The New South: Black & Conservative
In 1956, 19 Democratic Senators and 82 Democratic House members signed a Southern Manifesto pledging to resist the integration of Southern public schools as ordered by Earl Warren’s Supreme Court.
Only two GOP House members, both from Virginia, signed. The American South was as solidly Democratic as it was solidly segregationist.
The break in the dam came in a special election in Texas in 1961 to fill the Senate seat of Lyndon Johnson, newly elected vice president.
John Tower became the first Republican since Reconstruction to win a Southern Senate seat by popular election.
After a raucous rally in South Carolina in 1966, Richard Nixon told this writer the future of the GOP was in the South. That was a year after passage of the Voting Rights Act and LBJ’s forecast that Democrats could lose Dixie for a generation.
Nixon believed that once desegregation was done, its natural conservatism would bring the South into the party of Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan. History has proven him right.
In 1972, President Nixon would sweep all 11 Southern states.
As for the Voting Rights Act, while it led to the enfranchisement and empowerment of the black South, it has proven a death sentence for Boll Weevils and Blue Dogs.
Southern white Democrats, descendants of the men who voted for that Southern Manifesto, are an endangered species, a dying breed.
South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas will not send a single white Democrat to Congress, if Mary Landrieu loses her run-off. The only Democrats in the House from Deep South states will be African-Americans. Tennessee, North Carolina and West Virginia are trending the same way.
Republican dominance in the New South is partly explained by the conservatism of the region, which is in tune with the national GOP. But the rise of the black Democrat and extinction of the white Democrat is also traceable to the Voting Rights Act.
Required by law and the Justice Department to create districts where African- Americans would be competitive, Southern legislatures began to draw up majority-minority districts where the black vote was so concentrated as to ensure the election of an African-American.
The GOP offer on the table for black Democrats was safe seats in Congress they could hold for decades, to build up sufficient seniority to garner real power to use on behalf of their constituents.
As Republicans took over legislatures, they not only followed the VRA mandate, they went beyond it. They created secure House seats for black candidates, which inevitably resulted in heavily white districts, tailor-made for conservative Republicans.
Moderate and liberal Democrats were squeezed out as African-American Democrats colluded with conservative Republicans to carve up Southern states in a way to ensure the results we see today.
As Hispanics, also geographically concentrated, begin to register and vote in greater numbers, Republicans will likely use the same strategy to carve out deeply Hispanic districts for them.
Thus the end result of the Voting Rights Act is likely to be more districts represented by blacks, Hispanics and Asians. These will be largely Democratic and come to represent a plurality of Democrats in the House, as white Democratic Congressmen shrink in number.
Moreover, by using naked race-based ads in the Nov. 4 elections, Democratic strategists are pushing us to an America where the GOP is predominantly white and the Democratic Party, especially in Dixie, is dominated by persons of color.
As Jeremy Peters of the New York Times wrote in the paper’s lead story a week before the elections:
“Democrats in the closest Senate races in the South are turning to racially charged messages-invoking Trayvon Martin, the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and Jim-Crow era segregation. …
“The images and words they are using are striking for how overtly they play on fears of intimidation and repression.”
The ads worked. But while Dixie Democrats rolled up landslides among black voters, Michelle Nunn, daughter of Sen. Sam Nunn, carried only 27 percent of the white vote in Georgia, and was wiped out.
Ironically, as Republicans capture state legislatures across the South, they will wield their power as energetically to guarantee black Democrats get safe districts as the old Dixiecrat Democrats wielded their power to ensure that black folks could not vote.
This weekend, 2 million Catalans went to the polls in Spain and in a non-binding referendum voted 4-1 to secede. This follows the vote by 45 percent of the Scottish people to secede from Britain.
As ethnonationalism pulls at the seams of many countries of Europe, it would appear it is also present here in the United States. When political appeals on the basis of race and ethnicity are being made openly by liberal Democrats, as in 2014, we are on a road that ends in a racial-ethnic spoils system-and national disintegration.
“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism,” roared Teddy Roosevelt, “a hyphenated American is not an American at all.” Typical hate crime by a man unappreciative of our diversity.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.”