If the Republicans take control of the US Senate next year, it will be due, in no small part, to the collapse of the Democrat party in the South. Democrats face an up-hill battle holding onto the 4 seats they hold in the region that are up for reelection. The Republicans need to pick-up 6 seats for a majority. Sweeping the elections in the South would almost assure them control of the Senate. Establishment Republicans should temper their celebrations, however, as the implosion of the Democrats in the South contains an ominous warning for the GOP.
In the fetid minds of the left, the Democrats’ declining fortunes in the South are the result of Richard Nixon’s so-called “Southern Strategy,” which made racist appeals to Southern voters. Most on the left believe that the majority of people in the South are secret racists who long for the days of Dixie. By stitching subtle racist appeals into their rhetoric on almost every issue, the Republicans have been able to move voters away from the Democrat party.
If Nixon really had a “Southern Strategy,” it failed.
In 1992, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton won 6 of the 13 states traditionally considered as part of the South. Democrats held the governor’s office in 9 states, against the GOP’s 4. The Democrats controlled every state legislative chamber in the South, many by overwhelming majorities. The party also held 18 of the region’s 26 Senate seats.
If, as the left believes, the GOP had spent two decades making subtle and overt racist appeals to woo Southern voters, that effort had failed. The Democrat party was competitive across the region, up and down the ballot.
Today, the opposite is true. Republicans have complete control of state government in 10 states. Democrats hold just three state legislative chambers and three Governor’s offices. If Republicans sweep the 4 competitive races next fall, the Democrats will hold just 4 Senate seats from the Region.
The Democrats didn’t lose the South because of some mythical “Southern Strategy” in the 1970s. Two decades later they were still competitive everywhere in the region. They lost the region because, in the 1990s, the national party lurched to the left, especially on cultural issues.
In a quest for campaign funds, Bill Clinton tied the fortunes of the party to wealthy donors on the West and East coasts. The party became a strong advocate for gun control and pushed an assault weapons ban through Congress. It embraced political correctness, multi-culturalism and progressive positions across the spectrum and pushed Democrat officials with conservative views to the margin. Democrat Pennsylvania Gov. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) was denied a speaking slot at the 1992 Democrat convention, because he was pro-life.
This evolution culminated in 2008, when Barack Obama told a crowd of wealthy San Francisco donors that Americans in small towns “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion.” Even the Huffington Post admitted that Obama’s remarks implied there was something inherently wrong with guns and religion.
Conservatives seized on these shifts in 1994 and 2010, taking control of Congress and sweeping state houses across the country. In between those elections, however, establishment Republicans co-opted conservatives and the party drifted. It championed greater federal control of local schools, a new health care entitlement and vastly increased the size of government. It cozied up to big banks and supported a bailout of Wall Street.
In 2008, the party nominated “centrists”, one of whom had championed restrictions on free speech and higher taxes, the other who promoted the individual health insurance mandate that became the foundation of ObamaCare. Mitt Romney was seen as a creature of Wall Street and, as a result, millions of working-class voters stayed home on election day.
The Republican party still hasn’t absorbed the message sent by voters. In recent months it has toyed with enacting “meaningful” gun control laws. The party establishment is actively pushing amnesty for illegal immigrants and a massive increase in overall immigration. This flood of cheap labor will benefit Wall Street and corporate donors, but further depress the wages of the working class.
In the last 20 years, conservatives have twice responded to voters and tried to right the ship of state. Next year, they will have another, perhaps last chance. Hopefully, they will answer the call.