Why Did The South Turn Republican?

More

I think Paul Krugman is pretty wrong here:

And if you look at the political successes of the G.O.P. since it was taken over by movement conservatives, they had very little to do with public opposition to taxes, moral values, perceived strength on national security, or any of the other explanations usually offered. To an almost embarrassing extent, they all come down to just five words: southern whites starting voting Republican.

It's true that the recent political success of the GOP has an enormous amount to do with the party's success in the white south, but I think the evidence strongly suggests that conservative politicians get the votes of white southerners precisely because white southerners like conservative positions on taxes, moral values, and national security. Southern Democratic politicians of the Jim Crow era, after all, mostly took conservative stances on all of these issues. The weird thing about Jim Crow politics is that white southerners with conservative views on taxes, moral values, and national security would vote for Democratic presidential candidates who didn't share their views. They did that as part of a strategy for maintaining white supremacy in the South.

And for a long time the strategy worked. Democratic politicians like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt loyally upheld white supremacy. The dam began to crack with Harry Truman, and then under Lyndon Johnson the national party decisively broke with this corrupt bargain. With that done, white southerners just took their conservative views on taxes and national security into the Republican Party where such views belonged. Racism is a key part of the story, but it plays a much bigger role in explaining why Adlai Stevenson and John Kennedy won South Carolina than in explaining why Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush won there.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In