"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The GOP Becomes a Southern-based Party

As southern state legislatures became more Republican in the late 1980s and 1990s, redistricting of Congressional districts sharply reduced the number of Democratic congressmen and contributed significantly to conservative legislative outcomes in Washington. While moderate white Democrats were driven from office by Republican gerrymandering; it should be noted that the courts tended to invalidate Democratic redistricting efforts in the 1990s. However, efforts to concentrate as many blacks as possible in districts set aside for them have meant that the number of left-wing southern congressmen has increased.

By the 1990s, southerners occupied many of the leadership posts in the Republican Party. Trent Lott of Mississippi led the party in the Senate. In the House of Representatives, Dick Armey of Texas was Majority leader; and Tom DeLay, another Texan, was majority whip. All three were very conservative. In late 2002, Senator Lott made comments at the 100th birthday party of Senator Strom Thurmond that suggested he was not reconciled to desegregation. He noted that Mississippi voted for Thurmond in 1948, when the South Carolinian had run for president on a segregationist ticket, and Lott suggested the country would be in much better condition had Thurmond been elected. At a political rally in 1980, he said “We wouldn’t be in the mess we are in today.” had Thurmond been elected. In the 1980s, Lott opposed the Martin Luther King Holiday and the extension of the Voting Rights Act. Thurmond, by then, had changed enough to support both measures. In 1998, Lott’s ties to the segregationist Council of Conservative Citizens came to light. Lott apologized for his “insensitive” remarks about Strom Thurman but did not resign as majority leader. The incident provoked much comment about the party’s long standing Southern Strategy, and the unfortunate Lott became both its symbol and a useful scapegoat. President George W. Bush denounced Lott’s comment but did not call for his ouster while letting it be known that Lott’s departure as Majority Leader would not displease him. Lott had to go, but not with undue haste or in a manner that would alienate Southern voters.

Don Nickles of Oklahoma, briefly a likely successor, removed himself from consideration after his record came to light. He had opposed the Martin Luther King National holiday and voted the same as Lott on Civil Rights matters. On cultural issues he was very conservative, wanting to display the Ten Commandments in schools and ban same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits in states where they can be legally married. David Brock , who was a significant figure in conservative circles in the 1980s and part of the 1990s, noted that there was substantial racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism within Washington conservative circles. In addition there was much overt homophobia that created great discomfort among Brock and other closet gays in the conservative movement. These tendencies did not seem to weaken the appeal of the Republican Party among the Religious Right. Often Republicans were able to deploy the Southern Strategy and appeal to conservative Protestants at the same time.

The South became the stronghold of the New Right, whose rhetoric resonated with people who had long resented northern “elitists” and were deeply emerged in evangelical and fundamentalist Protestantism. Cultural issues were as important as the race question in bringing the South into the Republican fold. Even the question of race had a strong populist dimension to it in the South because it appealed to intense resentment of northern liberal elitists who presumed to instruct southerners on how to deal with social questions. The largest block of electoral votes the resurgent conservatives could count upon was in the South, which was rapidly becoming Republican.. The power of evangelical Protestantism there helped move those states toward the Republicans, but this movement began before the conservative Protestants began to show a great interest in politics.

The first southern states to go Republican did so in 1964 when Barry Goldwater made it clear that he supported states rights and opposed the Civil rights Act. In fact, concerns about race as well as evangelical Protestantism would represent two sides of the same mindset, which made it possible for the emergence of the Republican South. The doctrines of neoliberalism were also potent tools in indirectly but effectively appealing to racial sentiments in the North as well as the South. Political neoliberalism is consistent with what is called “laissez faire racism,” the view that nothing more needs to be done to help African Americans because government has already removed the barriers to their success. By the 1980s, the almost all the southern states could be counted upon to vote for Republican presidential candidates. Growing prosperity in the South created prosperous suburbs that were to be solidly Republican. Denizens of these areas were convinced that Reagan’s tax cuts enhanced their economic well being, and their cultural outlook also contributed to their Republicanism.

By the 1990s, even among southern white workingmen, core Republicans would slightly outnumber core Democrats. In 2003, five southern Democratic senators found it necessary to announce retirements because they faced uphill battles to retain their seats. In Kentucky, the Democrats were able to retain their hold on the governor’s chair until 2003, when it finally became a solidly Republican state. Under the astute leadership of Senator Mitch McConnell, Republicans managed over time to define Democrats as almost everything Kentuckians disliked. In 2000, George W. Bush carried this once Democratic state by 17 points. By 2002, 53% of southern whites were Republicans while only one in four would admit to being Democrats.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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About Me

Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!