By fighting against that, we are labelled every hateful name in the book.

I believe there are many among our ilk who are "mad as hell and aren't going to take it any more!" So I say, go get 'em Coulter, Limbaugh, Levin, Savage and the rest of those radicals on the right who are using the Left's own weapons against them. To paraphrase the 'Chicago Way'...

Malone: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I'm saying is, what are you prepared to do?
Ness: Anything within the law.
Malone: And *then* what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way. Because they're not gonna give up the fight, until one of you is dead.
Ness: I want to get Capone! I don't know how to do it.
Malone: You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That's* the *Chicago* way! And that's how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I'm offering you a deal. Do you want this deal?
Ness: I have sworn to capture this man with all legal powers at my disposal and I will do so.
Malone: Well, the Lord hates a coward.

Substitute 'The Left' for 'Capone' and you have what should be our side's approach. Instead, we stand there bemoaning the fact that our side sometimes exaggerates and demonizes too. I say so what.....we've lost the war and things won't change short of a societal shift due to some calamitous event

T-Rav said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
T-Rav said...

Patriot, regarding your first comment (and sorry it took so long to get back to you, by the way), the clever invention of certain people in academia is, if you should complain about getting tagged with the "racist" label, that itself becomes evidence of racism, expressed in "supposedly neutral language." It's heads I win, tails you lose.

K said...

...abandoning the anti-Hispanic rhetoric, which is really intense. Ann Coulter today equated them all with criminals and abortionists.

Andrew, could you reference which Ann Coulter piece you are referring to, because if it's the one at her website, she says nothing about hispanics as a race whatsoever.

AndrewPrice said...

Folks, I'm not going to argue about this in T-Rav's article. The point to his article is a good one about the wrongful attempt to smear the South as racist, so let's focus on that, because that definitely should be debunked.

T-Rav said...


ellenB said...

I grew up out West (West Coast and then Arizona) actually, and it's funny because we always got along. So when the Democrats started telling us that everyone was racist, I just scratched my head because I never saw it.

AndrewPrice said...

Ellen, I never saw racism either in the West. People pretty much got along with each other very well regardless of race. Neighborhoods are largely mixed. And you never heard racial insults and I never heard anyone say they wouldn't do something just because someone was black or Hispanic or whatever.

New York... that was different.

BevfromNYC said...

T-Rav - Thank you for this great article. I have been busy today, so I haven't been able to join in the conversation today. I will have comments to add this weekend.

T-Rav said...

Any time Bev! Don't worry, it's a busy time of year.

T-Rav said...

For whatever it's worth, here's an interesting set of maps charting racial and other intolerant tweets in the U.S. Lots of regional variations going on here. LINK

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, The map is wrong and I'll bet you I know why. I'll bet you they only included certain words. How, for example, can Boston not be flaming red when I can tell you that racial epitaphs are as common there as "hello" is in other parts of the country.

Also, nothing in LA?

This looks like a map that was creating using only words that rural Southerners would use and it excluded the words you would hear in other places.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, it struck me as odd that there wouldn't be bright red in Boston or L.A., either. And I'm curious why terms like "mick," "dago," "guinea," etc. weren't tested. Are they just testing it for non-white groups?

Still, the map does seem to verify earlier comments that you rarely hear racial invective in the West at large.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I suspect that they are only tracking white on black words. And even then, they've probably excluded words that are regional. For example, in Boston, I rarely heard the n-word, but I constantly heard substitutes -- and those were substitutes I never heard anywhere else in the country.

As for the West, yes, their map looks pretty clean. But that doesn't surprise me because, honestly, you just don't get much racism out here. I can't tell you exactly why, but it's not an issue out here.

tryanmax said...

Very interesting maps. I think it's funny how the captions keep insisting that racism isn't concentrated in any particular area. Um, try "the eastern half of the country" maybe?

It does confirm one thing I've always said about home: Omaha is the western-most eastern city.

Mr_Severus_Snape said...

SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN! Nice article, T! I'm sick of the anti-South elitists. Not everyone down there is a racist! I thought Liberals were the cultured and open-minded ones... *sigh*

--"Plenty of evidence exists that already by the '50s, many Southerners, especially younger ones, were changing their minds on segregation, with church organizations in particular, including the Presbyterians and Southern Baptists, coming out against it. And it would be many of these same people--young, religious, upwardly mobile--who would begin building a Southern GOP and the subsequent New Right/Religious Right."

Great! Now, I can call anyone going against the "Religious Right", racist!

T-Rav said...

tryanmax, I've never been to Omaha so I couldn't say. I'm guessing you mean that as a bad thing?

T-Rav said...

Snape, they want you to think they're the cultured and open-minded ones. Image is all that matters to them.

tryanmax said...

T-Rav, hard to say. Judging from the maps, it's a bad thing. Though I've always had a greater affinity for eastern cities over western cities.

T-Rav said...

tryanmax, although I have visited a lot of the country, I haven't been west of OKC in about ten years, so I really can't say a lot about western cities. There are a lot of eastern cities that I like, though (NYC)--and also many that I despise (Trenton).

AndrewPrice said...

Trenton is a pit. So is Philly. So is Boston. I do like DC a lot and I like downtown NYC, but not the 'burbs.

I like western cities a lot. Everything is newer and cleaner and better spaced.

Anthony said...

T-Rav said:

Basically, the only way to refute this story is to suggest that white Southerners were starting to change their position on the GOP, and perhaps civil rights as well. And one of the best-kept secrets in the political conversation is that, as a matter of fact, they were.
Given that legal black slavery (renamed peonage after the Civil War) didn't completely die out until the 1940s (with a push from the federal government) I suspect without federal intervention, Jim Crow would have gone on for several decades at least.

I'm not saying if the law changed tomorrow Jim Crow would be reborn (public thinking has changed) but if it hadn't been killed, it might still be with us (some of that thinking changed due to the changes in the law).

Anyway, I agree that its unfair to claim that the modern South is the same as South of the 60's. By all indications, people care about ideology nowadays, not race. The Democrats used to be America's conservative party (in a social sense, if not an economic one) and have moved to the left on a range of issues while the Republicans have moved to the right.

Political parties (both of them as anyone familiar with the ad showing the gold toothed Allen West punching an old white woman ad can attest) often used racially tinged attacks to dismiss their opponents, but they embrace people of any race who share their values.

Both Clarence Thomas and Obama have lots of admirers, but I bet there is zero overlap between their admirers despite the fact they are the same race.

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