Friday, July 19, 2019

Understanding Donald Trump and The GOP

We originally published this article in December 2015. It seems the right time to again move this article front and center.

The GOP finds itself trapped in its southern strategy that has not only gone bad, but has left it exposed naked in full public view.

Starting in the 1960s, the Republican Party made a conscious effort to win votes in the South by appealing to racists. As Kevin Phillips, a political strategist for Nixon, explained in 1970: "The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats."

The cynical strategy has, sadly, often paid off. However, by appealing to the lowest common denominator, Republicans have become the party of white identity politics. Donald Trump has taken that to the next level.

After five decades of racially coded dog whistle messaging, Donald Trump is stripping bare in ugly rhetoric the coalition Richard Nixon put together in 1968 - welcoming the segregationist white South into the Party of Lincoln - and expanded by Ronald Reagan in 1980 - welcoming socially conservative evangelicals into the Neo-Republican Party.

From post civil war reconstruction to the 1960's the south was solid Jim Crow Dixicrat Democrat. And then the Civil Rights Movement happened. President Johnson, a Democrat, pushed through the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Because of that, Dixicrats began to flee the Democratic Party across the Southern confederate states to the Republican Party. Republicans, led by Richard Nixon, saw the chance to take the South from the Democrats with a "Southern Strategy" of appealing to racism against African Americans to make the South the base of a new Republican party. And that, in fact, has been the case consistently from the 1960s to Pres. Reagan's, Pres. G.H.W. Bush's and Pres. G.W. Bush's campaigns, and ultimately onto the 2016 election cycle.

In the 1970s, evangelical Christians were alarmed by rapid social changes, including legal abortion, LGBT rights, the legal availability of contraceptives for women, court ordered school desegregation busing, equal rights for women, and a ban on public school prayer. To the New Christian Right these changes constituted a crisis that threatened the Christian American nation. In 1980, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan forged a partnership with the Christian Right to help him win election. Messaging to the Christian Right has held an equal place hand in hand with southern strategy messaging every since.