The Republican Party's venerable Southern Strategy was publicly tarred and feathered as racist and obsolete by all the most "Righteous Right" Beltway "conservatives" back during the Trent Lott brouhaha. But (ahem) it remains the electoral strategy that actually, you know, WINS ELECTIONS for the GOP.
As last week's Republican gubernatorial victories in the South demonstrated.
In Kentucky, U.S. Representative Ernie Fletcher was elected Governor 55 percent to 45 percent, ending 32 years of Democratic control of the statehouse. Down in Mississippi, Republican Beltway insider Haley Barbour defeated Democratic incumbent Governor Ronnie Musgrove 53-45. And Republican Amy Tuck was easily elected lieutenant governor, 61-37, over Barbara Blackmon, a wealthy Democratic lawyer who had attracted national media attention in her bid to become the first black elected to statewide office in Mississippi since Reconstruction.
After her walloping, Blackmon complained she was the victim of, guess what, racism.
Now it can be told: this comports exactly with what happened in the 2002 House elections across the South. You may recall that on Election Night 2002, the national Voter News Service exit poll's computer reporting system crashed and burned, so only spotty demographic data has been available on that election. Fortunately, the raw data was checked over by a team of academics and polling professionals and was recently put on sale by Roper. I'm currently up to my eyeballs in crunching the numbers, but I can give you a preliminary peek at the regional 2002 vote for the House of Representatives.
In the East, the GOP's 2002 outreach efforts did relatively well among blacks, garnering whole 18 percent of their votes. In the South, the GOP did very badly, earning only seven percent.
This would suggest that the Republican Party must be doing better in the East than in the South … if you believe the unspoken assumption behind almost all articles published on the subject of the racial demographics of voting: that a nonwhite person's vote somehow counts more than a white person's vote … or at least, morally speaking, it ought to.
Despite winning some black votes, in the East, the GOP did poorly in the 2002 House races—because it won only 48 percent of the white vote.
In the South, however, the GOP performed strongly—because it captured 69 percent of the whites. Turnout among whites was also strong.
My theory: despite putting up a smokescreen about how crucial the minority vote was to the Party, Karl Rove surreptitiously put tremendous resources into a get-out-the-vote drive aimed especially at the kind of less-educated whites who don't always show up to vote.
At VDARE.COM, we refer to this shocking idea of appealing to the white vote as "The Sailer Strategy" because I've described it in several articles. It shocked Jim Robinson so much that he banned us (and readers posting us) from Free Republic!
Although it's not attracted as much attention, the challenge facing the GOP in the South is very like the problem notoriously confronting the GOP in California: there are a lot of minority voters there. (26 percent in the South in the 2000 election, compared to 29 percent in California). Haley Barbour's Mississippi, in particular, is almost three-eighths black.
In the Golden State, this demographic fact-of-life caused the Republican Party to panic from 1998 through 2002. But GOP Southern strategists apparently kept their cool by bearing in mind this simple truth: "Minority voters are a minority."
(I say apparently because it's always possible GOP strategists don't know why they're winning. They don't have to: Southern whites instinctively vote as a bloc in a way that California whites do not—yet.)
This does not, of course, mean Southern Republicans favor a return to Jim Crow—a symbol, let it be noted, of the days when white Democrats monopolized the South. Practically everyone in the South understands that the entire region is vastly better off without the onerous, inefficient burden of a Hindu-style caste system. According to Michael Barone's 2004 Almanac of American Politics,
"Per capita income in Mississippi [traditionally the poorest state] was 36% of the national average in 1940; in 1999, it was 72 percent, well below the national average, but given the lower cost of living here, a level recognizably American."
But it does mean that instead of neutering their positions out of fear of minorities playing the race card, Southern Republicans have concentrated on issues that advance the interests of the white majority. With hugely successful results.
Barbour, for example, ran against affirmative action, against Head Start, against welfare, against Mississippi's notoriously pro-plaintiff legal system, against vote fraud, and for keeping the current state flag (Musgrove had attempted to delete the Confederate battle cross from the flag). All of these are now alleged to be anti-black positions, although a black Mississippian 50 years ago would have found the liberal media's complaints incomprehensible.
No exit polls results from either of last week's races have been published. However, a pre-election poll in Mississippi showed Barbour losing among blacks 83-11, but winning 70-25 among whites. (Similarly, a pre-election poll in Kentucky showed the successful GOP candidate carrying only 12 percent of African-American voters.) That's less polarized, however, than the 2000 Presidential results in Mississippi. Gore won 96-3 (!) among blacks, but Bush captured the state easily (58-41 overall) by winning 81-17 among whites.
Recently, Democratic Presidential candidate Howard Dean said, "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks. We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats."
After the other Democratic candidates got done jumping on his head, he has apologized.
I think it's obvious that those who display the Confederate flag in 2003 do not want to secede and reinstate slavery. It's simply a symbol of regional pride and orneriness. This is demonstrated in a roundabout way by the fact that in Texas few wave the Confederate flag, even though Texas was part of the Confederacy. Texans don't need a regional flag—they already have a famous flag, the ubiquitous Lone Star flag, dating from the independent Republic of Texas of 1836-1845.
Clearly, Dr. Dean, a Park Avenue WASP turned Vermonter, and white Southerners, have problems with each other on fundamental cultural grounds. The great historian David Hackett Fischer, author of the landmark 1989 book, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, has told me that Dean has positioned himself as a "classic New England candidate who closely fits the cultural framework that evolved out of 17th-century Puritanism."
So if Dean really wants to show he's not the insufferable latte-sipping liberal snob that everybody south of the Mason-Dixon line automatically assumes he is, he's going to need to take a stand on a 21st Century issue—not a 19th Century one.
What would flummox Bush more than running to his right on immigration, out where the great majority of Americans already are?
But I would be flabbergasted if Dean actually did anything that sensible. Instead, he's pandering to win the endorsement of union bosses corrupted by their greed for dues from new illegal alien members into betraying the working people of America.
On the crucial long term issue of immigration, you can expect the 2004 election to provide the edifying spectacle of Tweedledee and Tweedledum jostling to see who can stake out a rhetorical position farthest from what American voters want.