Upon following Sharon Wraight's recommended diary, "Revenge of the Reality-Based Community": must-read article by ex-GOP partisan Bruce Bartlett to the interesting subject article, I got inspired to weigh in from the perspective of someone who was also once on the inside, of the culture of the Southern Strategy, that is. I rarely make time to start a diary, but these thoughts have been on my mind for years, and Bartlett's cognitive dissonance finally prompted me to get this off my chest. I posted a long comment there, and then realized it might be worthy of it's own diary. Below the croissant is my reply to Bartlett.
This is a fantastic discussion and I’m impressed that most of the comments are rational and thoughtful. Having grown up, white, in the deep south in the sixties, I was thoroughly steeped in the politics of racism by the entire culture I lived in. As a child, it didn’t occur to me to be puzzled by the inconsistency of all the adults voting “strict party-line” Democratic for everything except president, which had to be Republican. My people were “Conservatives.”
What I have almost never seen anyone question in these intriguing discussions is why the “Southern Democrats” were Democrats in the first place, since they were vehemently opposed to the national Democratic platform since at least pre-WWII. Growing up among them, this has always been crystal clear to me. Well-off or ignorant white southerners had never gotten over the Civil War, and bore a deep and enduring hatred of the GOP because it was the party of Abraham Lincoln and U.S. Grant, and the party that prosecuted the hated Reconstruction. For 100 years these people believed they would never forgive the GOP, and the Democratic Party was where they had made their home since the fight over secession. Thus, the Democratic Party in the deep south was not like the Democratic Party elsewhere, and observers in other parts of the country always seemed puzzled at why their politicians were so different. The South was a one-party democracy because of the Civil War — until Lee Atwater realized that the national Democratic Party had committed an unforgivable sin against its adherents in the South, when it passed the Civil Rights Act. That broke the bond that the Democratic Party had long had with white racists, who were the backbone of the Southern Democrats. That allowed the GOP to peel off that core constituency and presto: the South was no longer a one-party democracy.
What’s also important to remember is that this turn of events also effectively ended the ugly and uneasy coexistence of racists and liberals within the same party. Over the decades since, it has become steadily easier for southerners to figure out, in broad terms, what the Democratic Party stands for. Conversely, as nostalgic descendants of Southern aristocracy began to look longingly at the the Conservative movement, and Lee Atwater put out the welcome mat for white racists who were seething with anger at the Civil Rights Act and at the meddling of Great Society yankees, the GOP’s roots in the despised history of the Civil War were suddenly forgotten.
Mr. Bartlett, I commend you on your journey from the nightmare-Fantasyland I grew up in to the exurbs of the Reality-Based Community. However, as most of the other commenters have pointed out, you aren’t quite there yet if you still think, as Karl Rove did during the GWB administration, your party can build a coalition out of southern white racists and African Americans. As we say in the south, “That dog won’t hunt.” The good ole boys are deeply embedded in your party now, good riddance, and it would take a major political earthquake comparable to the Civil Rights Movement to shake them out of it. You’ll never again have much luck attracting the black vote, for the same reason you realize you are losing the Latino vote.
You are no longer the Party of Lincoln; you are now the party of those who still despise Lincoln. Surprise!