How the Southern Strategy Happened

How the Southern Strategy Happened

Because it did happen.

You can now purchase Dixiegops: The Untold Story of the Dixiecrat-Republican Coalition on Amazon.

Living Blue in Texas’ Facebook pages often gets Republican trolls, as any page does. We have taken the approach with trolls over the years to be more than happy to engage them as long as they being civil. Sometimes they are polite and respectful but state opinions unlike our own.

During the Obama years, there were two things I kept explaining to Republicans (again and again).

  1. The difference between debt and deficit.
  2. The Southern Strategy.

Most of them had no idea what either was. The GOP trolls never heard of the word “deficit” in an economic sense, and they were completely unaware that the Southern Strategy was a thing.

(Side note: All of the Republicans that used to post on LBiTX the debt clock during Obama’s term have all disappeared. We haven’t heard from them in years.)

Democrats founded the KKK.

While true, we’ll get into more later. Calling the Democrats “KKK” became a typical troll response when these Tea Partiers when confronted with the racism they perpetuated during the Obama years. So, I would explain the Southern Strategy to them. They never heard of it before, and after being set straight, they usually slithered back to wherever they came.

Fast forward to a few years ago (2017/2018ish), an older right-leaning relative told me that the Southern Strategy never happened. I didn’t have to explain it to him because he seemed to know already what it was but adamantly denied it happened. “It is just a myth,” he said, “An excuse for Democrats to deny their racism.”

At the time, I brushed it off, thinking it was just some stupid shit he heard on Breitbart of Fox. However, lately, I have seen many Republicans, especially on social media, calling the Southern Strategy a myth (to explain how the Democratic party of 2020 is supposedly racist). In the last 24 hours, I’ve seen two Trumpers on social media both say it.

I’m not sure where this denial of history originated from on the right, but I know Candice Owen said it at a judiciary hearing last year. Ben Shapiro said it at his debate with Cenk Urygur at Politicon a few years back. 

What does the GOP say is the reason the Southern Strategy never happened?

Candice Owen chalks it up to “a Democratic election strategy,” Ben Shapiro says it was because it wasn’t an immediate switch. Other Republicans look to Nixon’s campaign for direct words of party switching. 

Every article and video I could find from right-leaning sources cherry-picked one or two events or talking points as their reason why the switch didn’t happen.

And even many left-leaning sources that describe the Southern Strategy focus entirely on Nixon’s presidential campaign and how he won the south.

The break-down happens with Conservatives when they hear this and think what the Southern Strategy was Nixon ran for president and said, “Hey all you racist Democrats, come be Republicans now.” Then all of the racists just hopped from one party to the other in one election cycle.

When you say it like that, it won’t make sense to them. The said Conservative doesn’t know the entire chain of events that led to that moment. We are teaching them momentous events in history without realizing that they need to know the history of the decades before.

It isn’t an accident that Republicans in America don’t know American history. Over a century of American history was omitted and fabricated to indoctrinate generation after generation of white children to believe that they are the superior race. #FvckTheUnitedDaughersOfConfederacy

It’s time to break it all down, show cause and effect, and see how the once Democratic racists of the south became the Republican racists of the south, how the Democratic party became the party of equality, and how the GOP became the party of oppression.

Conservatives and Liberals.

History books do the Southern Strategy disservice by referring to political parties in the 1800s and 1900s as simply Republicans or Democrats. They should emphasize instead “Conservative Democrat” or “Liberal Republican” (referred to at the time as “Radical Republican”). In that sense, the Conservatives are still the same as they were in the 1800s, and so are the Liberals/Radicals.

To prove this, here are a few articles from the 1890s that talk about Texas Governor Jim Hogg as a Conservative Democrat.

Who was Jim Hogg?

Jim Hogg was the son of a famous congressman, secession advocate, and Confederate Captain, Joseph L. Hogg.

Our history books won’t tell you this, Joseph Hogg was a slave owner, and the slave schedules of 1850 and 1860 listed him as owning up to 26 slaves. So, Governor Jim Hogg (born in 1851) grew up in a slaveholding household. He was a Conservative Democrat, as the articles above say. 

Some might point out that he passed the Texas anti-lynching bill under his leadership. However, we should also point out that the first Jim Crow Laws passed under his leadership.

Here are two more articles from the 1890s talking about Radical Republicans.

What this shows.

The Radical Republicans were for equality and enfranchisement.

Prior to the Southern Strategy, the Conservative Democrats were the majority in the south. They were the slave owners, the Confederates, the ones who started Jim Crow laws, and they also started the KKK.

Fast forward to the 1928 Presidential election.

By 1928, the 14th Amendment was unsuccessful in the South because of voter disenfranchisement and Jim Crow laws. The Republicans in the north grew apathetic towards the black vote. Herbert Hoover, a Republican, ran his campaign to support Lily White Policies in the south. He did this to drive Blacks out of the Republican Party (the once party of Lincoln).

After years of the Republican party being the party of equal rights and civil justice, this campaign by Hoover left many black Americans feeling betrayed by the GOP.

The once black Republicans didn’t all jump ship then, but for the first time in history, the Black vote was split, with many black votes for the first time going towards the Democratic Candidate, Al Smith.

This was the beginning of voter realignment.

Republican Herbert Hoover won over Confederate states, like Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia.

Then when the Great Depression hit, Black Americans were hit hardest. The majority of them already lived in poverty and were often fired to give their jobs to unemployed whites.

It was under Herbert Hoover’s presidency and during the Great Depression that the second great migration happened.

Black families moved out of the South and up north, looking for better economic opportunities. This migration altered the geographical demographics of the nation.


Due to the severe economic hardships in prior years and the Republican party’s failure to stop the rising racial violence in the South, in 1932, some Black leaders were urging Black Americans to consider voting for Democrats. Although in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt only won a small handful of black voters, he still managed to win by a landslide.

The racist Confederate Democrats of the South were still Democrats, but the black vote was a toss-up. While initially, Blacks were skeptical about FDR because, at that time, the Southern Democrats were still racist, over the years of his presidency, he managed to win them over. FDR’s New Deal and many efforts made by Eleanore Roosevelt, Blacks in the 1930s were finding a new home with the Democratic party.

Roosevelt openly welcomed them into the Democratic party, despite the racist southern Democrats’ resentment. And in FDR’s 1936 campaign, he embraced African American delegates at the Democratic National Convention. As a result, in 1936, according to Gallup, an unprecedented “76% of Northern blacks voted for Roosevelt.

Based on how little the New Deal did for blacks between 1932 and 1936, it seems clear that Roosevelt attracted Black voters to the Democratic ticket. Not because of what FDR did for them, but what he was perceived to have done for them. The Roosevelt Administration’s outreach to Black Americans was unprecedented but widely based on exaggeration and omission.

By the end of FDR’s presidency, the Northern Democrats and the Southern Democrats held different race and civil rights ideologies.

By 1948, the Democratic Party was in shambles.

Herbert Hoover’s presidency influenced Black Republicans to consider voting for a Democrat, and FDR’s presidency further solidified the black voters as a voting block in the Democratic party.

The Northern Democrats, who lived and integrated with Republicans, became more progressive and attracted the black vote. Meanwhile, the Southern Democrats were still the party of the Confederacy, white supremacy, and oppression.

And by 1948, the Southern Democrats were pissed. They didn’t want Black people in their party, and they didn’t want a platform that included civil rights, which is apparent in this February 1948 newspaper article

Just so we’re all clear, up to this point, Black people have typically been Republicans in the north. Then, as time passed, the Northern Democrats became more progressive, getting the Black voting block to realign. Meanwhile, the Southern Democrats were still racist Confederates who wanted no part in it, which cause a fracture in the Democratic party.

And if it still wasn’t apparent, here is another article from 1948 where the Southern Democrats were taking pledges to support white supremacy and saying they’d rather join the Republican party than agree to a platform that included civil rights.

The birth of the Dixiecrats.

Once the racist Southern Democrats decided they could not be for a Democratic platform that included civil rights, they bailed out of the Democratic party and started their own party, called the Dixiecrats.

By the end of 1948, America had three parties. Democrats, Republicans, and Dixiecrats.

The Dixiecrats didn’t win the presidency that year or any year after that. But they did get members into congress.

Those members introduced a bill to redistribute the Black population all over the country. Members of the Dixiecrat party were called bigots and debasers of civil rights in 1949.

And by May 1949, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee said that the Dixiecrats had no place with the Democratic party and were not welcome in the Democratic part. 

By June 1949, they were known as the Republican-Dixiecrat coalition, and American media publicized their ties with the KKK.

The Southern Vote was split.

For the next decade, the Dixiecrats continued to exist. They blocked civil rights bill after civil rights bill and even voted against their own best interests.

Through the 1950s and 1960s, the South was trying to find their identity in a then increasingly desegregated world. They were Conservative Democrats, Dixiecrats, Shivercrats, the Constitution Party, and Republicans.

Southern racists in once Confederate states no longer felt at home in the Democratic party.

The Republican party of that era was also split between Conservatives, Moderates, and Liberals.

Then, in 1964 when LBJ passed the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, once Dixiecrat leader Strom Thurman announced he was leaving the Democratic party for good, the Democrats had abandoned the people. 

A disservice done by history books.

In many history books and references, Dixiecrats are called Democrats. However, there is no mention of them being part of the Dixiecrat party. Take Allan Shivers, for example. In searching old publications, I found dozens of references to him being a Dixiecrat and starting another off-shoot of the Dixiecrats, called Shivercrats. Yet, in historical records and biographies, no mention of this at all. 

This may be a contributing factor to why modern-day Republicans and Southern Strategy deniers thought that the Democratic party of 1865 was the same in 1965 and the same in 2020. The Dixiecrats from 1948 to 1968 played a more significant role in government and shaping political parties than many of us knew. It’s another historical omission. Like the cause of the Civil War, we should be telling the truth about realignment.

The 1964 Presidential Campaign.

In 1964 Barry Goldwater ran against LBJ. Barry Goldwater was against big government programs like Medicaid and that the States Rights were the way to go. He didn’t think that the federal government should get involved in civil rights. That’s the platform he won, which won him the deep South in 1964. However, he was crushed everywhere else. He was a Republican and was the first Republican to win the deep South

Richard Nixon and Dog-Whistle Politics.

Here is a once leaked interview of Lee Atwater, a famous Republican strategist explaining Dog-Whistle Politics and how Nixon used the Southern Strategy to appeal to the racists in the South.

Some of these incidents included Richard Nixon referring to the Civil Rights Riots in the 60s as “white racism.” Nixon’s 1968 campaign was based on states’ rights and law and order. We were at a moment in history where in order to appeal to white racists, you had to appeal to them without being explicitly racist. Richard Nixon was a master of this. 

Even back then, this party and ideology switch was apparent; take this 1972 article in the Levelland Daily Sun News. 

“In many ways, the Republican and Democratic parties are exchanging the historical roles and constituencies. Here are some clear examples: The Republicans are becoming the Presidential Party of the Old Confederacy, while Democrats are beginning to pivot on the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and Pacific Northwest, virtually reversing the old post-Civil War pattern.

Especially among the young, the Democrats are the strongest among the educational-professional elite, while the GOP does best with those of somewhat lesser education, another reversal of tradition.

More and more, Democratic Presidential nominees are doing best in the richest states, while Republicans score highest in the poorest Southern and Western bastions of yesterday’s Populist politics, another marked reversal of historical preferences.”

Nixon was open about the Southern Strategy.

GOP Apologizes for Southern Strategy

Mike Allen, “RNC Chief to Say It Was ‘Wrong’ to Exploit Racial Conflict for Votes,” Washington Post, July 14, 2005.

As recent as 2005, the GOP admitted and even apologized for the Southern Strategy.

Southern Strategy deniers can’t erase facts.

There was a moment in history when the Conservative Democrats of the 1800s were racist and part of the Confederacy. And Radical Republicans of the 1800s were for civil rights and equality. Ideological alignment can prove this with historical records.

Then, a 1920s Republican President was openly racist and alienated the Black voting block. This can be proven with historical records and publications. Soon after that, a 1930s Democratic President spoke of and pushed for civil rights. Simultaneously, this appealing to the Black vote and alienating southern racists. This can be proven with historical records and publications.

A 1940s Democratic President sealed the path removal of racists from the Democratic party, when the Dixiecrats were formed. This can be proven with historical records and publications.

The Southern Strategy that Richard Nixon executed by using dog-whistle politics, lured the southern racists into the Republican party. This can be proven with historical records and publications.

The Republican party once acknowledged and even apologized for the Southern Strategy. This again is something that can be proven.

Yet, in 2020 prominent Republicans claim none of this happened. It was all a myth. Why? We can only speculate, but likely because they don’t want to be the party of racists. It’s just not a good look.

The Southern StatesDemocratRepublican
The Northern StatesRepublicanDemocrat
Majority White VoteDemocratRepublican
Majority Black VoteRepublicanDemocrat

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