The Southern Strategy and Modern Conservatism’s Original Sin

Not to intrude on Comrade Driftglass‘ turf, but with the increasing obviousness of the Republican racial dog whistles, there is an increase in longing for mythical Republicans of yore (Andrew Sullivan epitomizes the genre). But that longing is bullshit. Yes, during the civil rights movement era, there were Republicans who supported integration. But since the Nixon era–that is, the late 1960s–racism has been a key component of the Republican Party’s success, as was recognized by the Nixon Administration itself (boldface mine):

These statements violate the most important tenet of Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy: plausible deniability. In his diary, Nixon’s chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, described the operational blueprint for a new electoral landscape built on bigotry. “You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks,” Nixon told him. “The key is to devise a system that recognizes that while not appearing to.”

And please, put down the No True Scotsman hooey. Conservatives profited personally (e.g., David Brooks and other pundits) as well as electorally by aligning themselves with or engaging in racism. Yes, they often did so ‘politely’ using code, but that’s how they prospered. Until racism became less potent, and the code imposed a political cost by taking on a life of its own, conservatives were more than happy to ignore their foundational Original Sin.

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