During a recent “masterclass” on right-wing “comedian” Steven Crowder’s program, Religious Right pseudo-historian David Barton denied the existence of the “Southern strategy” through which the Republican Party began gaining political power in the South in the 1960s by using racism to appeal to white voters.
The legitimacy of this effort is indisputable and has been repeatedly explained by Princeton University history professor Kevin Kruse, but Barton, who has has no official credentials as a historian, disputes it nonetheless, claiming that infamous segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party not because the Republicans became the party of racism, but because Thurmond became less racist and therefore abandoned the racist Democrats.
“Strom Thurmond was a Democrat,” Barton said. “Well, Strom Thurmond became a Republican. He sure did. He became a Republican because he changed his philosophy, because he became the first Senate Republican from the South to hire blacks on to his staff in major positions. It’s not Democrats who did that, it was a Republican who did that. He left the Democrat Party because of their positions, so when they point to Strom Thurmond, you’ve also got to look at the fact that he changed his policy positions and he was no longer comfortable with their party. He became less racist.”
“It was called the solid Democrat South for a reason,” Barton added. “I want you to find me any 10 offices in the South where the Democrats became Republicans and got elected. Just show me 10 out of 1,000. Nobody has shown me more than two or three … You’ve got to show me a majority, otherwise your premise doesn’t hold up.”
“There is certainly not evidence to prove that it was a shift, what they call the Southern strategy,” he concluded.