FRC Defends Use of the “Southern Strategy” by Completely Redefining It

Robert Morrison is a Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, so you’d think that he’d be familiar with what the term “the Southern Strategy” actually means and what it entailed. 

But you’d be wrong, because Morrison is claiming that the “Southern Strategy” is nothing more than run-of-the-mill political efforts to win votes in the South:

A former Republican National Chairman is getting kudos from the liberal media for an odd thing. Veteran political reporter Dan Balz of the Washington Post applauds Ken Mehlman’s decency, reserving generous commendations for Mehlman’s efforts at “outreach” to black voters. He notes that Mehlman made a special effort to apologize to black voters for Richard Nixon’s “infamous” Southern strategy of 1968 and 1972.

For a savvy reporter like Balz, this is nonsense on stilts. Can anyone imagine Democratic National Chairman Tim Kaine apologizing for Thomas Jefferson’s Southern strategy? Or Andrew Jackson’s? Woodrow Wilson’s? Franklin D. Roosevelt’s?

FDR won four elections as president, something now barred by the Twenty-second Amendment. Every one of those elections started out with Roosevelt’s campaign managers banking on the electoral votes of the Solid South.

First of all, that is obviously not what people mean when they use the term “Southern Strategy,” as Mehlman’s actual apology illustrates:

“By the ’70s and into the ’80s and ’90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out,” Mehlman says in his prepared text. “Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.”

The “Southern Strategy” was a targeted effort by Republicans to win over traditional Southern Democrats through the use of racially polarization. As Richard Nixon’s strategist Kevin Phillips explained:

From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. 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.

Or, as Lee Atwater bluntly put it:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ ” said Atwater. “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

Morrison asserts that “there’s nothing infamous at all about seeking support in the South” and, as such, Republicans have nothing for which they need to apologize … which I guess is true provided that you redefine the term “Southern Strategy” to mean the exact opposite of what it actually was.