I have heard Republicans claim that segregation was the creation of Democrats in the South.It’s true. The Democratic Party was completely dominant in the former Confederate states almost until the end of the 20th century. What’s not true, however, is any notion that today’s Republicans in the South are the inheritors of Republicans in the pre-civil rights era. That’s the implicit (explicit, even) point of southern Republicans who go to great lengths to note their party allegiance and how the GOP was the party of blacks and progressives (at least on matters of race) from Reconstruction until the presidencies of FDR and LBJ. For it’s simply true that today’s Republican Party in the former Confederate states is the inheritor of the anti-civil rights Democratic Party of decades ago. As a young acquaintance from Alabama once said to me with a serious tone: “If you’re white, you’re Republican.” And it dates back to Strom Thurmond and his political ally, Richard Nixon. It was taken up by the likes of Jesse Helms and Richard Shelby … and so many others. It’s the result, partly, of Richard Nixon’s ingenious “southern strategy,” which I once had a conservative correspondent claim he’d never heard of not to long ago. The reason for the history 101 here is that I came across another great passage in Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland today:
This isn’t to say that all southern Republicans are racists. They aren’t. Just as all northern liberals aren’t colorblind. The point here is that history is history, and there’s no white-washing the fact that today’s southern Republicans are the descendants of a political backlash against civil rights and integration.