Today’s Southern GOP Has Roots In 1964

Many trees have died in the service of the words “GOP Southern Strategy.”

But their death was unnecessary. All we had to do was look at this very simple infographic from Georgia’s Like the Dew:

Georgia counties show move to GOP in 1964

Jim Cobb, who teaches history at the University of Georgia, writes:

[This] is a snapshot of the GOP’s coming-out party in Georgia, an event simultaneously celebrated and bemoaned in four other southern states in 1964. Striking as it seems, even in retrospect, this day had been coming since the late 1930s when white southerners began to cast a wary eye toward the national Democratic party’s increasingly cozy relationship with organized labor and northern blacks, whose ranks had been swelled by a flood tide of southern in-migrants seeking greater freedom and opportunity, but also fleeing a place where they could not vote for one where they could. Sparked by a new civil rights plank in the Democratic platform, the 1948 Dixiecrat insurgency bled over into significant crossovers into the Eisenhower camp in 1952, when the GOP claimed four of the old Confederate states and 1956, when it picked up five. The Republicans’ economic conservatism had also begun to resonate with white-collar whites in the urban and emerging suburban South by the end of the 1950s.

Michael Perman argued two years ago that it was the Voting Right Act of 1965 that turned the tide.

In the wake of the Voting Rights Act, the Democratic Party of the South and of white supremacy was forced to reconstitute itself, as newly enfranchised black voters quite naturally threw their support to the party that, under President Lyndon Johnson’s leadership, had enabled them to regain the right to vote. In response, the conservative, segregationist whites began to flee from a party that was likely to become either the region’s first bi-racial party, or worse, a party controlled by African Americans and their white allies.

At least in Georgia, however, the tide had already turned and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is more-than-likely the key.

[In the 1964 presidential campaign], Republican Barry Goldwater vowed to “go hunting where the ducks are” by using his vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to persuade white Southerners to abandon the party of their hallowed forefathers. Goldwater disdained any effort in the South even to retain the support of a vestigial core of middle-class black Republicans that dated all the way back to Reconstruction. Hence his 87 percent tally in Mississippi amounted to what was virtually an all-white landslide in that state. Although white voters in Georgia manifested more resistance to his charms, the dramatic about-face in voting was shocking even to seasoned political observers. Where his Republican predecessor claimed 37% of the Georgia vote in 1960– including the majority of black votes in Atlanta, Goldwater, with hardly a black supporter to his name grabbed 54 percent of the ballots cast. In South Georgia and the Black Belt, the curmudgeonly Arizonan captured better than 60 percent of the vote, more than doubling Nixon’s numbers.

Who’s going to create similar charts for the rest of Dixie?

Oh … and one more for the close:

GOP voters are white and rural

Purely and simply, here in Georgia and damn near everywhere else in this great nation of ours, the most Republican places are most likely anywhere that’s overwhelmingly rural and white. The Repubs may be preaching to the ‘burbs nowadays, but, even if the text has been upgraded, the folks out in the boondocks know the real message hasn’t changed.