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Monday, November 12, 2012

The End of the Southern Strategy

Ok, this off topic for this blog. I hate politics, so I rarely blog about things like this, but here is my analysis.

Nixon devised the Southern Strategy. The idea was to use Civil Rights (supported by Kennedy and LBJ) as a wedge to make Southern Racist Democrats into Republicans. The Democratic "Solid South" became the Solidly Republican South we now see on Electoral College maps. The Republican party was so unpopular in the Old South that it practically did not exist.

This strategy worked for Nixon, Reagan, and the two Bushes. The Democrats could only win with Southern white candidates: Carter, Clinton, and Gore. (Well, Gore won the popular vote and lost the electoral college because of the most questionable SCOTUS decision of the century, Bush v. Gore.) Mass. democrats like Dukakis and Kerry lost during this same period.

McCain and Romney still won (most)of the old Confederacy and former slave states like Missouri, but Obama was the first non-Southerner to win the presidency for the Democratic since JFK. (I'm counting LBJ as Southerner since was a Texan.) Virginia and NC were swing states in 2008 and 12, joining Florida.

So the Southern Strategy no longer works: you can win almost the whole South, but that doesn't add up to 270, even if you throw in Kansas, the Dakotas, and Utah, states large in territory but without that many electoral college votes. The Obama coalition of Asian-Americans, Latinos, African-Americans, young people, single women, non-theistic, and highly educated people now outnumber the core of the Republican base: religious conservatives, Southern Whites, white men and married white women, the extremely wealthy, older people, and people without college degrees. (Of course, some people from all of these groups voted the "other way" from the majority in their demographic: I am speaking of trends, not absolutes. If 100% of women voted for one candidate that candidate would win easily if sh/e got only 45% of men.) As a result, Obama could be elected TWICE as the antithesis of everything the old Confederacy stood for.

I've seen people object to maps juxtaposing Civil-War era politics, or Jim Crow laws, with current-day electoral maps. I think these juxtapositions hold an important truth. The Deep South can stay as Republican as it wants, and Democrats can still hold on to the White House without White Southern candidates like Carter, Clinton, and Gore.


matt said...

I largely agree with your analysis, and think it is important to point out that, of course, none of these demographics votes any particular way carte blanche.

Perhaps it's just as important to note that none of the characteristics from either "base" group can be mapped onto that group alone either. For instance, some southern white males may also be highly educated, and a young single Latina may be very wealthy.

I'm not saying you're ignoring this point, just that I think it's worth mentioning in addition to your other caveat.

profacero said...

"If 100% of women voted for one candidate that candidate would win easily if sh/e got only 45% of men."

Wait: if all women registered to vote and voted, and all voted for one candidate, could that candidate not win with 0% of the male vote since there are more women?

Jonathan said...